My Intro to Waterfowl Hunting By Ryan Hall
This past year I finally took the plunge in to hunting, specifically, waterfowl hunting. I
was a little nervous to jump in as I had not had any experience other than shooting
recreationally. As a fisherman I knew there would be a high level of dedication that
would be required. I was a little shocked to learn exactly how much money, equipment,
and time in the field was required for hunting. However, knowing myself, I knew if
hunting was something I took a liking to I would dive in headfirst.
Luckily for me my girlfriend is an experienced hunter who also happened to work with
Drake Waterfowl. She helped me get set up with all the Drake clothing and accessories
I may need. I purchased my waders, jacket, undergarments, headwear, ect. prior to the
waterfowl opener. I was also able to communicate with RB Bass Outdoors teammates
as to what else I may need. Knowing I was not going to be hunting alone this season I
did not dive in to purchasing decoys, a cart, or a sled.
Just like in fishing, having the right equipment is vital. Dressing accordingly is extremely
important and since our California weather can be anywhere from freezing cold and wet
to hot and dry. Having the right clothing will help you stay comfortable and clear headed
in the blind, just as it does on the boat while fishing. Keep in mind you need to do this
all while staying camouflaged from the weary birds.
In early December I went on my first hunt. My RB Bass Outdoors teammate Dominick
Mohammeds of Vets 4 Huntn & Fishn invited me and my girlfriend to one of his blinds in
the D10 zone. Not knowing exactly what I was getting myself in to, I prepped myself for
the “worst”. I fully anticipated an early arrival, long walk to the blind, decoy set up,
freezing cold (I hate the cold), and tough hunting. To my surprise, Dominick set me up
on the Cadillac of hunts. We arrived at the blind only an hour before shoot time, the
decoys were already set, the walk was about a quarter mile, and the blind was clean.
Dominick warned me that hunting all over the state had been excruciatingly slow but
since I am a beginner, I have no idea what is good and what is bad. We were in the
blind until about 11:00am and had a handful of geese work. Watching the birds circle
the pond and react to Dominick’s calls was exhilarating. You truly gain a new level of
appreciation for the birds after watching them in their environment. From what I was
told the day was a 1 out of 10. For me I would grade it a 10 of 10. Although we did not
shoot limits, I was able to harvest my first bird, a beautiful (and delicious) speckled
goose. I also learned from some very experienced hunters. I went into the hunt with a
mindset of learning and absorbing and that is exactly what I did. The blind was full of
knowledge, and I will be forever grateful for the experience.
Immediately following my first hunt with Dominick I knew I was hooked. I hopped in the
truck with my girlfriend and began planning our next trip. We came to an agreement
and decided to hunt Sacramento Refuge the following weekend. The day of our trip to
Sacramento Refuge we loaded up our gear and dog and headed up I5. We did not
have a reservation, so we decided to arrive a little later and wait it out in the sweat line.
When we arrived at 8am we were pleased to find that we were #1 in the sweat line. At
10:00am we were called up and got into one of the blinds we were hoping for. As we
made our way to the blind, we were stopped by a federal game warden. The warden
checked our licenses, guns, and shotgun shells. After our encounter with the warden,
we continued to haul the cart full of gear to the blind which was only about a half mile
walk. As soon as we got to the blind, we set up the decoys and put our eyes to the sky.
The hunting was slow again, but I was content just being outdoors and watching the
water and the birds. I will say all the ponds I’ve hunted all look good for a Picasso Lures
spinnerbait too bad there isn’t any bass in them. During the middle of our hunt the rain
came. Thank God I have good Drake Waters and Jackets because I stayed warm, and
bone dry during the sporadic down pours. Following the rains, the birds began flying.
Out of nowhere there were ducks dive bombing through our pond. I knew ducks were
fast, but I was amazed at how fast these diver ducks were. After a few missed shots I
realized I needed to practice and spend more time in the blind. After 3 missed
opportunities another group of divers came through the pond at 40 yards. I picked out a
bird and shot. I missed the first shot but stayed with the bird and hit it on my second
shot. Unfortunately, the bird sailed, and we were unsuccessful in our retrieval of the
bird. The dog was hot on the bird but unbeknownst to me the birds will dive under
water, hide from us and the dog, and essentially drown itself so it can’t be found. This
was a major bummer as it would have been my first duck. All in all, I was happy with
how the day ended. I learned a ton and gained some much-needed experience.
The Third Hunt
My third hunt was another trip to the refuge. My Uncle Pete invited me to join him at his
#4 resi at Colusa Refuge. On this hunt we were “blessed” with wet and rainy conditions.
I did not even think of how hard it would be to haul a decoy cart full of equipment 1.25
miles down a muddy “road”. It was so muddy the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife staff
working at the refuge warned us all that our carts would likely not be able to get through
the roads. As the youngest guy on the hunt and the new guy I was selected to push the
cart. Long story short the cart made it about 1/3 of the way to the blind before we had
to detach the sled and pull the sled across the mud to the blind. After getting to the
blind, setting up the decoys and setting up in a tule patch we patiently waited for shoot
time. To my surprise Colusa had more birds than my previous 2 hunts. Not many, but
more. As shoot time neared, I could hear ducks flying over our heads and through the
pond. It was cool being able to hear these birds coming before I could even see them.
Once shoot time came, we immediately had birds coming through the decoys. About 45
minutes in 3 teal came in and I got a good shot off and hit my first duck. It was a great
looking drake green wing teal. As the sun came up the birds became fewer and fewer,
and the rain got heavier and heavier. At 10:30am we were packing up and heading
home. We were lucky enough to have harvested 3 Teal. The hunting was slow again,
but it was still the best trip I ever had. I was lucky enough to spend a morning in a duck
blind with my “uncles”. Both of them have been friends with my father since college and
I know my dad would have loved to have been able to see us all out hunting together.
That was truly a day I will not forget.
All in all, hunting this year has been a great time and a great learning experience. I
can’t wait to do it again soon!
RB BASS OUTDOORS RYAN HALL
Shotgun: Benelli Nova 12ga. (pump) – Affordable, reliable, shoots up to a 3.5” shell –
Waders: Drake Waterfowl Guarding Elite Uninsulated HND Front Zip Waders (Mossy
Oak Shadow Grass Habitat) https://www.drakewaterfowl.com/products/guardian-elite-zip-front-wader-habitat?variant=40215837442115
Waterproof Jacket: Drake Waterfowl Refuge 3.0 Waterfowler’s Wading Jacket (Mossy
Oak Shadow Grass Habitat) https://www.drakewaterfowl.com/collections/mens-waterfowl-waterproof-jackets/products/refuge-3-0-waterfowlers-wading-jacket?variant=31636290699331
Hoodie: Drake Waterfowl MST Endurance Softshell Hoodie (Mossy Oak Shadow Grass
Under Wader Pants: Drake Waterfowl MST Fleece Wader Pant https://www.drakewaterfowl.com/products/fleece-wader-pant?variant=31636368130115– Also make a very nice sweat pant/jogger for everyday use
Backpack: Drake Waterfowl Swamp Sole Backpack https://www.drakewaterfowl.com/collections/all-backpacks/products/swamp-sole-backpack-mossy-oak-shadow-grass-habitat?variant=40800207274051
Wader Bag: Drake Waterfowl Wader Bag 2.0 –https://www.drakewaterfowl.com/products/wader-bag-2-0?variant=31057763139651 Shotgun Shells: 3” 2-Shot
– HEVI-Shot HEVI-Steel Shotshells | https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/hevi-shot-hevi-steel-shotshells
– Fasteel 2.0 Precision Plated Steel Waterfowl https://kentcartridge.com/shotshell/fasteel-precision-plated-steel-waterfowl