WATERFOWL PRIMER

The exciting thing about August is that it is the beginning of the end. The end of Summer doldrums and the beginning of a new waterfowl season. September 1st begins a new year for bird hunters. The dog days of August is the time to get gear in shape for the coming season. Once Dove season opens September 1st, the days seem to fly by with Teal season, duck and goose season openers fast approaching.

Take the time now to get ready and things will go smoother on opening day of duck season. Decoys, dogs, shotguns, boats, motors and blinds are just a few things that need maintenance before opening day. Duck hunting is hard on equipment which is often neglected after closing day of last years season. Decoys should be washed and tested for leaks. Holes should be patched with silicone caulk. Paint jobs should be touched up with a good oil based paint. This is a good time to sort your decoys according to species so your Teal decoys will be ready for the early Teal season. Also, order new decoys in August to avoid back ordering delays. Check your decoy bags, repair or replace them now. There is nothing worse than leaking waders on opening day. Take the time now to patch or replace them. My Browning BPS pump gets abused. It's a rugged piece of equipment. Shotgun failure can ruin a hunt. I recommend that the avid duck hunter take his gun to a good gun smith every Summer for a complete disassembly and thorough cleaning. If you hunt the river you know that your boat and motor has to be in optimum operating condition. A failure could mean more than a ruined hunt. It could mean life and death. No one wants to be stranded on the river in freezing temperatures. Duck boats and motors should be tuned up and maintained every Fall by an authorized service dealer such as Riverside Marine in Riverside, Texas. Preventive outboard motor maintenance could save you thousands of dollars and missed hunts. Your retriever is your best friend and one of your most important pieces of equipment. A good retriever will prevent wastage of cripples and lost birds. A retriever needs training and physical conditioning. This should be an ongoing process, but if you have been slack with "Fido," August is the time to get serious. Dog discipline is important, but the lack of physical conditioning could get your dog in trouble with heat stroke. The young and the old are the most vulnerable. Regular exercise is imperative. Dove and Teal hunting are often during hot humid days. Dogs can get into trouble fast. For dogs sake, hunt early mornings and late evenings and when Dove hunting, hunt near a lake or stock tank where your dog can cool down. When training dogs in the Summer, don't push repetitive retrieves. If a dog shows he is losing interest or tiring, it is past time to stop. A good way to exercise your dog in the Summer is to practice with water retrieves in order to keep him cooled down.

Yes, it is hot in August but this is when you need to scout new areas and re-build blinds. At least there is always water around to cool down in. Bring your retriever with you and practice some retrieves from your blind. This is also a great time to practice your duck calling. On a final note, get your license and stamps ahead of time so you'll be ready on opening day and not standing in a long line.

Duck hunting is a demanding sport. It is hard on equipment and hunters. Last year at the hunting and fishing show in Houston, a salty looking older gentleman stopped by the Texas Sportsguide booth and said to me, " Son, there ain't no such thing as an old duck guide." Take time now in August to get equipment, dog and yourself in shape. Duck hunting is about specifics, detail and preparation. The more time you put into it now, the more successful you will be this Fall.  www.palmettoguideservice.com

Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide.  This article has previously appeared in that publication.


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