Waterfowl hunters are notorious for pushing their gear to the limits in extreme weather—while simultaneously expecting it to never fail. But when you’re 20 miles up a frozen river or chasing feeds down gravel roads, stuff is going to break. While this list of gear would be useful for all sorts of hunters, it’s tailored to waterfowlers, and I have personally needed each of these items one at one point or another.
A Serious Tow Strap If you’re hunting where the ducks live, it means you’re hunting in wet environments. Even if you’re careful, chances are you will eventually bury a truck or side-by-side. When big, heavy stuff gets suctioned in the mud, you need one serious tow strap to get out. Don’t be cheap.
Floor Jack with Plywood A few years ago we had a bent trailer axle that started eating up tires. I ended up with a flat 30 miles from the closest town and the possibility of more flats trying to get to our destination. We needed a good jack to get off the side of a remote highway and we were lucky to have one. The plywood is for muddy roads where the jack might sink, and the plywood can also be used as traction boards under tires if you get a truck stuck.
Tire Patch Kit In 2014 I drove through what I can only guess was a spilled bucket of nails, and I pulled into Mitchell, South Dakota, on two flat tires. A tire patch kit comes in handy if one spare isn’t enough or you have a trailer in tow.
Duct Tape and Zip Ties There are endless reasons to have these, but the biggest might be fixing hoses and fuel lines in old duck boats. Duct tape definitely got my dad’s old long-tail mud motor back to the ramp more than once. While the utility is more important than the actual hunting application, zip ties are also really handy for brushing blinds. Maybe the Red Green Show was too influential for me.
Socket Set This applies to everyone, not just waterfowl hunters. When I haven’t had a socket set, I’ve always needed one.
MAP/PRO or Propane Torch On a cold and snowy morning when you know the birds are going to feed, few things are more frustrating than your trailer doors and locks freezing shut. Having a good torch handy makes an easy job of thawing your equipment. It’s also good for singeing the little hairs off plucked birds and starting the charcoal at duck camp.
Multi-Tool and Pliers There’s no limit to the reasons you should have a good set of pliers with you, especially if you’re running boat motors in the cold.
Shovel If you’re only hunting in one vehicle, the aforementioned serious tow strap isn’t going to help you if you get high-centered in some mud or snow. A shovel is also nice for digging layout blinds if there’s no good hide.
Ratchet Straps This is another “must have” for everyone. In college I had an old, hard Tonneau cover on my pickup, and it loved to catch the wind. One particular day there was a crosswind gusting 50 miles per hour on the highway and it ripped the whole hard cover clean off my pickup. Luckily I had some ratchet straps to cinch it down and get back home. In much less dramatic scenarios, they’re also nice for securing gear.
Saw, Loppers, and Battery-Powered Hedge Trimmers You must be able to match your surroundings, from trees to grass, and these tools make it easy and quick to do so. My friend Ben Webster, a guide in Kansas and Canada, takes brush more seriously than anyone I know.
“Every waterfowler needs a good hedge trimmer whether it is battery powered or gas powered,” Webster said. “Being able to cut natural grasses and vegetation to hide the blind is extremely important and a trimmer allows you to do it quickly. Loppers are also huge in my hunting. They give me the ability to lop tree limbs and evergreen bows to hide the blinds quickly and safely.”
Before you head to the field this fall, give yourself the peace of mind that comes with having the right gear. The whole experience is a lot more enjoyable when you know a flat tire or a leaky hose doesn’t have to cut your hunt short.