Even though the beginning of the waterfowl season has come and gone I suspect there are still some out there that are wondering how to get started. Maybe there's even a few of you out there who are in the middle of your first season but are enjoying little success. Well let's sort things out a bit and make the overall experience more enjoyable and perhaps add some extra table fare along the way.
The first question you want to ask is; what species are you interested in? Ducks, geese, snipe, woodcock are just a few of our states waterfowl you can pursue. All can be enjoyable to go after with some major differences. Ducks and geese will be primarily calling and decoying while snipe and woodcock are more flush and fire style in swamps and boggy areas. The great thing with snipe and woodcock is the season opens earlier than ducks and geese so they can be a good way to bring back your shooting chops before moving to the larger species.
Next would be; what type of firearm is best for the species you're after? Really the greatest overall value and performance for most waterfowl and also upland game will be a twenty gauge shotgun. From decoying geese to smaller fowl like snipe it will give the best effort depending on load and shot size. I know there's a lot a goose hunters out there who wouldn't go with anything less than a twelve gauge. If your truly decoying them instead of performing passing shots a twenty gauge will be more than enough with an accurate shot.
Do you wish to be a boat hunter or a walk-in hunter? When you're testing the waters of your waterfowl interest it will be cost effective to be a walk in hunter to start with. As with any hobby you can drop a mint in equipment so it's best to find out if an interest could become a fire or remain an ember before you put your hand all the way in. If interest becomes passion later on you can build your arsenal to keep up with your experience.
Another cost effective pursuit can be field hunting. The most costly thing when you head down this road will likely be gas. Spending time scouting to find the fields geese and ducks are using will require some investment. A good field blind will run a hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars which is still far cheaper than most boats. Finding and obtaining permission from land owners will also take some time. If you're already a waterfowler and haven't field hunted yet, the birds decoy hard to your position, and it's an absolute rush.
When heading into any hunting venture no matter what genre always try to find a friend or relative that has a lot of experience for a couple reasons. With little familiarity comes uncertainty which can lead to accidents small, deadly, or illegal. Especially with duck and goose hunting identification of a specific species in the air is crucial before pulling the trigger. An experienced hunter can tell a Mallard hen from a Gadwall hen while a first timer would probably not. I guarantee ignorance will not be bliss when a DNR officer would like to see what species filled your limit on a good day of hunting and you have too many of a certain kind.
We are blessed in Iowa with two powerful migrations along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers that spill over across the state. We have an ample supply of puddle ducks with a light mix of divers. If you study your orinthology books hard you'll learn the species that make up these families. Once you've got it down you'll be well on your way to many great days in the field.