Blinds run the gamut of bare bones to super comfortable. I’m lucky because the low-profile, highly portable blinds I like from Avery and Final Approach also happen to be their cheaper models. Prairie Wind Decoys’ nifty new blind also fits the bill. To further save on costs, forget camouflaged versions of the former two and go with their plain brown versions. Then either spray paint them or spray them with 3M adhesive and throw on dirt and whatever type of ground cover is common where you hunt. You’ll end up with a base camouflage that’s completely customized and you’ll save anywhere from $15 to $35 in the process. To custom-match the vegetation, save additional bucks by buying raffia at a crafts store and spraying it with beige, yellow and/or black paint.
As far as guns are concerned, a top-end, semi-auto shotgun can run upwards of $1,800; if you’re just getting into the sport or introducing a kid or friend, you’ll save a lot of money with a pump (a Remington 870 Express, for instance, retails below $400). Granted, pumps can be more punishing to shoot versus semi-autos, but if you don’t buy into the more-power-means-more-kills argument, you can shoot a pump comfortably using deadly 23/4-inch and 3-inch loads. I’ve used the same 23/4-inch 870 for more than 30 years, and it still functions reliably.
Now, on to shells. When non-toxic shot was first required, steel loads were inconsistent at best. These days there are many excellent and affordable steel loads from Kent, Federal, Winchester, Remington, Hevi-Shot and others. You simply don’t need premium, non-steel alternatives to cleanly kills ducks and geese, provided you pick the right shot size, load and a brand that patterns well out of your shotgun. Consider the following:
If you’re shooting 31/2-inch loads for decoying ducks and geese, as many of my Southern friends do, please stop the insanity. Overkill costs more money than clean kills, and dead is dead.
Besides, why shoot punishing loads if you don’t have to? Mack’s Prairie Wings lists 31/2-inch Kent Fasteel for $169.90 (per case of 10); Kent’s 23/4-inch shells run $119.90. Granted, on a per-shell basis that’s not much of a savings, but the added expense of a few boxes of 31/2-inch shells adds up in a hurry. I shoot lots of Canadas each year with 23/4-inch, 11/4-ounce loads of No. 1’s.
They’re deadly. And there’s not a duck in the world that can’t be killed with 23/4-inch No. 4’s. You further save a bundle on ammo by taking advantage of season’s end ammo sales and teaming up with your hunting buddies to purchase ammo by the case. When testing loads, it’s a lot cheaper test-patterning five or eight loads when you all chip in. And like decoys, bulk buying for the upcoming season can save you good money.
Remember to learn the effective range of your shotgun and don’t exceed it. Not only will you save on ammo, you’ll prevent wounding a bird. “I hit him, but he kept going” isn’t a bragging point after skyblasting at a goose and causing it to suffer. It’s the sign of a serious lapse of judgment you should try not to repeat.