Skip to Content

Duck Hunting 101: Everything You Need to Know

SHTFPreparedness may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

If you’re interested in duck hunting but don’t know where to start, this guide will help you start your new adventure.

Duck hunting is a fine pursuit that takes you back to your roots, ending in a sense of accomplishment. Although not a necessary activity, it remains an itch that you always want to scratch. 

Getting into duck hunting isn’t straightforward. However, there are many details you must know before you pursue your interest.

So whether you are worried about licensing and permits, places to hunt, or weapons to use, we’ve covered it for you.

Duck Hunting Popularity

duck hunting

Duck hunting is a rewarding activity. When you aim at the sky and take that kill shot, you get to have fun. It’s a fantastic experience, especially when loading your hunt into your trophy bag.

In addition to being a well-established part of history, here are some additional reasons for its popularity:

  • It helps with wildlife management.
  • Habitat conservation. As the duck population continues to grow, overpopulation occurs. Duck hunting reduces pressure on limited natural resources.
  • Duck hunters generate revenue for the state. Furthermore, federal conservation programs use funds from license purchases and duck stamps as contributions to ongoing conservation efforts.
  • It is a source of nutritious food. Duck meat is an excellent source of healthy protein.
  • It is a shooter’s sport. Aiming for the sky while your target is moving improves your shooting skills. Duck hunting is a way for many people to put their shooting skills to the test.

This hunting type has been around for centuries as a popular pursuit for both kings and peasants.

Almost every family would engage in duck hunting to keep food on the table and the noble tradition of hunting ducks alive.

Legality and Permits

You don’t just wake up and go duck hunting. Before you can plan your hunt, there are legalities to observe and permits to obtain.

Duck hunting is an activity that the state controls. The purpose of state control is to manage overpopulation and habitat conservation. All US states have different licensing and permit requirements. Examine the different licensing requirements and associated costs for each state.

Generally, it falls under the waterfowl category. Some states will charge a small fee for permits. Before legally hunting ducks, you must ensure that you have the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp for duck hunting before legally hunting these birds. Acquiring a permit also helps to maintain migratory bird conservation.

Each state provides different legislation for duck hunting, such as specifications for locations, retrieval methods, periods, differentiation of species, and safety adherence requirements.

Obtaining a duck hunting license is a privilege, so resist the urge to trespass on private property without the landowner’s consent.

Another factor to consider is the restrictions set by wildlife management units. For instance, permits come with tags, and if the wildlife management unit has imposed hunting restrictions in specific areas, you have a legal obligation to steer clear of those areas.

Federal regulations by the Fish and Wildlife Service also often place limits on the species you can hunt. For example, federal law prohibits hunting endangered duck species. Therefore, make sure you know which bird you are aiming at before pulling that trigger!

License Exemptions

  • Any active member of the military service gets free licenses.
  • Blind people are not given licenses.
  • Eagle-feather laws. This law allows only American Indians to retrieve eagle feathers for religious use.

Duck Season Explained

duck season

Every regular duck hunter always anticipates the duck hunting season with excitement. 

Duckers must wait patiently for the official opening of the waterfowl season, which the federal government manages. You can only go into the wild to bag your trophies once the federal government officially declares the waterfowl hunting season open.

There are no fixed hunting seasons. Many variables, such as the migration of ducks and flyways, are considered. Due to variations in migration dates, each region has a different duck hunting season.

Set regulations take into account duck behavior and hunters’ preferences, but there is always a temptation to go hunting regardless of the season.

Exercise patience by waiting for the official opening of the waterfowl hunting season; otherwise, there will be less stock when the season begins. The chances are always there that you might receive a heavy fine if caught hunting out of season.

Make sure you go through your state’s detailed duck hunting seasons. The government also provides hunters with a list of endangered species that they may not hunt. Learn about the various duck species and when you can hunt specific ducks. 

Hunters must also consider the bag limits set for each season, so you know how many ducks you can shoot during that period. Be sure to check the bag limits to ensure you comply with regional regulations.

Best Places to Hunt Duck

Planning is integral to successful duck hunting. The desired location for your duck hunting trip is at the top of your list of destinations.

Although there are hundreds of viable places to go duck hunting, specific locations are hubs for many duck species. You can choose the best duck hunting location based on the number and variety of ducks available.

Every hunter has that one place they constantly dream about during the off-season. Here are a few places to look:

  • The Atlantic Flyway has a wide variety of species to hunt. You also get access to other public spots for duck hunting.
  • Mississippi Dela Ducks: If you’re looking for a private place, this is it. It’s getting tougher for many hunters to hunt on prime land, but the incredible scenery and availability of various species make this the best place for duck hunting. However, you must pay around $340 a day to hunt here.
  • Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex: This is the best public place to consider if you are on a budget. There are over 20 blinds in small ponds with a variety of duck species.
  • Colorado’s South Platte River is another great public duck hunting location. There are around 32,000 acres of land with public access. In addition, migrating ducks come to their regular breeding grounds near water bodies, giving you an excellent opportunity to hunt.
  • North Dakota Ducks and Geese: This area is renowned as the duck motherland, offering the best duck hunting opportunities. If you prefer a private location, consider this one for around $350 a day. During the August season, you can hunt up to 15 ducks.

Plan your duck hunting trips based on your passion to ensure that you can fulfill your dream. 

But not everyone can access these premium duck hunting spots. Based on the access, choose a location that is suitable for you.

Weapons for Duck Hunting

duck hunting weapons

A good weapon is a hunter’s everyday companion. Your hunting success is only as good as the weapon you carry.

Some guns are suitable for hunting, but not all are ideal for duck hunting. You will rarely see anyone arriving with a bow and arrows for a duck hunt, as shotguns are the weapon of choice for this sport. 

Choosing the best duck hunting weapon can be tricky unless you take the time to do your homework or speak to the experts.

Reliability, accuracy, and durability are the most critical elements when choosing a weapon.

  • Remington Model 870: This is the best weapon overall for duck hunting. It is reliable, accurate, and robust. The Remington is your best companion during any season.
  • Beretta A350 Xtrema: Try this weapon for any weather condition, as it never disappoints. This Beretta model has unique features such as anti-corrosion properties, rubber outer layers, and the right chamber size, making it one of the best duck hunting weapons.
  • Remington Versa Max Waterfowl: This weapon is for the duck hunter who enjoys shooting large shells up to 3.5 inches. It has a standard grip and shock-absorbing features, which are definitely appealing.
  • Benelli Vinci: For a distance traveler, this is the ultimate duck hunting weapon. If your hunting location is far from your home or you have to walk miles to reach a good hunting spot, go for this shotgun. This gun easily breaks down into three parts for portability. This best duck hunting weapon focuses on speed and reliability, which is every hunter’s dream.
  • Mossberg 835: This is the best duck hunting gun for hunters on a budget if you want the performance of the Remington 870 without the price tag. It shoots up to 3.5” shells and is sure to make for an exciting duck-hunting excursion.

These are the best weapons for duck hunting. Make sure you purchase your gun early and get comfortable with it before the hunting season starts.

Duck Hunting Gear

camo duck hunting

Duck hunting requires an essential list of hunting gear. What you pack determines your safety and success on the field.

From accessories to the weapon of choice, there are a few fundamental items that you should take with you to ensure a comfortable, successful hunt.

  • Your shotgun
  • Ammunition
  • Shotgun case and strap
  • Duck straps
  • Binoculars
  • Call whistles or duck calls.
  • Decoys

Clothing Gear

You don’t want them to see you, so go, Camo! Layer up! Duck hunting gets cold. Here are the clothing essentials:

  • Camo clothes (hut, jacket, pants, and shirt).
  • Rain suit
  • Hunting boots
  • Ear protection: Gunshots are loud. Protect your eardrums!
  • Gloves
  • Insulated overalls

Other Essentials

Consider carrying these items for extended hunting trips.

  • Zip ties
  • Spare batteries
  • Lighter
  • First-aid kit
  • Emergency flares
  • Cooler
  • Water: keep hydrated during long, patient waits to bag your prey!

Duck hunting is a complex activity. Make sure you are well prepared for your hunting location and the duration of the trip. Ensure you adequately prepare to avoid unforeseen circumstances in the field, such as forgetting to pack essential items.

If you have your dog with you, consider carrying duck-hunting dog gear. You may need dog food, bowls, a whistle, and a travel kennel. Before setting out, ensure that you carefully review your hunting plan and list correctly.

How to Spread Decoys

duck hunting decoys

Spreading decoys is fun and tactical. Always ensure that you spread them appropriately so that ducks find them irresistible.

A good hunter understands that in order to remain competitive while hunting, they must use all available tools to their advantage. Setting a good decoy spread differentiates good hunters from the rest.

It would be beneficial to use a surefire strategy when spreading decoys (if this is even possible). Ducks are clever; they get a glimpse of something that doesn’t look right, and off they go!

Use these tips to disperse your decoys and increase your chances of success.

  • But, first, make your decoy spread visible. You want ducks to see your decoys even from a far distance.
  • Spread good-quality decoys when hunting for ducks.
  • To spread out decoys, use flooded timber.
  • Ensure that there is open water around the decoys.
  • Ensure that your decoys look realistic.
  • Always go for a quality decoy spread, not quantity.
  • Maximize the use of frozen coot decoys.

Ducks that have survived previous seasons are also often more cautious. Decoys no longer fool them that easily, so if you want to outwit them, be tactical about your decoy spread.

Public areas are under heavy hunting pressure during the duck hunting season, so you’ll need a few guidelines to stand out from the crowd.

Duck Hunting vs. Other Waterfowl Bird Hunting

Duck hunting is not much different from waterfowl bird hunting. However, there are noticeable differences that make duck hunting preferable to waterfowl bird hunting.

Here are several differences that make duck hunting unique:

  • First, duck food sources are often located above the water surface, making ducks easy targets because they are vulnerable when searching for a meal. Second, other waterfowl birds are deep divers; you must be extra careful to get an accurate shot when shooting them.
  • Many waterfowl species are cautious about decoys, so spreading decoys for them may be a bit challenging. Ducks, on the other hand, are more attracted to decoys because they naturally assemble in groups.
  • Ducks quickly respond to calls compared to other types of waterfowl.
  • Many waterfowl species are migratory. Therefore, it can be challenging to find your target species in two consecutive seasons.


This ultimate guide to duck hunting will help prepare you for the season. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even end up becoming a pro hunter because you’re so passionate about this sport. 

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the nitty-gritty of duck hunting. Proper planning is the starting point for every aspect of this sport. If you want a successful hunt, careful planning includes deciding on a good location and relying on thorough preparation regarding other equipment.

Always make sure you prioritize safety when hunting. Ensure that you are aware of your surroundings. Always know the locations of other hunters in the vicinity, because your safety depends on a heightened level of awareness when out in the field.