Sam Jacobs

Sam Jacobs

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Training For Duck Season is A Year-Round Passion

Waterfowl hunting is considered a hobby by those who don’t understand our obsession. Duck season might only last 3 to 4 months, depending on where you live, but it’s a year-long pursuit for us diehards.

So what are we doing the rest of the year?

As you continue reading, you’ll discover my list of priorities to help keep me and my hunting buddy in shape for the upcoming waterfowl season.

Repairing & Cleaning Gear

Duck hunting is tough on gear. No matter how gentle you try to be, the elements are brutal, and your hunting gear takes the brunt of the beating, so inevitably, something will get a hole, break, or, at the very least, dirty.

Once the season ends, it’s time to begin fixing and cleaning everything you used this past season.

Here’s a quick checklist of items I regularly use; feel free to add to it:

● Shotguns

● Waders

● Blinds

● Calls

● Bags

● Decoys

● ATV’s/Boats

I’m rough on gear, so after the first hunt, my 12 gauge shotgun is usually filthy. No matter how careful I try to be, mud and grass always find a way to gunk up my gun, which causes malfunctions if it isn’t cleaned. Luckily, I enjoy cleaning my shotgun!

I use my waders to walk through frigid waters, bust ice, and sit, which means they’re going to get a hole in them eventually. Usually, the seams give first, but I’ve also sat on beaver sticks and popped a hole in my waders. While leaky waders during the early season aren’t the end of the world, it’s best to patch them now! Or if you can convince the significant other, get a new pair.

I rarely wash my duck blinds because I like them to remain dull and appear natural, but I do remove the dead debris by cleaning out all the trash and empty shotgun shells. It’s also the time of year to sew any rips that happen during the season.

Get a little dawn dish soap in a cup and clean your calls. You’d be surprised at how much dirt, grass, and, if you dip, tobacco ends up in the reeds. We’ll discuss tuning your calls later.

As the official snack man of my hunting buddies, my blind bag hauls around a lot of trash, including my spent shotshells and other garbage I find. Now’s the time to clean it out and remove everything that might mold before storing it for a few months.

I hunt a lot of shallow water muddy flats, which means by the end of the season, my decoys have a brown tint to them. On a warm day, it’s fun to gather the family and wash off all the dirt that’s built up on my decoys.

If you’re one of the fortunate hunters who use a UTV/ATV or boat to get to your spot, now that the season is over, it’s time to change the oil and ensure everything is in working order before using it for the summer.

Shooting Skills

Now that your shotgun is clean, it’s time to get it dirty again. I hope you enjoy cleaning guns as much as I do!

I’ve never been misidentified as a sharpshooter, but I’m typically good enough to get the job done. However, I remember one teal season when I went the entire offseason without picking up my 12 gauge, and I couldn’t hit anything. It was embarrassing.

Now, I like to break out my shotgun about once a month and shoot just to keep the rust from forming on my shooting skills.

If you can afford it, it’s even better to get a shooting coach to help you kick those bad habits and become a much better shot.

I also like to go pigeon and dove hunting to prepare for duck season because shooting a live bird is way different than shooting a clay target.

Don’t forget to practice as you hunt. This can be difficult at most gun ranges, but if you have a buddy with some land, try:

● Sitting and shooting

● Shooting from a blind

● Shooting multiple clays

However you hunt, try to incorporate similarities in the way you practice; that way, it’s not such a shock when you get to the blind.

Calling Skills

I went from sounding like Daffy Duck to being able to trick live birds into believing I was one of them in one summer, but it took a ton of practice and learning to tune a call.

I listened to hours of live birds; then I would listen to callers (much better than I could ever be) and try to emulate what I had heard.

I can now confidently pick up and call without sounding like a middle schooler trying to learn the clarinet, but I still like to practice throughout the year because it keeps my lungs in shape and my calling skills sharp.

It’s great to learn from competition callers, but it’s also important to remember that competition calling isn’t the same as calling ducks or geese to your spread.

Learning to read ducks and adjust your calling only happens during the season, so take advantage of those precious times instead of wasting them on poor calling by learning to manipulate the call during the offseason.

Learning to tune a call is an art form that’s worth its weight in gold because once you’ve cleaned your call, it will be out of tune, and at some point throughout the season, the reeds will get bumped, and your call just won’t sound right. So now is the time to learn how to tune a duck call to avoid sounding like Daffy Duck.

Dog Training

If you don’t own a hunting dog, then you can skip this section, but I must say, you’re missing out! Once again, I’m not a dog trainer, nor do I want to be, but hunting with my pup, which I trained, has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had while duck hunting.

However, if you don’t keep your dog on a strict training schedule, they will develop bad habits and forget the essential details of retrieving by the time duck season rolls around.

Now is also the time to work out the bad habits you noticed during the season. It’s much easier to help them break these habits when the stakes are so much lower.

If you have the money, I recommend getting your dog professionally trained, but this is only half of it because then you must learn how to properly handle the dog while in the field; otherwise, the training is wasted.

Just like when sharpening your shooting skills, try to incorporate training that matches the type of hunting you’ll be doing with your dog.

For instance, if they’ll be in a blind, have them retrieve from the blind through a decoy spread after you’ve fired a couple of shots. This doesn’t have to be every session; in fact, it’s best if it’s not, but if you do this, your dog won’t be so overwhelmed on opening morning.

Training throughout the year will also keep your dog in shape. I went a few months without training my dog, and he visibly gained several pounds and was clearly out of breath on our first hunt, which wasn’t fair to him.

Keep your dog in peak shape by regularly training with them.

Duck Hunters Work Out

I know, we all made resolutions to get in shape last January and we regretted not following through on opening morning.

I’ll never forget when I learned the importance of staying in shape for duck hunting.

I was hunting a public land marsh with a couple of buddies from college. One was playing college soccer, so he was in top shape; my other buddy and I hadn’t played sports since high school, nor had we worked out.

It didn’t take long for both of us to be out of breath, trudging through the knee-deep mud, carrying 50 pounds of gear, while our other buddy strolled through the marsh like it was Sunday afternoon.

Even though we might have only walked 150 yards, it was an awful experience that made me question how I could enjoy duck hunting.

Now that I’m even older, it’s crucial to stay in shape to keep up with my family and to do everything I can to prevent having a heart attack while duck hunting. Here are a few ways I like to trick myself into working out:

● Going on a hike

● Kayaking

● Playing disc golf

● Jogging

● Coaching youth wrestling

I love spending time outdoors with my family and friends. So, it’s only natural that I incorporate my workouts into activities that I already planned to do, like hiking, kayaking, and playing disc golf. During these activities, I will also scout new places to hunt.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of running and jogging, but I’ve come to appreciate the feeling I get afterward, even if it’s just for a few blocks. Jogging has helped my lung capacity remain high enough to blow a duck call effectively.

If you ever wrestled, then you know there is no shape like wrestling shape and helping coach my local youth wrestling club has helped me stay in shape leading up to and during duck season. You don’t have to coach wrestling; any sport is great as long as you're moving.

As a small individual, I’ve never fit in at the gym. I don’t enjoy lifting weights or running on a treadmill, but I occasionally will. However, I’ve found this workout routine much more accessible to stick with than anything else because it’s easy to do at home, and I can see how it improves my waterfowl hunting experience.

Sunday- Rest

Monday-Upper Body


Wednesday-Lower Body



Saturday-Hunt/family time

Sunday is generally my rest day because the body needs rest!

On Monday I like to do an upper-body workout. This typically involves push-ups (Incline, decline, diamond, wide, and regular), pull-ups, and dips. Mixing it up helps keep your muscles from getting used to your workout and plateauing.

On Tuesday, a 15 to 20-minute ab workout is often more than enough. I remember in high school, I would do the Ab Ripper X workout, it sucked, but I had a six-pack back then… Sit-ups, crunches, bicycles, and planks are all great ab workouts.

On Wednesday, it’s time for squats, squat jumps, and lunges.

On Thursday, I like to stretch and keep my muscles loose. Yes, I even mentioned Yoga because it’s a ridiculous workout. When I was in the best shape of my life, I tried doing some Yoga and failed miserably.

On Friday, it’s time to get those lungs in shape with a jog, I like to start with a mile and then push myself from there.

On Saturday, it’s time to reap the benefits of working out and enjoying your hunt! You’ll notice that all your gear doesn’t seem so heavy when you pick it, you can balance without leaning against something while putting your waders or boots on, and you're not out of breath when you get to the X.

If you don’t mind being the weird neighbor in the neighborhood, incorporate your gear into your workouts. Do squats in your waders with your decoy bag on your back or take a hike in your waders, simple things like that will increase the difficulty of your workout and get you in better shape.

Parting Shots

Keeping your duck hunting skills sharp during the offseason is critical because it allows you to be more successful in the early season and avoid wasting time knocking the rust off during a hunt.

By following the tips I’ve provided above, you’ll be well prepared for the next waterfowl season.

However, hiring a guide is your best bet if you’d like to make your season and off-season as hassle-free. Lucky for you, Cupped Wings Guide Service is here to help! Book a Arkansas guided duck hunt today!

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