Back to Basics: Pre-season Prep

Peter WyckoffExtensive preparation is the mark of an avid waterfowler. It’s not just about heading into the hunting season and shooting a few ducks, it’s about taking the time in the preseason to avoid a series of headaches when the season finally comes. Checking your equipment and fixing it up, completing exercises to refine your dog’s training, and making sure you have all of your licenses and tags for the upcoming season are all part of preseason preparation work.

Dog Training

Peter & Belle at the 2008 opener in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Peter & Belle at the 2008 opener in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

As the days in August begin to diminish and the mornings become crisp, my chocolate lab Belle anxiously awaits the upcoming hunting season. As we work on some tune-up training in the evening sun, I can tell that she is more hyper than I am for the next season. The late summer regime of a couple games of baseball and a few multiple retrieve sessions keep her excited and focused on what’s to come.

When asked why I am such an avid hunter with every weekend during the fall containing a hunt, I simply reply, “I don’t want to disappoint my dog.” For those of us who choose to hunt with a dog, what is more satisfying than seeing your dog drag an empty gun case to your feet, or fall asleep with her head on your decoys so you couldn’t sneak out without her.

What kind of tune-ups do you do with your hunting companion to prepare for the hunting season?


Just last week Belle lay down next to her training bag while I put a few more pieces on the two-man layout boat that has occupied my garage since the beginning of April. The goal of having the boat completed by the beginning of the diver migration in Michigan may be a difficult task to achieve. Time has disappeared from my schedule and the boat is nowhere near finished. There is a certain allure to sitting side by side with your closest friends and sitting up to shoot birds that are so close you could almost hit them with your barrel.

As fall approaches fast, a list is growing of the preparation I need to complete before opening day. Among other things, the priorities on that list include attending a Sportsman’s Night Out DU event in an attempt to win some decoys to augment my spread, getting my pup back into shape, rigging decoys, finishing the layout boat, setting up the boat blind and keeping my wife in good cheer as she deals with my anticipation of duck season.

All of this preseason preparation is worth it when your dog brings in the first bird of the season. Who else undertook a major project in the off season to help them in the pursuit of waterfowl?

Hunting License Applications

I am anxiously waiting for results from different drawings I have entered for special waterfowl hunts. I chose to apply for the North Dakota swan tag. The deadline for the application was August 19. A date that can easily pass before I have started planning for my late October trip. Hopefully I’ll get drawn and expand the species composition of our annual trip.

Like many others, I have applied for a Reserved Waterfowl Hunt in the state of Michigan. Michigan reserves their state waterfowl management areas for a select few hunters on opening weekend. With luck, someone in my hunting party will be drawn this year and we will experience some of the best waterfowl hunting Michigan can provide. You can complete this application before the waterfowl season dates have been set. The deadline was August 28, and I don’t find out if I was drawn until September 23, only two and a half weeks before the opener.

Whether you are training your dog or getting your equipment ready, any activity you can participate in will get you in the mindset for waterfowl season.


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