“Dad… I got the decoys out, but I’m freezing…” He wasn’t joking. I parent with “love and logic” as often as possible… but this one I couldn’t let go. He should have known better, but my second oldest son had just waded into a frozen January river with his camouflage snow pants on to retrieve our decoys! Thank God our hunt was over, because he wasn’t in any shape to remain in the outdoors much longer. We quickly paddled so shore, and I fired up the truck with the heater cranked up full blast. Fearing hypothermia… he stripped himself of the cold wet clothes and sat in the truck while we loaded everything up. Once we arrived home, he went in to mama’ for a hot cup of soup before he took a warm bath. My older son and I were left to unload everything, shaking our heads. I’m glad he’s OK, and hope he learned a lesson.
All poor decisions aside, waterfowl hunting is the longest season known to man, and the weather can drastically change. From hunting early season geese in September T-shirts to a frozen late February hunt, duck and goose hunters need to have a variety of appropriate clothes at their disposal before embarking on the 7+ long marathon known as waterfowl season.
The early season, usually goose, generally starts sometime in September. Depending on the part of the country, it could still be well into the high 90’s when shooting light comes around. That being said, the birds are still very discriminate and camouflage is a must. At this time of year, I depend on my ultra light deer hunting gear like the ScentBlocker clothing 1.5 series for several reasons. First, as I mentioned, it’s light weight and breathable. I like how the moisture wicking capabilities help keep me dry and cool. I also appreciate the scent control technology because after a long, hot day of hunting September geese, I have the potential to smell like a high school locker room. But, with the scent eliminating technology, I’m able to hunt many more days before I have to finally give up and wash my clothes. Also, the camouflage patterns are top notch, and can help hide me anywhere.
I mostly hunt early geese in picked corn or wheat fields, but I will also at times hunt them on water. We also have an early teal season here in Michigan and that is of course done near water as well. When hunting near water, staying dry is crucial. I prefer to wear ultralight chest waders designed for fishing in these early season hunts. I’ll still pull on a long sleeve t-shirt over the top of them, but from the waist down, it’s an olive or khaki pair of lightweight, breathable chest waders.
The middle of the fall brings on the regular season for ducks and geese and with them, variable weather patterns. Once again, staying dry is important, but staying warm is also important. I prefer to wear either waterproof bibs and a jacket or insulated chest waders and a jacket depending on where I’m hunting. I like a lot of the Whitewater clothing options here. Most don’t realize this, but Whitewater has been around a long time, and they have always been a huge supporter of conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited. In fact, Whitewater has official Ducks Unlimited gear. I really like their insulated fleece Ducks Unlimited pullover for cold hunts – and deer hunting for that matter. It is so soft and warm, and I find myself wearing it to football games and other social events in the fall as well.
I really think that layering is a very important factor in the middle of the fall when hunting waterfowl. I still get hot and sweaty setting decoys and hauling them all in. But when I am sitting and the north winds start to whip down, I’m glad I have extra clothes like the fleece to throw on. Big game hunting gear company’s like ScentBlocker (who also owns Whitewater) and Sitka make fantastic gear that is water repellent, wind resistant, insulated, and has scent elimination properties. In fact, Sitka also has their own line of waterfowl gear for specific scenery and weather conditions. I like also the ScentBlocker Alpha system for mid season waterfowl hunting. Much of this gear is multi-purpose, which helps justify the purchase with the boss at home.
The late season is a beat in itself, and the only thing that matters is staying warm. Last New Year’s Eve I goose hunted in negative wind chills in the ScentBlocker Northern Extreme gear and it worked well. We hunted most of the day, and I was toasty warm. Once again, layering is important because I don’t want to break a sweat at all in below freezing temperatures. If and when I’m hunting water in the late season, it’s usually near a river that hasn’t frozen. I’ll layer with all sorts of long underwear, and then I’ll throw on the thickest neoprene chest waders I can find. On top, depending on if we have snow or not, it’ll be one of my other jackets with an appropriate camouflage pattern.
I personally don’t need to buy more outer gear for this season, I just invest in nice merino wool baselayers to make sure I am warm and dry. My other windproof and waterproof gear is still perfect for these conditions. I just need to make sure I’m warm enough. I do recommend ScentBlocker Outfitter gear for late season deer and waterfowl hunting, and of course, for extreme frozen hunts, the Northern Extreme gear.
One of the greatest things about being a deer and waterfowl hunter is that they compliment each other well. For instance, in the early season, the deer don’t move too much in the mornings – so I duck hunt. In the regular or late season, when it is windy and rainy, the deer don’t do much either, but the ducks and geese sure do fly!
No matter the season or game, one thing is for certain – rain gear is essential! In my home state of Michigan, we have a saying: “If you don’t like the weather…it’s OK, just wait fifteen minutes and it’ll change.” I know that saying isn’t unique to my Wolverine state, and in fact, throughout the country each fall the weather can change at the drop of a hat. I’m never far from my rain gear because hunting in soaking wet clothing is miserable. And…what about tomorrow? I’ve been on road hunts away from civilization and gotten rained on with nowhere to dry my clothes. Guess what?! I did what every red-blooded American man would do, I still went out and hunted the next morning. But every time I’ve tried this, it has been complete misery. So for now on, I always travel with rain gear – if anything, to keep the rest of my clothes dry. I prefer the ScentBlocker Drencher clothes because they are light, breathable, and extremely waterproof.
Duck and goose hunting is a lot of fun when done properly. Make sure to invest in some decent gear that will be easily layered, serve the purposes for the time and location of the hunt, and will last a while. Hunting gear is a big investment, and unless you plan on losing weight (yeah right!) or gaining a bunch of weight (possible), it is an investment that is worth spending the extra money to get something good. Be sure to purchase something that will last for many seasons to come.