Stocking Stuffers

These waterfowling wonders are ripe for decking the halls. 

Richard Simpson For the Times-News

Today I’d like to introduce you to a number of gift and stocking stuffer suggestions that any waterfowling devotee would be thrilled to find tucked under the tree or stuffed into their Yuletide stocking. My major criteria for selecting these items were frugality and proven performance in the field. For convenience sake, I’ve decided to segregate the lot into the following categories: ammo and shooting accessories, top notch decoys, and blind and camouflaging gear.

Let’s start with things that go ‘bang.’ After trying practically every brand of shot shell available locally, I’ve come to a number of conclusions that guide my brand, as well as shell/shot size choices. For the warmer, early-season hunts, when the birds are less heavily feathered and drop into your decoy spreads much more readily, I chamber Winchester’s bargain-priced 2 3/4-inch and 3-inch Xpert High Velocity Waterfowl Shot Shells.I tend to use No. 4 steel early on and then switch to heavier No. 3 or No. 2 shot as the birds that have survived several opening barrages become more wary. Later on, when the hefty Northern birds and geese descend upon us, I stuff the magazine of my Beretta A300 Outlander with 3-inch Federal Black Clouds and Winchester Drylock Steel Magnums. I typically shoot no farther than 35-40 yards and have found that the No. 2s, if pointed correctly, take down both species with little or no fanfare. Slide a couple boxes of these beauties under the mistletoe, and watch your special someone pucker right up!

Aesthetics and handling characteristics aside, the most crucial criteria for judging any firearm is its ability to deliver the payload, be it a bullet or shot cloud, on target every time. In the case of shotguns, consistent game-killing patterns result from the proper matchup of shot size, velocity, and choke constriction. This mating of components became especially crucial when the Feds mandated that manufacturers substitute low-density, non-toxic steel pellets for traditional, more highly-efficient lead shot in the early 1990s. Years of research and experimentation have proven that lengthy extended choke tubes corral the lightweight steel much more effectively than either fixed or flush-fitting chokes. There are a dozen or so brands of quality screw-in choke tubes available. My waterfowling buddies and I have enjoyed wonderful success with Carlson and Trulock’s offerings. Consider sliding a few of these bad boys into your sweetie’s stocking.

Next on the agenda: decoys. Like the aforementioned shot shells and choke tubes, today’s hunters are blessed with a plethora of quality composite duck and goose decoys from which to choose. For their cost-effectiveness, variety of body posture options, proven durability under continued hunter/environmental abuse, and the unsurpassed longevity of their ultra-realistic paint schemes, in my opinion, no one makes a better duck/goose decoy than Avian-X. Their duck decoys are offered in both open and backwater posture sets. I primarily hunt backwater sloughs and creeks and find the preening, sleeping, bottom-feeding, surface skimming postures of my Avian-X dekes accurately mimic the activities of actual relaxing and feeding birds. The Avians-X’s are closest thing to ‘duck magnets’ that we’ve found. Check them out at your local sporting goods store or online.

With their natural wariness, keen senses, and drone-like birds-eye view, ducks/geese are a difficult quarry to dupe. By necessity, we restless ground pounders need to take advantage of all the affordable camouflaging tools available to us. Here are a couple of cost-effective options that I like. Hunter Specialties (burlap) and Allen (plastic-reinforced cloth) offer lightweight, easily compacted camouflage blind fabric materials. Fitted with sections of parachute cord, these highly portable blinds can be attached to local trees, scrubs, and brush in minutes. How’s that for a handy hideout in a hurry?

Another cheap camouflaging trick that I employ is to use earth-tone fabric paints and markers to add a natural color scheme to my mono-colored, khaki shooting vest and snow-white military surplus winter overcoat. Splashing on several tones of Rit color dyes serves to heighten the effect. These blended colors and patterns effectively break up my outline helping me to better blend into the rabbit/sage brush, and willow streamside vegetation. They’re to dye for!

I hope that you’ve found these waterfowling gift suggestions helpful. And as always, if you’d like to offer up some of your own favorite Yuletide gift/stocking stuffers suggestions, I’d love to past them on.

Rich Simpson can be reached at


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