View Full Version : Duck Hunting, is it really worth it anymore?

August 22, 2009, 05:53 AM
Allow me to rant for just a second. I don't do this often, so please bear with.

I love duck hunting.:) It was the first hunting sport I took up regularly in high school and immediately was hooked. Hunting in Florida, I got used to being at the bottom of the flyway with call-shy birds, needing excellent camo on your blind, good decoy sets, etc. Duck season turned into a 2-4X/week proposition for me.:D Shells (lead) were bought by the case with money I saved up from mowing yards and it was easy to pay $5/box for #4 or #6 2 3/4", max dram lead.

Then we lost lead shot and switched to steel.:barf: My $5/box allowance jumped to $12-15/box for 2 3/4 #2 steel, which always seemed to do the trick over decoys.

College took me closer to better hunting areas and often I would schedule my classes and work around potential duck hunts. I moved from hunting mostly "Florida Mallards" (mottled ducks), bluewing teal, and ringbills at home to hunting pintails, widgeon, greenwing teal, and the regular cast at my new college haunts.

Fast forward to the end of college, the beginning of my USAF career, and big blue sends me to Fairchild AFB where geese entire my waterfowl world.:eek: Had to jump from 2 3/4 #2 to BB to bring those 15#+ beasts down, but man was it fun! Jumped from having 5 doz puddler deeks to owning 200 including the floater geese and other puddlers I picked up here and there.

Locations come and go, duck hunting at each was great or suspended due to lack of good places to hunt (try Cannon AFB, NM!), but in the world of duck hunting, new, wonderful lead replacements were hitting the market. Bismuth was the first, followed by more than I can count now. At first, I blew off their shockingly high prices to them being new and needing to recover their initial investment. Surely the price will fall as they discover better, more efficient ways to make the stuff. No way most of the duck hunters I grew up with could afford paying that much.

Fast forward 14 years and now I sit in my "office" looking over a new waterfowl catalog from Cabelas and I contemplate the other non-toxic offerings. $35/box and there are only 10 vs the standard 25 of normal shotgun shells. Looking for anything 2 3/4 in a duck load is like looking for wheat pennies, not much out there! I am guessing the waterfowl must have consulted North American big game and bought some armor as the entry point for most shell brands is 3". Why, if the stuff is "denser than lead", "performs better than lead", etc, you cannot get 2 3/4"? If 2 3/4" lead worked fine for 50+ years is 3" the seemingly starting point with "better" shells?:confused:

Now, I think about this. You are paying in essense $3.50 per shell, PER SHELL, to go out where on an average day you will shoot MORE than ONE SHELL! We are paying Weatherby prices for shotgun ammo!:eek:

I've had duck/goose hunts where I've dropped every bird in 1-2 shots. Given that performance and taking both species, I'd be spending over $50 in shells alone to use this "better performing" non tox stuff! Just to hunt waterfowl!

OK, I'm done, rant out...

August 22, 2009, 09:28 AM
No doubt duck hunting has become more difficult. Ammo though has been the least concern. . . Lack of ducks is a far greater one.

I find that the newer high velocity steel shot works well enough. There's stuff out there in excess of 1,500 fps that IMHO works as well as all the exotic metals that cost $3+. The basic Winchester Xpert HV sold at WalMart is 1,550 FPS+ and costs $12 a box of 25. That'll work just fine in most cases out to 40 yards or so. (As long as a shot that needs to be taken on ducks IMO.)

Warmer, dry winters have been a bane here. Even as we have hundreds of thousands of acres of flooded green timber and a sea of rice fields, the ducks aren't moving far enough south, fast enough in recent years. 10 years ago we were having to shoo swimming ducks out of the blind to get setup in the predawn hours.

Long term weather folks are calling for a cold, wet winter . . . hope they're right!

August 22, 2009, 11:22 AM
Compare the price of a goose in the market (if you can find one) to the cost of shooting one. Compare the flavor of a wild fowl to a farm raised duck or goose.
Compare how much fun you have hunting to how much fun you have going to the super market.

Do the math and make your decision.

And ya it sucks that 3" shells are the default.

Brian Pfleuger
August 22, 2009, 12:58 PM
If I hunted for ANYTHING based on it being economical, well, I wouldn't hunt anything.

I figured out a long time ago that hunting is a giant black hole for my money. I also figured out that I don't care. I spend $45 or more for ammo alone each deer season. If I shoot a couple of good size deer then I'm still at probably 50-70 cents per pound of meat, just in ammo costs alone. I'm about to spend $530 on a life-time license because NY is raising the price, again. Even if I get 2000 pounds of venison over the next 20 years I'll still be spending nearly 40 cents a pound. So I'm already at $1 a pound or better, not counting gas, gear, time, camp food, firewood.....

Is it worth it?

I love duck hunting. It was the first hunting sport I took up regularly in high school and immediately was hooked.

There's your answer.

August 22, 2009, 04:57 PM
You're worried about 3" shells taking over? That's already pretty much been done. Now everyone wants 3.5" shells. When one of my buddies says he is using 3.5's, I ask why? They never can give an honest answer. Strange, it's like they're in a trance. I use either 2 3/4 or 3's, depending on which I can get in the shot size I want. Being 5 minutes from GREAT duck hunting on Laguna Madre, where you can kill your 2 redheads in 10 minutes, ensures I waste lots of money on ammo. Not sure what all the fuss is about redheads, they have got to be the dumbest duck out there. Still waiting on the 4" chamber shotgun. :D

August 22, 2009, 05:25 PM
well I feel torn... First off i have never and likely never will experience a waterfowl hunt. I won't even dove hunt because I must weight the cost vs. meat yield to justify it. I am "Team Flannel Shirt" meat hunting. I could never reach deep and spend $35 bucks for 10 rounds of anything. Heck that is getting up near the cost of a .50 cal round. I also would never buy a duck or goose unless it was near the same cost as chicken.

August 22, 2009, 06:04 PM
Snipe, you missed the point.

Pete, I hear you. Today's hunting is never about economy, its about tradition, the thrill of the hunt, and passing the experiences to the next generation.

But man! Duck hunting used to be a "flannel shirt" sport like Brent aluded too. Heck, as a high school and college student, I couldn't have afforded it if it wasn't.

Oh well, times change, things change, and the ducks must be armor plated!

Brian Pfleuger
August 22, 2009, 08:41 PM
It is unfortunate that the prices are so high. I'm sure it keeps people whose situation is similar to your college years out of the sport.

August 22, 2009, 10:34 PM
Globemaster I totally agree.
I live in an area where almost all the ducks and geese of the US fly through and finding hunting land is harder than finding chicken lips. I used to love sitting in the blind with freezing rain/sleet and snow coming down and calling ducks/geese in. Now with the price of getting on land to hunt plus like you said paying for the "new" shot it isn't worth it to me. I have a whole case of 20ga steel I don't need as I have quit waterfowl and gone with upland birds.

August 22, 2009, 11:50 PM
I live about 15 miles east of Fairchild, and I'm going to go hunting waterfowl this year. Haven't been since the 1980s, prior to the fed lead ban.

I have 6 shotguns, all 2 3/4 and all with lead only barrels.

Dang, I finally found a new Wingmaster 28" steel barrel at the local Cabela's bargain cave for $105 (because the package was damaged) so I snatched it up. They are regularly about $235 or so.

Picked up some shells, had no problem finding the 2 3/4 stuff, I just hope I can hit something after a 20+ year layoff.

I've got cases of lead dove loads, I better use that up before it gets outlawed.

August 25, 2009, 09:14 AM
Globemaster I hear your rant loud and clear!
I think the gun rag authors and all the TV hunts lead to the marketing of all the 3 & 3-1/2 inch craze.
Opening weekend hunters are the ones that buy all that hyped up junk. Look at what those that are hunting the 4th week are using, or is it, If we use the high end stuff we can't afford to hunt more than a couple days:rolleyes:
I reloaded steel for a short time, then even that started to cost more than store bought's:barf:
I love to duck hunt, but I love to eat duck even more:p
so duck hunting I will go!

August 25, 2009, 06:48 PM
$3.50 per shell for something that was never proven necessary, IMHO. AND now it is coming to rifles, etc--no lead bullets and fishing sinkers.

August 25, 2009, 07:03 PM
Watch out for steel shot. I bit down on one in a fat mallard and broke the back corner off one of my molars. $700 for a root canal and $700 for a crown.

August 25, 2009, 08:19 PM
Thats why I slice my meat VERY THIN so I can ID any steel shot

August 25, 2009, 08:56 PM
Steel shot, copper bullets. Expensive. I won't quit, I won't stop hunting. They aren't gonna make it cheaper for us. When it comes to shotguns I learned about a 3.5 inch gun when I was 18, it just plain hurts. Still have the gun, use it for turkey hunting, overkill, but I bought 3 boxes of 4 shot with the gun in 94 still trying to shoot em. Have a case of 3.5 steel T shot that I'll never use. Ducks, geese, anything that now needs a steel shot to kill all get 2.75. It's hard to swallow, but what can you do? I voted. flyboy:D

August 25, 2009, 09:09 PM
You're worried about 3" shells taking over? That's already pretty much been done. Now everyone wants 3.5" shells.

Talking to a few waterfowl guides and hardcore waterfowlers I grew up with there seems to be a trend away from 3.5" shells right now. They've all gone back to 3" for ducks and they go both 3" and 3.5" on geese. I believe the 3.5" craze has possible run it's course. One example of this trend would be the Benelli Cordoba that shoots 3" is $300 more than the Black Eagle II that shoots 3.5". I believe the trend is smaller/lighter guns and people will pay more for that.

Adressing the OP's concerns about the costs/practicality of waterfowling. I'd say it's a little worse off than some of the other types of hunting. There's a lot of gear needed for waterfowl. Goose hunters around here have enclosed trailers for their decoys. All the camo, boat, waders, decoys, blinds etc. It is a lot of money invested per bird which has turned me off from it. But I have to say as a teenager in the late 80's early 90's when I got into duck hunting it was the most fun I've ever had hunting anything. The first half hour of opening day when the ducks are stupid and you can't keep your gun loaded is worth the cost of any gear IMO.

August 25, 2009, 09:38 PM
I hear you on the dekes, Horseman. What also blows my mind are the full body goose dekes. Over $100/4 decoys! Considering a small spread is a doz and I've hunted over spreads in the 5-6 doz range, you're talking $2400! Guess I'll stick to the shells and sillouettes I've got!

The industry would only produce it if there is a market for it. I just don't get how there is a big enough market to afford such crazy prices. You always have your upper crust in each category, and there are items marketed just for them (Benelli SBE, Weatherby Lazermark, Perazzi, etc). But with the quantity of high-dollar stuff in the waterfowl world, everyone but me must be made of money!