The second day of the Washington Outdoors Women workshop had us all up bright and early! Breakfast was at 7am sharp so my alarm was set for 6:15am.
Everyone woke up groggy. Our area of the cabin was next to the bathroom which meant we fell asleep to a symphony of flushing toilets, creaking doors, and muffled voices. Needless to say, it took a couple hours to fall asleep. Luckily, the excitement of the day ahead had everyone in a good mood!
Duck Hunting 101
I walked over to the Duck Hunting 101 workshop after breakfast and met our instructor. The class was set up in a “blind” with our decoys out in front. She told us to grab a bag and take a seat.
The bag was full of the first round of goodies I got that weekend. Inside was a Ducks Unlimited baseball hat, a waterfowl identification guide, a couple decals, an issue of Ducks Unlimited, and information about duck hunting. It was unexpected but really awesome to receive.
We started the class by first going over a handout that covered everything in the workshop. Since I went duck hunting with my brother last Christmas, I knew a few things already.
We covered safety with firearms, staying warm, knowing the weather and area, and letting someone know your hunting plan. I’m a person who’s always cold, so it’s going to be really important for me to figure out the proper layers to stay warm.
Our instructor had a great tip in case we did get really cold while sitting out there waiting for ducks. Take two hand warmers and then place them in your pants, directly on your kidneys. It’s a point that will warm your body faster. I’m definitely trying it out!
Next, we went over shotguns. She covered proper fit which was great to learn as a woman. Since most guns are made for men, they don’t always fit the best. She recommended cutting stocks down so the gun fits perfectly to your arm length.
An incredibly useful exercise she went over was “shoot the moon.”
Instead of coming up with the gun from below to then line up your shot, it can be easier for a woman “shoot the moon.” Raise the gun up toward the sky, press the stock into the pocket next your shoulder, then bring the gun down and your head will be in the right position to line up the shot. It was a lot easier than doing it the other way.
She then went over leading the shot and made a good point that it’s something we naturally do. If a ball rolls across the road, you can follow it with your hand without thinking. Once you place a gun in someone’s hands, it messes with what our body can already do naturally.
She gave us some tips to practice our lead and learn to get back to trusting our instincts and not worry about aiming the gun. One of her examples was to use a laser pointer, someone shines the laser in different directions and you just point with your hand and follow where it moves.
Her best advice was to practice, practice, practice. Get out to the shooting range and get comfortable with the gun. Shoot at clay targets. Practicing mounting your gun several times a day so it becomes second nature.
She went over different types of shotguns. She gave a great recommendation for a starter gun if we’re just getting into duck hunting. It’s an Escort semi-automatic shotgun (which she called a Benelli knockoff) that comes in 12 and 20 gauge for only $200. She said it has little kick and is a great gun to learn on. I’m definitely going to look into it.
Then she went over setting up the decoys in a way to make them land where you want. It was really interesting to see and made a lot of sense. Her main point was ducks are smart and if anything looks off to you, it’s going to look off to the ducks and they won’t come in.
She made a “J” spread with our decoys that would have the birds flying in so you could make a side shot. It took her about an hour to set up all the decoys and said that’s pretty normal. She went over safety of always knowing how deep the water is when you’re out setting up your decoys and recommended we have a depth stick with us to always know how deep the next step is.
She also went over duck calls and said if a flock of ducks circles then flies away is the time you’ll want to use your come back call. Learning all of this really made me want to get out there!
“Duck hunting is about manipulating the area you’re in to get the ducks to do what you want.”
Next, she went over the essentials she always has in her pack while duck hunting. They were: headphones to restrict noise, yellow lens glasses to help see the birds in bright conditions (we tried them on and the difference in what you could see was impressive!), binoculars to watch and know what species to call, gun oil, tape, a wader repair kit, cleaning knives, pliers and utensils, hand warmers, and antibacterial wipes.
I don’t have a specific hunting pack set up yet but I’ll be putting one together for this season. I’m going to use this as a template of what to bring. Her main point was the less gear you have to pack in and out, the easier it’ll be for you. So only bring the essentials.
By this point, a few hours had gone by and we were to the last part of the workshop. Our instructor definitely saved the best for last! She put out a few ducks and a few pheasants and explained how to field dress a bird. For me, this was one of the most useful things I learned that day.
She showed us an easy way to debreast a duck and keep the wings so we’re still able to transport it showing the species. First we pulled off feathers around the top of the breast bone. Then we felt where the pocket was right above the breast bone and made a small cut with the knife. From there we pulled the skin off to get to the breast meat.
Once the breast meat was fully exposed, she showed us how to get just the meat and wings. We placed the duck on the ground, stepped one foot on the back of the duck and the other on the neck. Then you pull up from the breast bone. After a little hard work, you’re left with the duck breast and wings to legally transport it and still show the species.
It was a lot of fun seeing all the women enjoying skinning the birds and learning what to do. Almost all of us wanted to be hands on and have experience doing this so we could do it on our own one day. I’m very thankful that our instructor was able to bring ducks and pheasants for us to be able to do this.
Finally, she explained the best way to cook the meat. For duck, it’s best to go low and slow (220 degrees for 6-8 hours) or hot and fast (sear at 550 degrees). Roasting it in a brine was a other favorite if we wanted to keep the duck intact.
We got a big surprise when our instructor took the duck breast we had cleaned and cooked it in the dining hall kitchen during lunch. It was actually my first time eating duck and it was delicious! I’m really excited to shoot my own ducks and find ways to cook them.
With our first workshop down, it was time for my second workshop of the day—Archery!
(Stay tuned for my post on Archery next week! I was bitten by the archery bug!)