Ducking into the Winter: A Waterfowl Season Primer

And another duck season is here. Seems like just a month ago we picked up, cleaned off and stored about 500 dekes.

Putting them back out after retying the weights is much easier since the ground is dry; so we just pull an overfilled plastic boat into our field and set ‘em up.

Then there’s the prep of the blind– making sure the stools still spin, strategically placing above ground and blind cover, and buying hay for the levee. We’ll cover the levee from the blind to the walk-in point, as it’s much easier to traverse after the mud gathers, assuming it will rain this winter. Speaking of which: we’ll most likely get a smattering of water initially– for a fee – and then what? Viscuine, that’s what. Rolls have already been purchased in order to make fake water, if need be. That may not be the best decision, but it works.

Preparing For Your Duck Hunt
Preparing For Your Duck Hunt


The use of battery-operated spinners is limited; however, wind-powered dekes are good throughout the season. The hot ticket for us for about the past five years is the wind-powered, two-bladed WindWhackers; they can be seen for over a mile. The ever-popular steel shot is the choice of many, but don’t overlook the fancier legal shells, bismuth and Hevi-Shot, which cost up to about four bucks each.

Black golden retriever in camo neoprene vest waiting for ducks to fall.
If you have a retriever, like Steve Adelman’s Stella,
a camo neoprene vest is recommended, and always
have cover for it while the dog waits for ducks to

If you bring your dog on a hunt, he/she really needs to be well trained. A quality camo neoprene vest is highly recommended, as well as cover for the animal while he/she watches the ducks approach, then looks at youand your partner(s) with disdain when

five or six shots are fired and there’s not a single splash on the water. Keep your retriever hydrated and be sure to work with it well in advance of the season. Be able to determine their fatigue level. Hopefully you also kept a wing from last year to tie on the practice dummy. Perfect blind cover is essential. Swing covers are available and the fronts should be kept in great shape, leaving small vision windows so that your much younger son can see the approaching birds and warn you from whence they are arriving. He’ll also tell you to be quiet when your mallard call sounds like a wounded turkey. It’s a good plan to practice well in advance, especially when the significant other isn’t home and can’t hear you!

Author Bill Adelman is comfortable in his duck blind in the late fall and winter.
Author Bill Adelman is comfortable in his duck blind in the late fall and winter.

Having your shotgun patterned with the shells you’ll be using is essential. Even though you don’t swing through a fixed target, you will have to lead a duck. Fit is critical and will change depending on the clothing you’re wearing on any particular day. Practice with all options. Learn to identify different species, as some have but a two-bird limit within the daily limit of seven. If your son says,“Don’t shoot” just as you are pulling up, it’s most likely because the passing birds are spoonies or you already have your other two.

When deeply buried in your blind, try to pick up the gun with your shooting hand, with the call in the other hand.

Key Waterfowl Dates to Remember
Key Waterfowl Dates to Remember


Having mentioned all of this, as you prepare for the waterfowl openers this month and next, the primary focus is to practice gun safety. If your shotgun falls, slides or gets run over by the dog, will anyone get hit if it goes off? Be smart, understanding that sometimes stuff happens.

There are two major advocates for duckers: the California Waterfowl Association ( and Ducks Unlimited ( Many choose to belong to both, while others stick with just CWA, considering all of its programs are within our state. They work at promoting junior hunts at every opportunity. The fundraising dinners are great fun; however, bring your checkbook and credit cards.

Add Motion To Your Spread
Add Motion To Your Spread

There are so many regulations with duck hunting that you just might want to go online to determine which ones apply to you, as well as limits, season dates and who knows what else?

Having your Shotgun patterned with the shells you'll be using is essential for bringing home a limit of birds.
Having your Shotgun patterned with the shells you’ll be using is essential for bringing home a limit of birds.

Good luck this season, water or not.