Federal Premium Black Cloud High Velocity Like the Cold War space program, the Indy 500, and the drive home after all-you-can-eat Mexican, waterfowl ammunition has become a contest of speed. With new powders and shell designs pushing 1,700 fps, non-toxic shot has never been faster. Building off its popular Black Cloud Snow Goose loads of last year, Federal is introducing a Black Cloud High Velocity duck load this year. The 3-inch 1-1/8 oz loads of No. 3 and No. 4 shot clock in at a deadly 1,635 fps. Using a special blend of 60 percent zinc plated shot and 40 percent FS steel shot, in a staged construction, the little Saturn-shaped pellets are guaranteed to terrorize the greenheads this Fall. ($22 per box of 25; federal.com)
Drake Waterfowl Eqwader Plus A lot of companies claim their products are “most popular” or “best selling,” but with Drake I believe it. The MST Eqwader Quarter-Zip Pullover is so ubiquitous in duck blinds and goose bunkers around the country, you’d swear they hand them out with the Federal duck stamp. This year Drake is making their best pullover better with a major update. The HyperShield waterproof fabric has been upgraded for breathability. The zippers have been reinforced with weather resistant flaps and rubberized pulls–so even a cold, wet, glove-ridden hand can work them up or down. They’ve added a mid-torso, wader-height draw cord, too. Those of us that need a little help sucking our guts and getting everything into our chest waders are appreciative. ($75-$80; drakewaterfowl.com)
Filson Bird Strap Some things just shouldn’t be made of plastic. If any company knows this, Filson does. The Seattle outfitter married two classics this year to create a new bird strap for duck hunters. “New” here being relative, as this strap would have been as functional and fetching in 1911 as it is in 2011. Matching a traditional 12-loop design with 100 percent brindle leather and heavy white stitching, the Filson Bird Strap is timeless. ($98; filson.com)
GHG Sea Duck Series Scoter Decoys Sea duck hunters never get any respect. For years, they’ve had to make or modify their own decoys. Yet that, at least, is changing, thanks to GHG and its new Sea Duck Series of decoys. The first in the lineup is the scoter–common scoter, white-winged scoter and surf scoter. Sold in boxes of six, with four drakes and two hens, all have swivel heads. Finally, some good news for sea duck hunters. ($89; greenheadgear.com)
Haydel’s Cluckin’ Speck Specklebellys can be wary geese. And with a cloud of shot following them from the Canada prairies all the way down to the Louisiana coastline, who can blame them? The Haydels know this, so for 2011 they’ve brought out a cluck hand call designed to entice commitment from spooky specs. With a bellow on one end and a compensator on the other, nearly anyone with one hand and a few fingers can produce the cluck. ($25; haydels.com)
L.L. Bean Waterproof Sportsman's Chinos When a good idea comes along, you often wonder, why didn't I think of that sooner? That must have happened at L.L. Bean when they thought of cutting khakis out of wader material. These Sportsman's Chinos are made of a 4-layer waterproof, windproof, breathable, abrasion-resistant polyester yet you could get away with wearing them to church on Sunday. They're perfect for dog training or those easy, walk-in club hunts where the decoys are set and someone is cooking bacon in the blind. No need to look Delta Force on every hunt. ($99; llbean.com)
Zink Avian-X Honker Decoys Fred Zink and World Champion carver Rick Johannsen have spent more than a decade researching and refining their approach to decoy production. The result is the Avian-X line of full-body Canadas. Decoys that looks so good your dog is going try to retrieve them. With amazing feather detail and body postures ranging from adult and subdominant males and females to juvenile birds. Sold by the half dozen with and without flocked heads with detachable 11.5-inch metal feet that stands solid, even in strong wind. ($220-$280; zinkcalls.com)
2011 could be a waterfowl season for the record books. Spring floods drenched much of the Prairie Pothole Region, and waterfowl breeding numbers are higher than they’ve been in 56 years. The ducky days of Fall are just around the corner, and these new products just might help you fill that dream season bag.