The term "waterfowl" refers to any large aquatic bird, though waterfowl hunting most commonly refers to the hunting of ducks and geese. Whether you're an outdoor sportsperson who hunts for the thrill of the chase, or you plan to consume the game you kill, there are helpful rudimentary tips to start you on your way. Assuming that you've gotten your state hunting license, and have thoroughly reviewed state waterfowl hunting regulations (e.g., the number of waterfowl you can legally kill, hours that hunting is allowed in your state, etc.), you are now ready for some basic hunting advice for amateurs.
Camouflage is as important for waterfowl hunting as it is for hunting bigger game like deer. If you're going to be hunting in marshy areas, you'll want to wear hunting gear with a brown, grassy pattern. If you intend to do most of your scoping and shooting on woodland property, choose hunting gear with a leafy or bark-like pattern. For best thermal retention on colder, overcast days, it's wise to wear a long-sleeved tee under your hunting clothes, preferably a thermal tee, and layered outerwear that is waterproof. In regards to waterproofing, a good pair of waders is a necessity if you'll be hunting in marshes, and a wide-brimmed, waterproof hat will help camouflage your face from approaching waterfowl.
The most common type of firearm used by waterfowl hunters is the 12-gauge shotgun, though semi-automatics and pumps are also used by more experienced waterfowl hunters. Hunters should be aware that there is a federal waterfowl regulation, which mandates that only three shells can be loaded in the gun of a waterfowl hunter, two shells in the magazine and one shell in the gun chamber. Younger, less experienced waterfowl hunters frequently use a 20-gauge shotgun, while hunters who specifically hunt geese often opt for a 10 gauge.
Three-inch shells are standard for waterfowl hunting, though three-and-a-half inch shells are also useful for hunting geese. Lead shot is not an option for waterfowl hunting ammunition, but non-toxic shot shells (e.g., bismuth shot, tungsten shot) and steel shot are acceptable. Steel shot tends to be most popular amongst waterfowl hunters because of the lower cost.
Knowing where you're allowed to hunt waterfowl is largely a matter of being familiar with state regulations. Not surprisingly, some of the best waterfowl hunting takes place on public hunting ground with considerable marshland. The ideal outdoor area for waterfowl hunting is land that is located far away from residential housing or businesses, and that possesses marshland with wooded areas nearby the wet spots, giving hunters the ability to shoot from the woods, rather than having to wade in the water. It should be noted that hunting on private land is a matter of gaining direct permission from the land owner. There is no acceptable substitution for asking a landowner for permission to hunt waterfowl on their land.
Goose and duck decoys should ideally be placed at water's edge. For beginning duck hunters who aren't sure what type of duck they'll be hunting, a Mallard decoy is good all-purpose visual bait. Any decoys you buy will need anchor weights to prevent being blown over in the wind, and decoy string to provide decoy movement from afar. It's also beneficial to spread multiple decoys out, with gaps of anywhere from five to twelve feet.
Regarding the use of calls, it's best to have a couple of different ones on hand. Plan on having one acrylic short-reed call for making loud, sharp tones on windy, noisy days, and a wood short-reed call for making softer and lower sounds on quieter, more still weather days.