By David DraperOf all the different disciplines in the wingshooting world, waterfowling is, without question, the most gear intensive. Which makes waterfowlers the most obsessive over the latest and greatest equipment. From decoys to calls to clothing to all of those little accoutrements that get lost in our blind bags, there’s a lot of gear we tote afield. While it’s arguable that all of that stuff isn’t required to kill birds, it sure does make things more fun. If you go gaga over gear like I do, here’s a short list of new items worth checking out this season.
Final Approach Floating Blind Bag
▲ It’s good to see Final Approach making a comeback in the market. The company kick-started the waterfowling revolution in the ’90s with the first commercial layout blind. Now it’s launching some new gear, including a line of bags and packs. Like the original products, these obviously were designed by someone with field experience. The floating blind bag features a hard-plastic bottom fitted with a heavy-duty 900-denier nylon bag lined with foam. Inside, a single main compartment is separated by a movable and removable divider. There’s also a hanging, clear pouch with a waterproof zipper for storing cell phones and a larger clear pocket under the zippered lid. Another flap covers the bag and has a couple of mesh pockets for smaller essentials. Two side pockets are large enough to hold a box of shells each. Available in Realtree Max-5 or Mossy Oak Blades.
Delta Waterfowl Gear Zero Gravity Layout Blind
► I feel like I’ve hunted out of just about every brand of layout blind on the market, and I have never found one that’s easy on the back. Until now. Thanks to a unique built-in mesh-and-harness-style chair, the Zero Gravity is by far the most comfortable blind on the market. The design lifts you off of the ground and cradles you in a natural, reclining position with just your feet left to rest on the earth. This blind is also easy to set up: Just unclip the strap, and fold the blind into position like a lawn chair. Of course, these features come at a price, and that’s concealment. The blind is tall, setting well off of the ground. This shouldn’t be a problem in corn stubble, but you’re not going to hide in a meadow or winter-wheat field without a creative camo job or digging in the entire blind to lower the profile. Large fabric wings can be staked out to help eliminate shadows and create the illusion of ground contour, which does help. Available in tan or Realtree Max 5. Price: $200 or $280.
Sweet Apple Duck Calls
► Even though I have a few go-to duck calls, I always can find space on my lanyard for another call to test. This season I’m going to be blowing the near-custom Cupped & Committed call from Sweet Apple Game Calls. For 2016, this Alabama callmaker has introduced a line of five models to appeal to just about every type of hunter—from competition-grade high-ballers to those who want the raspy edge that green-timber mallards like best. Each call features a barrel and insert machined from block acrylic, resulting in clear, loud tones that will never alter due to age or environmental conditions. The Cupped & Committed model is a double-reed call with a dirty bottom end, to give a raspy flavor to those old-hen notes. It’s not a screamer, but it can get plenty loud as long you don’t push it too much. A narrower exhaust increases backpressure, offering plenty of control. Not only that, but this also is a damn good-looking call, with a metallic-green barrel and orange-pearl insert to mimic the colors of a late-season mallard.
Mojo Flock a Flicker
► When spinning-wing decoys were first introduced, they were deadly effective. Now every hunter from Alaska to Port Aransas has one staked in his spread (where legal). Sometimes they work, but I think they often flare birds, especially more experienced campaigners farther down the flyway. Mojo’s new Flock a Flicker might be the answer to that problem. Instead of a single bird with spinning wings, these little pucks can simulate the flashing wings of several birds in a flock. Watch a big group of ducks on the water or in a field, and your eyes are drawn to the flashes of white as birds stretch or hop short distances. Stick a half-dozen Flock a Flickers throughout a large spread for the same effect, or use one or two on smaller spreads. They can be staked in dry ground, set in the snow or rigged to float on a decoy weight. Intermittent circuits turn the motors on and off in a seemingly random pattern for an even more realistic appearance. Each wing runs on three AA batteries, and Mojo claims they’ll go for 30 hours straight. I also think these would be deadly on doves.
Price: $100 per six.
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LED Lenser SEO 7R Headlamp
► Space in a blind bag is at a premium, what with shell boxes, multiple calls and a few sleeves of powdered donuts. That leaves little room for a headlamp. The problem is that most lights that are bright enough to set decoys in the dark are bulky. Not the LED Lenser SEO 7R Headlamp. It punches well above the small frame by throwing a maximum of 220 lumens up to 130 feet. The fully adjustable beam can be switched to Optisense mode—to dim or brighten automatically, depending on the surrounding light. This eliminates the hassle of trying to operate switches or buttons with gloved hands. It also reduces battery drain. The SEO 7R is fully rechargeable with the included lithium-ion pack, which plugs in via a mini-USB socket. Total charge time for a dead battery is around four hours, but you can get a serviceable beam in about two. Leery of rechargeable devices with proprietary batteries? (What if I find myself far from a charging station?) The SEO 7R also can run on three AAA batteries.
LaCrosse Alpha Swampfox Droptop Waders
LaCrosse Footwear, 800-323-2668
► I own a pair of neoprene waders but couldn’t tell you the last time I wore them. Ever since I got a pair of breathables, I’ve never looked back—not even in sub-zero temperatures. This season I’m planning to replace my old torn-and-patched waders with the newest breathables from LaCrosse. The nylon construction allows perspiration vapor to vent, preventing the clamminess that comes from restrictive neoprene. Yet the waders are fully waterproof, from the 600-gram insulated rubber boots to the top of the torso. I particularly like the drop-top versatility, allowing for wear as waist-highs most of the season but with the ability to fold them higher in deep water. The upper is roomy enough for layering in cold weather, and cinch straps on the upper thighs and waist eliminate bagginess. Like most breathables, the one sacrifice is durability—though these seem to be tougher than most. The modified chain-link outsole grips well and does a serviceable job shedding mud. Available in Realtree Max-5.
Avian-X Honker Shells
► While most grizzled goose hunters remember hunting over spreads full of shells, younger waterfowlers know nothing but full-body decoys. Well, I’m here to tell you that shells still work, especially when mixed with a spread of standing and feeding birds. What shells add, other than the ability to pack more decoys into a pickup or trailer, is realism. Watch a flock of undisturbed geese, and you’ll see many lying on their bellies. Avian-X Honker Shells are some of the most lifelike available, featuring anatomically correct carvings from champion artist Rick Johannsen and realistic, feather-detailed paint schemes. Made from a rubberized molding material, they can take a beating, and they resist cracking and chipping, even in cold weather. They could stack together a little better, but they do nest adequately with heads removed. They also come with four poses per six-pack: two each of short-neck and stretch feeders along with a sentry and a rester. Available in standard painted varieties (AXP: $119) or with fully flocked bodies and
necks (AXF: $159).