Beginner’s Guide to Duck Hunting

Posted by Printed Kicks Team on

Beginner’s Guide to Duck Hunting

Duck hunting is one of the most classically masculine pastimes, though both men and women can enjoy duck hunting thanks to its accessibility and relatively relaxed hunting rules. Unlike hunting more advanced game, like white-tailed deer or moose, a successful duck hunt is achievable even for beginners so long as you have the right gear, strategy, and teamwork.

If you’re a beginner to duck hunting, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s examine some of the things you need to know if you want to start duck hunting this upcoming season.

Go With a Friend, and a Teacher if Possible

For starters, you should always try to go with friends and a mentor if you have one in your social group. Duck hunting is a social activity. This isn’t to say that you chat away the whole time. But most people hunt together for the lifetime friendships it can create and the chance to swap hunting tips and stories.

Most people go duck hunting with a few major friends, so they have someone to talk to as they hike out to the correct hunting spot and as they collect any felled ducks. While you can hunt ducks by yourself, it’s generally considered to be unfulfilling.

Furthermore, you should try to get a teacher to come with you to show you the ropes if you haven’t hunted ducks before (or hunted anything, for that matter). Mentors can help make sure that you take your shots correctly and that you don’t scare away the waterfowl, potentially ruining your hunt.

Get the Right Gear

But just like you need the right people, you’ll need the right gear. To enjoy a successful duck hunt, you’ll need several pieces of equipment that you can use both to get to the hunting spot safely and so you can lure in ducks for the kill. What equipment do you need?

At a minimum, you’ll need:

  • Waders, which should be chest high if at all possible. These help to keep you dry and wade through marshy water, which is where most duck hunts take place.

  • Consider your clothes before striking out. You’ll need a hat to protect you from the sun, and sunglasses are a good idea as well.

  • Decoys, which are used to draw in ducks. Try to get a dozen mallard decoys to start with, as these are a solid choice regardless of the species in your area.

  • Camo apparel. You’ll need a jacket, pants, and a cap at a minimum to make sure that you blend in with your environment. Duck hunters are actually exempt from many of the other garb restrictions that other hunters have to deal with, like wearing really bright orange. Just be sure that you match your camo apparel with the colors of your environment. For instance, wear green camo in green marshes and brown camo in brown marshes.

  • Duck calls. These bring ducks close to you. You’ll need to learn how to use these, so ask your mentor teacher for assistance.

Choose Your Firearm

But the most important piece of gear you’ll need to secure is your firearm. There are lots of different choices you can make for duck hunting.

But if you’re a beginner, you can’t go wrong with a 12-gauge shotgun chambered for 3-inch magnum shells. This is a standard firearm loadout that will allow you to down ducks in a single shot from reasonable distances away without producing too much recoil.

You should also try to buy steel shells. You don’t have an option here since lead shells can contaminate the environment and are generally illegal in every state.

Not sure which firearm to choose? Try to find something that's beginner-friendly and that you have had some practice with on a gun range. In fact, you shouldn’t go on a single duck hunt until you have spent at least three or four sessions of an hour each on a gun range with an instructor.

Time on a gun range can teach you how to safely and accurately handle your gun and make sure that you don’t have any accidents on your duck hunt.

Consider Taking a Dog

You might also consider taking a dog with you on your duck hunt. This might be tricky for beginners, so only do this if you have experience hunting other types of animals or your dog is exceptionally well-trained.

A dog can be a great duck hunting companion if they know when to stay still and when to flush ducks out of tall, marshy grass. Dogs can be helpful as well since they can retrieve downed ducks without you having to wade through muddy water to where you think you shot them down.

Know Where and When to Hunt

Many experienced hunters will tell you that the difference between a successful hunt and a failed hunt is when and where you try to find game. This is absolutely true.

Most duck hunts take place in marshy or swampy locations, so check your state for nearby hunting lodges or hunting zones with those geographic features.

Furthermore, ducks, like the majority of animals, are most active in the morning and in the evening, when temperatures are relatively cool and mild and when they’re looking for food. This isn’t to say that you can’t find ducks during the middle of the day, but you’ll have greater odds of success if you hike out when it is still dark and get to your hunting spot in the early morning or early afternoon.

When you get to a hunting spot, don’t be afraid to leave if you can’t find any waterfowl with your call and decoys. In fact, many hunters advocate for placing your decoys around a set perimeter and checking those decoys over your hunting trip periodically.

The key thing is to stay quiet if you plan on being mobile. Keeping quiet will prevent ducks from fleeing as they sense your approach. Plus, the longer you stay in a single area, the more likely it is that ducks will stay away, and you won’t get any new kills.

Understand Different Duck Species

Of course, you’ll have to understand the differences between duck species if you want to legally hunt in your state. That’s because states have different duck hunting seasons for different species. There’s no such thing as a “regular” duck!

To that end, make sure that you’ve brushed up on hunting regulations in your state and you know which species are fair game for the time being. Then make sure that you know how to identify those species by things like:

  • Weight
  • Color of feathers
  • Calls or quacks
  • And more

Again, this is where a hunting mentor can come in handy. They’ll likely have the experience you need to quickly identify ducks that are safe for taking a shot at.

Extra Duck Hunting Tips

Here are some extra duck hunting tips you can leverage on your next trip:

  • Consider creating open waterholes in ice sheets if you hunt in the winter or late fall. This involves breaking open the ice of the lake or pond with your tools or firearm, creating a “bait” watering hole where ducks might flock to get a drink, making for easy targets.

  • Don’t leave your morning hunting location too early. While ducks are typically more active in the early morning, sometimes waterfowl will migrate behind cold fronts, which means they may leave in the middle of the night and rest in the late morning instead of midday. So some species and locations offer their best hunting during the late morning instead.

  • Keep your duck call clean, especially if you chew tobacco while on the hunt. Regularly clean your call to make sure it stays in working order and produces a good luring sound for your targets.

Each of these tips is important, but we once again stress how helpful it will be to find a mentor. Someone who has some experience hunting waterfowl will know all of these tricks and more. So perhaps the best tip of all is to go hunting with at least one person who has some experience!


All in all, duck hunting is an enjoyable pastime and is one of the most accessible types of hunting available to the public. It’s pretty easy to grasp once you go out on a few hunts with some experienced hunters. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than cooking and eating a duck that you’ve hunted yourself. Duck meat makes for a fine meal!

Be sure to check out our camouflage apparel and other accessories. They may make the difference between a successful hunt and heading home empty-handed. Regardless, be sure to enjoy yourself while you’re out hunting and exercising your American rights!



Office of Law Enforcement - Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting | FWS

10 Commandments of Public Duck Hunting |

Tips to Stay Legal When Waterfowling | 

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