Don’t get priced out: You can get started in duck hunting without paying a fortune

Those who spend the most get the most ducks.

That’s a common thought anyway. In a world of high-priced duck clubs, decoys, expensive calls and high-dollar shotguns, some beginners shy away from waterfowl hunting because they don’t think they can afford it.

Chadd Duncan, a longtime guide from Nevada, Mo., disputes that. And he uses his own experience as proof.

“I started out with three decoys, a leaky, old pair of waders, an old Bog Pettibon call and an old shotgun, but I shot ducks,” said Duncan, 48, who runs the DOA Outfitters guide service. “I just hunted farm ponds, but there were usually ducks.

“I would just make myself a little blind at the edge of the water and I would wait for them to come in.”

Duncan has become much more sophisticated with his approach these days. He has a trailer full of decoys, popup blinds, expensive equipment. But he is convinced you don’t need all of the latest in waterfowling gear if you just want to get started in the sport.

“Waterfowling is an upper-end sport, but there are still father-son possibilities,” Duncan said during a recent seminar at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City, Kan. “You can still take a dozen decoys out, use a basic quack call, and get them to come in.”

The key? Do your scouting, Duncan said.

Beginners would be best off in a setting where they have little competition from other hunters. Public hunting areas can get crowded early in the season, and experienced hunters with large decoy spreads or better calling techniques can peel ducks away from small decoy spreads and lead to discouraging results for beginners.

Instead, Duncan advises new hunters to do their scouting and look for private ponds or watersheds. That means driving backroads, seeing which water the ducks are using, and knocking on doors to get permission to hunt.

“Sometimes, even if you offer to do some chores for that landowner in the summer, you can get permission,” Duncan said. “Those out-of-the-way watersheds can be a great place to learn.

“You can take a $25 call and still bring them in.”

Even the public wildlife areas can be productive for beginners under the right situations.

“Once the season gets going, some of these public areas don’t get a lot of pressure,” Duncan said. “You can do your scouting, see which parts of the wildlife areas the ducks are using, and set up there.

“The big thing is finding some success when you start out. That’s how we build hunter numbers and help the future of our sport.”

Brent Frazee: 816-234-4319, @fishboybrent