Gearing up and heading out into the early morning mist, you feel a peaceful calm wash over. You are focused and intent on the task ahead: stealthy hunting a target prey. Taking on a hunt requires knowledge, skill, and practice. The type of animal you seek determines new strategies and specific gear. Throughout the long history of waterfowl hunting, in specific, us humans have realized man’s best friend is an extreme asset on the hunt. In comes the bird dog.
Waterfowl hunting becomes much easier when your well-trained pup is by your side. They are waiting at the ready to retrieve a downed bird and safely bring it back to you. Since waterfowl hunting occurs over a body of water, your dog is much more equipped to fetch the bird than you are.
What is Waterfowl Hunting?
At its most basic level, waterfowl hunting includes hunting ducks, geese, and other waterfowl for both food and sport. Some of the most common birds hunted in the sport are the Canada geese, snow geese, black duck, and wood duck.
Due to hunting and environmental destruction, the duck and goose population in North America saw a decline in the 20th century. To remedy the issue, three pieces of legislation were enacted: the Lacy Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 1934. Their successful results are still in use today as hunters abide by specific waterfowl hunting laws.
Keeping Your Pup Warm in the Cold
The waterfowl hunting season spans through Fall and Winter. Fridged temperatures are simply part of the environment that a waterfowl hunter must endure. Consequently, your retrieving pup will also have to become accustom to both the cold air and water. We recommend checking out the Avery Boaterft. S Dog Parka to keep your furbaby warm.
The Avery Boaterft. S Dog Parka comes in five different camo color patterns. We love this feature because a hunter can really tailor their purchase to the environment they wish to hunt in. 5mm of neoprene and 16 cubic” of foam flotation not only keep your pup warm and dry, but it adds that extra boost of buoyancy.
The parka is all function and practicality. It features grab handles to safely pull your pup from the water, plus a D-ring to directly attach a leash of your choice. Customers love the heavy-duty zipper and Velcro closure. The Avery Boaterft. S Dog Parka will absolutely hold up on your hunting trips.
Using a Boat to Hunt Waterfowl with Your Pup
When hunting waterfowl, there are two distinct methods to consider. A hunter can either utilize a boat to go further out into a body of water or they can stake out on the shoreline. If using a boat, consider how your pup will be affected. The Avery Hunting Gear Dog Boat Ramp is a great solution for aiding Fido in and out of the watercraft. Avery specifically designed this ramp for hunters; keeping it stylish, rugged, and muted in color for camouflage.
The Avery Hunting Gear Dog Boat Ramp is made from a coated, black steel frame and synthetic canvas. Customers explain how durable the ramp is, becoming a go-to piece of their gear. In 24” of length and designed in a “L” shape, the ramp makes it easy for your pup to climb up. Furthermore, customers note that the canvas material is superior to metal steps. When you are all done, simply fold the steps in half for storage.
We recommend fitting the Avery Hunting Gear Dog Boat Ramp to a boat with sturdy sidings. Unfortunately, it will not work on pontoons. Its metal frame is best designed for shallow water boats.
Staking Out on the Shoreline with Your Pup
The most common hunting equipment a waterfowl hunter will use include a shotgun, boat, decoys, duck or goose call, and a hunting blind. The hunting blind, also called a duck blind, will be used for staking out on the shoreline. Its purpose is to provide a hunter and their pup with the utmost camouflage as they await action. While some hunting blinds are permanently built, other hunters may be searching for a more portable option to transport between locations.
The Leader Accessories Spring Steel Doghouse Hunting Blind is a fantastic option for a portable hunting blind that will fit both you and your pup. Measuring 60” in length, 60” in width, and 65” in height, it is large enough to fit two humans plus a dog. Although the blind is not top of the line, it is affordable and will get the job done well.
Made from water resistant polyester, the Leader Accessories Spring Steel Doghouse Hunting Blind features 4 mesh windows and 3 portholes. Each window can be tied down so that noise is reduced in windy weather. The blind comes with stakes to secure in the ground. Additionally, all four sides sport small orange reflectors to become visible when other hunters are in the area. The reflectors provide a great safety measure for you and your pup.
Be aware that the blind does not have a bottom. Unfortunately, or not, you will be standing or seated on bare ground. After a good day’s hunt, simply pack it back up in the provided backpack carrying case.
Keeping Fido Dry and Ready in Shallow Water
Many hunters will choose to blend in with their hunting environment in other ways. Specific shallow waters can often make it difficult to use a boat or hunting blind. Even in these scenarios, your dog can still remain dry and at the ready. The ALPS Outdoorz Delta Waterfowl Dog Stand will be your saving grace. Picture a small, portable platform that sits above the water. Your pup now has a special seat all to themselves!
The ALPS Outdoorz Delta Waterfowl Dog Stand is made from a durable, yet light, aluminum frame and TechMesh fabric that allows water to run right off. With pointed legs, an owner can stake the stand through the water’s bottom for security. It measures 26” in length and 24” in width. You can adjust the height from 22” to 36”, catering it to the current height of water. After you and your pup are done for the day, simply fold up the stand and carry it using the convenient shoulder straps.
Although the manufacturer states there is no current weight limit, some customers are concerned with the stand’s sturdiness and durability of hinges. Be aware of your pup’s weight when adjusting its height.
Waterfowl Hunting Cautions
As with any hunting sport, there are very specific rules and regulations an owner and their pup must follow. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement will become your closest ally in following these laws. It is highly recommended to be aware of both federal and state laws before going out on the hunt.
Baiting is possibly the most important factor a waterfowl hunter should be knowledgeable on. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that hunting can not occur with the aid of baiting. They define this as “indirect or direct placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could lure or attract waterfowl” to the hunting area. A known baited area will be off-limits for 10 days. For more specific information on baiting regulations, please visit https://www.fws.gov/le/waterfowl-hunting-and-baiting.html
There are two requirements of all waterfowl hunters. First, you must enroll in the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program. A hunter must carry proof of enrollment while hunting. Second, hunters 16 years or older must purchase a Duck Stamp. This is then carried as a license for hunting. Both requirements ensure the safety of both hunter and waterfowl population.
Although waterfowl hunting methods were more “lax” in the past, current law prohibits hunters from using: traps, snares, nets, rifles, pistols, swivel guns, shotguns larger than 10 gauge, punt guns, battery guns, machine guns, fish hooks, poison, drugs, or explosives. Imagining a hunter using explosives just screams multiple injuries!
Tips for Prepping Your New Hunting Pup
Some of the best dog breeds for waterfowl hunting include the Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, and American Water Spaniel. Each has been specifically bred for retrieving downed birds in the water. In addition, the American Water Spaniel only weighs between 25 and 45lbs. Their lighter size is preferable when hopping in and out of a boat.
Just because you now have a pup bred for water fowling, doesn’t mean you can immediately go out on the hunt and expect perfect retrieval. An owner will always need to take the time and train their furbaby for the task ahead. Consider these steps:
- Condition your pup to ignore decoys by first practicing in your own yard
- Place a training dummy bird among the decoys and condition your pup to retrieve the dummy, not a decoy
- Take the same practice to the pond
- Use a duck or goose call during training to have your pup get accustom to the noise
- Shot the gun you will be using and then toss in the dummy bird to have your pup get accustom to both the gun’s noise and the routine they will encounter
Although these are simple and basic steps, training your new pup will take time and effort. Since each dog is unique, they will respond differently to training. You can expect road blocks and wrinkles along the way. To gain further guidance on training your new waterfowl hunting dog, check out these cool resources:
The sport of waterfowl hunting is taken to a whole new level when you bring along your expert retrieval pup. Not only will Fido make the process easier, but you gain the opportunity to create an undying bond between man and dog.
There exists a slew of products that will aid your pup’s hunting adventures. We reviewed the Avery Boaterft. S Dog Parka, the Avery Hunting Gear Dog Boat Ramp, the Leader Accessories Spring Steel Doghouse Hunting Blind, and the ALPS Outdoorz Delta Waterfowl Dog Stand. Each are designed for specific hunting conditions depending on your preference. Be aware that waterfowl hunting gear is not cheap! You can expect to pay between $50 and $100. During our research, we found the best options for the lowest price.
Now that you have gained some great knowledge on waterfowl hunting with your pup, you are off to a great start! Keep safe, keep healthy, and go hunt with your obedient and fierce pup.