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Waterfowl hunting: the best gear as recommended by an expert

SAIL

July 26, 2022

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Discover our specialist top tips as the hunting and fishing helps you find the best gear for waterfowl hunting, so you can maximize your chance of a successful outing.

Ducks, Canada geese or snow geese are highly sought-after species for hunters, in Quebec as well as Ontario. Discover Éric Martineau’s top tips as the hunting and fishing department manager of our SAIL store in Laval helps you find the best gear for waterfowl hunting, so you can maximize your chance of a successful outing.

In this article you will learn everything there is to know about waterfowl hunting so you can equip yourself.

  1. Where and when to hunt for waterfowl
  2. How to get a waterfowl hunting permit
  3. The weapons to use for waterfowl hunting
  4. Other essential gears for waterfowl hunting
  5. Expert tips

Hunting gear

Waterfowl hunting gear

1. Where and when to hunt for waterfowl

Quebec is an important migratory corridor for many North American winged species. The Centre-du-Quebec and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean regions are usually good areas for hunting geese and snow geese. The wetlands of the Saint-Lawrence river are a popular destination for duck hunting.

Hunting dates vary by zones, but generally speaking, waterfowl hunting in Quebec happens in the fall, between September and December. For snow geese, which is considered as an overabundant species, a conservation harvest is also planned in the spring (between March and June).

For more information, visit the section on waterfowl hunting in Quebec on the Government of Canada’s website.

2. How to get a waterfowl hunting permit

To hunt for waterfowl, you will need to get a small game provincial hunting permit, as well as a federal migratory game bird hunting permit. You are required to have both on you when hunting.

The federal migratory game bird hunting permit can be purchased online, or in person at the post office.

You can find more information on the provincial small game hunting permit by visiting the websites of the Government of Quebec, or the Government of Ontario.

3. The weapons to use for waterfowl hunting

Hunting shotguns

A hunting shotgun is the most popular weapon amongst waterfowl hunters. Éric Martineau recommends a shotgun that can be placed smoothly and easily when raised, so you can lock in your target and make a clean and effective shot.

Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are recommended. Double barrel hunting shotguns also constitute a good option. However, the latter only let you take two shots, rather than three shots as per the previously mentioned models.

When it comes to choosing a caliber, 12-gauge guns are most popular for waterfowl hunting. The recoil generated isn’t excessive, and there is a wide range of ammunition to choose from for this type of hunting. 10-gauge caliber guns are also regularly used, but it’s worth noting that their recoil is heavy, which may not suit everyone. Finally, people with smaller stature who feel less comfortable handling a heavy recoil should opt for a 20-gauge caliber, assuming the birds aren’t too far when shooting.

Shells for the calibers mentioned above should be steel shotshells size no2 or no3 for duck hunting; size no1, no2 or BB for snow geese hunting or size no1, no2, BB or BBB for Canada geese hunting.

Lead shotshells should be 1 ¼ and above, and the shells should ideally be 3 inches or 3.5 inches in length.

4. Other essential gears for waterfowl hunting

Decoys

Canada goose hunting decoys

Hunting decoys are often made of plastic that (more or less faithfully) imitate birds such as ducks, geese and Canada geese in order to attract actual birds. They can vary in size (from the actual size of the animal to a much bigger size to make them more visible) as well as in position (sleeping, looking for food at the bottom of the water). There are also male and female options to choose from, with different feathering based on the season. Furthermore, when it comes to duck hunting, it’s possible to choose amongst many species (mallard, huppé, black). As decoys can be quite expensive, beginners could start by investing in a dozen artificial birds per animal type and expand their arsenal over the years.

Goose call

Game calls are tools used by hunters to reproduce a bird’s call, entice it to come closer and land. They are generally made of wood (cherry, maple, walnut) and use vibrations to create a variety of sounds and call birds, mostly over short distances. It’s worth noting that there are game calls for every species of waterfowl (duck, show geese), aside from geese and Canada geese, for which the same game call can be used. Éric Martineau mentions that hunters shouldn’t skimp on quality when it comes to both these accessories, as birds are fairly smart and will not be duped by inaccurate sounds or vague shapes.

Hunting blinds

Waterfowl hunting blind

There are several types of blinds available to help camouflage yourself and flush out your prey efficiently. Depending on your hunting strategy and targeted species, you could opt for an A-Frame blind (bunker-shaped), a bed-type (seat shaped) or a lay-down type blind.

A-Frame blinds are often used when hunting on the outskirts of a field, in a ditch. Its main benefit is that it allows hunters to remain standing for more accuracy when shooting, and to cover the top of their heads to quickly hide from birds as they approach. However, these take several hours to set up before they become effective.

Bed-type blinds are specifically used for snow goose hunting. Hunters lay on the ground, level with their decoys, in order to blend in amongst them. This blind offers the advantage of a panoramic view as birds approach.

Finally, several types of lay-down blinds are available, depending on the height required. These completely hide hunters amongst the surrounding vegetation. It is important to maximize visibility (by creating openings in the blind, for example) so you can quickly target birds and keep them in full view as long as possible throughout the short time interval of time between lowering the blind’s shade and the bird smelling an ambush.

Brands Altan, Hawk or SAIL’s own brand offer a large choice of light and easy-to-install hunting blinds.

Seats

Waterfowl hunting seat

Seeing as you’ll probably spend several hours without moving while keeping an eye on your prey, you’ll need a comfortable seat. Éric Martineau recommends a foldable chair, light and low so you can stay hidden even when sitting down.

Knives

Most waterfowl hunters equip themselves with a good hunting knife, made with a blade that’s designed to work on game. When well sharpened, the blade will be used to extract the breasts from the birds you’ve just harvested.

Binoculars

Binoculars are essential for hunting. They allow you to discreetly observe your prey from a distance, as well as increase your visibility even in poor light conditions. Look for something sturdy, waterproof and reliable.

Finally, if you would like to know how to dress for waterfowl hunting, read Éric Martineau’s tips on the right clothes to wear.

5. Pro-tips

  • Make sure you bring enough water or other quenching drinks on your outings. There is nothing worse than being thirsty during long watch periods. The same applies for food provisions, which will help you preserve your energy should your hunting day stretch out.
  • Don’t forget to bring a good headlamp so you can set up your decoys in the dark, early in the morning.
  • Decoys are fragile, especially good quality ones, so take care when putting them away (ideally in bags with separate slots so they don’t rub together break during transport).

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