Let’s face it, duck hunting season beats the crap out of your equipment. In a typical autumn, your waterfowl gun takes at least one bath in a slough; your duck boat springs a new leak or loses half its camo paint; 24 percent of your decoys lose an anchor weight or take stray pellets that leaves them taking in water; the reeds in your calls get fouled with debris or warp; your waders get a gash or two, etc., etc.
So don’t get caught with your waders down come next season. Prepare now and hit the wetlands with your waterfowling engine firing on all cylinders! And while you’re at it, don’t just repair your equipment … improve it and boost your odds of connecting on more mallards, divers or geese!
Did you put your duck gun away in top condition? If you have to wonder about the answer, then go dig it out and pull it out of the case. Remove the barrel, disassemble the action and trigger assembly. Take it completely apart and clean every nook and cranny. Run swabs through the barrel until it’s gleaming. Look for seeds and chaff in the moving parts. They have a way of getting into the tightest places and can foul an action at the worst possible time as a bunch of greenheads are pitching into your spread with perfection.
Apply a coat of protective oil to all potentially corrosive parts to ensure peak performance come fall. If your gun has a camo finish that has rubbed off in a spot or two, touch it up with appropriate paint or camo tape. Even the smallest shiny surface on a shotgun can reflect sunlight and spoil what would have been a memorable shoot.
Take a deep breath, go out to your shed and dump every decoy bag you own. Spread them out on your lawn and inspect each and every decoy line. If they’re broken or even slightly worn, replace them. Check your knots on all anchors and replace any anchors that are missing.
If you don’t already use big snap swivels in your lines, I highly recommend that you do. Every time you wrap a decoy line, particularly when it’s cold and miserable and you’re rushing to get the job done, you impart a lot of twist in your lines. The twist stacks up at the knot and sooner or later it can compromise your connection at the eyelet. Adding snap swivels will eliminate that line twist and give you more life from every decoy line.
Shake all your hollow plastic decoys and listen for shot to be rattling around inside. More than one decoy has taken a pellet while hunters have swatted cripples in the decoy spread. If there are pellets inside a decoy, submerge it in a five gallon pail of water and give it a squeeze. The bubbles will lead you to the puncture, which you can repair with marine-grade silicone. The last thing you want on opening weekend is a decoy that starts listing to the side or capsizes completely, thereby ruining the entire spread.
The off-season is also a perfect time to touch up the paint on your decoys. A number of manufacturers make decoy paint in all the colors you need. For added realism in your spread next season, use specially formulated UV reflective decoy paint that emulates the real affect that feathers make to ducks and geese that can see in the UV spectrum. It can really give you an edge!
Finally, go through all your gear and make sure it’s ship-shape. This includes every aspect of your duck boat from the hull to the engine, the reeds on your calls, your lanyards, camouflage clothing, shell boxes, flashlights and headlamps, binoculars … everything. Bring all your stuff up to peak performance, including having fresh batteries in all electronic devices. Ask yourself: “If I was going duck hunting in the morning, would I be ready?” When the answer is yes, then you’ll know that you’ve given yourself every edge when the next duck season opens.
OK, so it’s still several months away. But heck, you can never be too prepared. I hope you’re enjoying a nice off-season and that the upcoming waterfowl season is the safest and most memorable hunting year you’ve ever had.
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