There is no hunting group more fanatical about gear than waterfowlers. We are always looking for new gadgets to trick ducks and geese into the decoys, a bigger mud motor to get to the blind faster…virtually anything that makes a morning in the marsh more efficient. The shotshell revolution continues with the advancement of tungsten and bismuth loads, some of which hit harder than lead. Choke tubes have evolved along with the ammo, delivering tremendous patterns so you can shoot birds at longer distances, though I can’t fathom why you would want to…unless it’s spring snow goose season. Decoys are more realistic than ever before, from paint schemes to keel designs that make fake ducks ride the water like real ones. So make a little more room in the trailer, or hell, buy a new one—you’re a duck hunter after all.
Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat
Bottomland was one of the most innovative waterfowl patterns ever created—just walk into any duck camp or WMA east of the Mississippi River and you can see how popular it is. Shadow Grass Blades never quite had the fanfare of Bottomland, but Mossy Oak is hoping to change that with Habitat. It looks like a darker version of Blades, which is probably preferable to most hunters unless they primarily hunt flooded corn. But even then, as the season gets into late December and January most all plant life, including standing crops, turn a darker shade of brown, and this camo looks like it will blend in most any environment. —Joe Genzel
Savage’s Renegauge is one of the biggest introductions this year for a few reasons: 1) it’s the company’s first-ever semi-automatic shotgun, 2) it’s full of unique features, like a fluted barrel and patented gas system, 3) it’s a real gamer in the marsh. I had the opportunity to hunt with a pre-production model of the Renegauge on a sea duck hunt in December last year and my initial takeaways were that the gun absorbed felt recoil exceptionally well, it functioned flawlessly, and it pointed spot on. This is not a lightweight gun for covering miles in the uplands—the 28-inch barrel version weighs 7.9 pounds—but it was well-suited for a duck blind.
The Renegauge sports Savage’s AccuFit system, which the company has been using on its bolt-action rifles for years. The gun also comes with shims, which when combined with the cheek and butt pads, allows for 20 different variations. Most bird hunters don’t actually use shim kits, but that’s what’s great about the AccuFit system: It’s super quick and easy to use. You can swap out cheek pads without unscrewing anything. Simply peel off the pad and pop in a different one.
The shotgun will come with three choke tubes and uses the Beretta/Benelli Mobil choke if you want to throw in an after-market tube. It also has a switchable/ambidextrous safety for you left-handers. The black finish runs $1,449, while the camo model goes for $1,549. —Alex Robinson
Federal Black Cloud TSS 20-Gauge
Black Cloud has come a long way in the last few years. It used to burn on the dirty side and you couldn’t shoot it out of ported chokes (due to the first generation wad). Federal changed both those elements with the advent of the Flex wad and cleaner burning primers that improved the load markedly. BC has always been hard-hitting, and now that it’s offered in TSS, you can expect even better performance…as long as you shoot straight. TSS will be available in 20-gauge this fall in a 3-inch shell that blends Nos. 2 and 9 shot (60 percent TSS/40 percent steel). TSS is 56 percent denser than lead and double the density of steel, so even the biggest, greasiest local honker won’t stand a chance inside 50 yards. If you want to buy shotshells specific to the way you hunt, Federal has a new Custom Shop where engineers will create TSS hand-loads to your order specs. Just be prepared to pay for that performance. MSRP: $39 (10 shells) —J.G.
CZ 1012 All-Terrain 12-gauge
CZ came out with 11 models for this new All-Terrain lineup that features a green Cerakote finish on the receivers and barrels of all the guns. There are side-by-sides and over/unders, but for those of us who send dogs and don’t follow behind them (no offense upland hunters), is the 1012. It’s a 3-inch, 12-gauge auto-loader for under $700, and weighs just 6.5 pounds, which makes it ideal for public land or any of us that have to walk-in to the duck hole. Extended black choke tubes are easy to swap out in the field. The inertia-driven 1012 has a 28-inch barrel and cross-bolt safety found at the front of the trigger guard. MSRP: $690 —J.G.
Being able to turn a motion decoy on and off is paramount to killing ducks later in the season, because they get skittish around spinning wings in constant motion or on a standard timer. If you’re sick of carrying around a bunch motion remotes, like me, Pinteal’s wire harness system allows you to sync most Lucky Duck and Mojo decoys (they will add Higdon and Wonderduck soon), and control the speed and intermittent timer with your phone via bluetooth. It’s a simple process of connecting the wire harness and turning on the bluetooth function. There are a few different Pinteal models that connect to a variety of decoys. You can operate the decoys up to 70 yards away, plus control multiple spinners from one phone. If you’re worried about getting your phone wet, Pelican makes a line of waterproof cases I highly recommend. MSRP: $65 —J.G.
Lucky Duck Flickertail
Different is always best when you’re hunting pressured birds, and the movement of Lucky Duck’s Flickertail is meant to catch the attention of ducks overhead. This confidence decoy will run for 20-plus hours on four AA batteries, and you can couple it with an HD remote (sold separately). LD also has a new butt-up feeder this year called the Agitator, which throws water out the back end of the decoy to mimic ducks feeding. MSRP: $80 (Flickertail) —J.G.
Pelican Cargo Cases
Duck hunters are always trying to bring more gear afield, and the Pelican Cargo cases are ideal for storing small items like ammo, spinning-wing decoys, or bundles of decoy stakes. The cases come in a variety of sizes, from smaller cubes (50 liters) up to trunk cases (255 liters). Each is roto-molded to withstand serious abuse. They are weather-resistant for protection from rain and dust. You can buy mounting systems separately to attach the case to truck rooftop racks or beds, handy when you want to detach a Cargo full of gear and throw it in the boat. All hardware is corrosion-resistant and the latches are lockable. MSRP: $200-$400 —J.G.
Alps Outdoorz Deluxe Wetland Seat
The No. 1 factor that causes me to give up on public land is a sore ass and stiff back, which seems to come more quickly these days. The Deluxe Wetland seat will allow you to catch more afternoon flights thanks to the added support of a removable backrest. This seat also swivels 360 degrees, so there’s less of a chance you will have to stand to shoot or shoot from an awkward angle. Seat material is made of mesh, so water drains, which should help with dreaded dry-rot. The spike looks heavy-duty, but the chair is made from aluminum so it’s lighter and won’t rust as quick as many of its contemporaries. It adjusts from 24 to 34 inches. MSRP: $TBD —J.G.
Cupped Waterfowl Wader Bag
I took this bag on just about every road trip this season, because it fits waders, a jacket, vest, and a change of clothes in the waterproof front pocket should you take a dip in the marsh. It’s great for early mornings, because all your clothing is in one spot, so you can grab it and go. After the hunt is over, I just step inside the bag and peel waders off, then slide into a pair of XtraTuf boat deck shoes. There’s also an integrated Neoprene mat to change into your shoes if you want to use it. MSRP: $60 —J.G.
Carlson’s Delta Waterfowl Chokes
From skeet to waterfowl, I know Scott Carlson’s choke tubes have made me a better shot than I really am. The extended close-, mid-, and long-range chokes have a longer parallel section that makes for dense patterns and fewer flyers. Each choke tube is made in the United States and carries a lifetime warranty. All steel shot sizes may be used in the close- and mid-range chokes. The long-range allows steel shot to be used up to BBs that don’t exceed 1,550 fps. MSRP: $120 (3-pack) —J.G.
Filson Dry Bag Backpack
I had the chance to test this pack in Kansas in an absolute downpour this season. By test, I mean I left it in the bed of the truck overnight after we received at least five inches of rain. All my calls, gloves and camera (thank god) were bone dry. There’s plenty of room on the interior to store all kinds of gear, plus the side pocket is a great place for keys and your wallet. The zipper is heavy-duty, much like the ones you will find on Yeti dry bags and Sitka waders. MSRP: $TBD —J.G.
D.T. Systems K9 700 E-Collar
A handy tool for training work or hunting your retriever in a small wetland or timber hole where the dog will not have to chase down sailed birds, the K9 700 has three programmable modes at the touch of a button. The 16 e-stim levels can be adjusted by a numbered (positive click) dial with Nick, Continuous, and Jump options. There is also a no-shock vibration option. It has a range of 700 yards and the collar battery can be charged in two to three hours. The remote/transmitter operates on a replaceable 9v battery. MSRP: $180 —J.G.
Flambeau Gunning Series Canvasback
I hunted over the GS Mallards last year in water big and small. They stood up to the abuses of the Illinois River and danced nicely even in the slightest winds in backwater sloughs. This season, diver hunters will be able to take advantage of the foam-filled canvasback and bluebill models. The foam molds keep them light and virtually unsinkable. A stainless-steel blade keel is what allows the decoys to ride the water with better movement, and the floaters are coated with U-Vision, which dulls any glare. MSRP: $110 (6-pack) —J.G.
Mojo Elite Series Mini Mallard Drake
The little brother to Mojo’s King Mallard spinner, the Mini is less cumbersome and lighter for walk-in hunters. It still has an internal motor with a flexible skin surrounding the housing and comes remote ready, though you will have to buy the actual remote separately. It’s equipped with a USB connection and runs on four AA batteries (not included), which more motion decoys are moving to—it’s more convenient for hunters than recharging or replacing the old 6-volts. MSRP: $120 —J.G.
Dogtra 3500X E-Collar
The 3500X was built for duck hunting and competition, so you can control pup in the marsh or at field trials. Expandable to two dogs with the addition of a second collar, the unit has a 1.5-mile range (which you will likely never need, but is nice to have if a young dog encounters a deer and gives chase). The remote has a stimulation level lock, and a single button controls the NIC/constat operation function. There is an eight-level selector dial, OLED screen and the 3500X is waterproof. MSRP: $370 (one collar) —J.G.
Known for it’s TSS loads, Apex has a more affordable option in S3 steel, available for 20- and 12-gauge. Apex tested both shotshells and posted the results to its site. The 1-ounce, 4-shot in 20-gauge runs out the muzzle at 1,250 fps and had 133 pellets inside a 20-inch circle (181 inside 30-inch circle) at 30 yards. It’s also available in 2s and BBs. The 12-gauge, 1¼-ounce, No. 2 moves at 1,400 fps and registered 60 pellets inside the 20-inch circle at 40 yards and 111 hits inside the 30-inch circle. It comes in 4s and BBs as well. Read the [full review here.](https://www.outdoorlife.com/story/guns/top-custom-shotshells-that-are-better-than-steel/) MSRP: $24 —J.G.
LaCrosse AeroHead Sport
Warm boots that function is all every field hunter asks for and LaCrosse has done a darn good job of that for years. The AeroHead is made of lightweight/durable polyurethane (used to insulate refrigerators and freezers). Waterproof, the Brush Tuff material stands up to cut cornstalks trying to stab your shins. A shank in the arch and heel of the boot makes the AeroHead more durable. The shank is open in the middle for more cushion, and the footbed actually has a removable insert so you can have a more custom fit. Available in Realtree, Mossy Oak, and Optifade camo patterns. MSRP: $180 —J.G.