I have bumped into quite a few wildfowling friends at summer game fairs busily stocking up on new gear to either add to their collection, or replace stuff that has simply worn out.

Funny, but folk almost always leave this sort of shopping until the last minute when they’ve known for months new gear was needed. Not me though – my new season’s preparation is always pretty much done and dusted within a week or three of the old season finishing!

A big clean up

I’ve learned from bitter experience that if a clean up isn’t done at that time you can expect to find that a lot of shooting gear will have perished, rotted… or been eaten by mice.

I remember with horror finding an expensive pair of waders ruined this way when I pulled them on one opening day down on the marsh. That experience taught me a sharp lesson so I now go through a strict cleaning routine at the end of every February.

  • First, I strip all the guns and give them the clean of their lives before carefully washing all calls, coats, lanyards, waders, decoys, bags and hides.
  • Everything is then thoroughly dried and checked for wear and tear before being carefully packed away and placed in storage in the garage.
  • Waders, needless to say, are hung well out of reach of those pesky little rodents!

1. Decoys

Looking back on the last wildfowling season I was hugely impressed with the performance and quality of the Avery Green Head Gear Decoys I invested in, and particularly impressive were this company’s tangle free decoy cords.

I used them to rig the decoys to heavy duty fishing swivels. Most decoy cord is made from strong string but this is prone to tangle if you try and carry more than one decoy at once by the swivels.

This stuff though is made from a flexible plastic that ties easily to decoys and ensures they don’t wrap around one another.

This makes life a lot easier when pulling decoys in and out of splashes, or off a mother-line in a river as you can collect all the decoys at once and carry them in together.

  • Another handy trick that I put into use last year was to pair decoys together.
  • I primarily do this on splashes and to save on carrying individual weights for each decoy.
  • It’s done by attaching a weight to the decoy cord on one decoy, and then snap swivel another decoy to the cord with the weight attached (not the weight itself).
  • This allows the second decoy to stay within the length of its cord to its ‘mate’.
  • It makes for a natural looking spread and is handy if you don’t have enough weights for each decoy.
wildfowler in hide

Cartridges for duck shooting

Cartridge choice can create an interesting debate in all areas of shooting. From manufacturer and loads through to the size of cartridge and shot…

2. Decoy bags

Over the years I have used all sorts of decoy bags depending on the type of decoys I have to carry. Although I see the practicality in a large net decoy bag for my goose shells and full bodies they are not the most comfortable things to carry long distance.

They don’t seem to sit well on my back and can be a pain as the decoys repeatedly bash into the back of your legs.

  • When carrying a lot of duck decoys I now use an ex-army holdall which carries a large number of decoys as well as a small spade, hide and telescopic hide poles. It has separate compartments inside where decoy weights and motherlines can be stored.
  • It also has an adjustable shoulder strap for comfortably carrying long distance and two hand straps for carrying a short distance.
  • If I’m ‘running and gunning’ and travelling light over a long distance, I use an ex-army medium sized Bergen rucksack which comfortably holds up to 12 teal decoys along with a couple of mother-lines or a set of weights.
  • It’s an ideal way to chase ducks when they’re in hard-to-reach areas, or where you just wish to travel light.

3. Keeping cartridges

Saltwater marshes and cartridge heads don’t mix. Exposure to even the tiniest bit of wet or damp will kick-start the rusting process leading, in turn, to a range of different gun malfunctions from misfires to jamming.

There is nothing worse than finally getting within range of the quarry only to then have a gun malfunction due to rusty ammo. It’s a problem that normally occurs when cartridges are kept loose in a pocket and not thoroughly dried and cleaned at the end of a flight.

  • I have found two simple ways to fix this problem; the first is to place cartridges into re-sealable plastic bags.
  • These will prevent salt water getting to the brasses, it also makes it easier to remove the bag from your coat so that the brasses can be cleaned.
  • I’ve found it a useful way to carry spare ammo in my decoy bag in case I ever get a “once in a lifetime” flight.
  • It’s also a good way to store ammo for easier access with different shot and chamber sizes kept in their own bag.
  • The second way I keep ammo clean is to use a cartridge belt kept inside my chest waders. It really does keep cartridges dry but it is a bit more awkward to access fresh rounds in a hurry.
  • Both methods also prevent the writing on cartridges from rubbing off so you always know exactly what you are feeding into the chamber.

4. Call Lanyards

For most of last season I used a braided Hunter Specialties multiple-call lanyard, which holds up to ten calls, plus a dog whistle.

Fully loaded it covers all the species I’m likely to come across on the foreshore – plus the dog whistle doubles as a loud teal call if I want it to!

This lanyard has proved a godsend because it’s comfortable to wear and it spreads the calls for easy access which means I no longer have to fumble about when I’m looking for the correct call in a hurry.

I also use a single, double or triple lanyard if I’m chasing specific species and only need one, or a few calls, on a flight.

5. PVC Waders

Neoprene chest waders are perfect for wildfowling in cold weather as they keep us toasty warm and comfortable on frosty mornings but they are too hot for early season wildfowling or when walking long distances.

  • The problem can be solved by wearing wellies and leggings but when wading is essential I find that PVC waist waders are perfect for the job.
  • I decided to get waist-high waders because you don’t need to worry about taking something to sit on, or put a pair of leggings on over the top.
  • The advantage of waist waders compared with chest waders is that they leave the upper body free for ventilation but still come up high enough to sit in.