There’s a lot I’ve had to do to get ready for my first year of Maryland’s migratory bird seasons. Especially when it is right around the corner and in a state that’s unfamiliar.
After sifting through dozens of YouTube videos and getting a headache from such, I finally decided it was time to figure it out by myself. How hard could it be, right? I’ve been hunting for years now, whether small game or big, so I decided that it’s better to stay simple and not fall for all of the marketing gimmicks.
Before diving head-first into a brand new hunt, one needs to have his shot down. So first, start with clay pigeons – the preparation is still vital to breaking off the rust on a lead and get used to hitting a fast moving target.
After making sure the swing and lead is good, it’s time move to camouflage. Geese and ducks have great eye sight, and they’re smart. And when we get to the later seasons, those birds are older and know their way around hunters.
Naturally, this is where the marketing is the most prevalent.
Early season goose season kicks off Sept. 2 and runs until Sept. 25. If you’re hunting in southwestern Maryland like me, it’s smart to run a light, tan camouflage. Green heavy camo will work too, like the RealTree Xtra pattern, but I chose to roll with Under Armour’s Ridge Reaper early-season platform.
Since I’m working the fields, I wasn’t too concerned about my bottoms, so to cut costs I decided to use my UA Enduros. Picking up the Bayou color from a local outdoors store, the color is perfect for the tall grass in lower Maryland. Plus the storm tech that the pants have integrated should wick away any moisture I run into. Paired with a Ridge Reaper hoodie and tan gloves, it will work just as well as Sitka’s timber or marsh patterns.
Although we aren’t hunting on public land, I’m still taking out my blaze orange-forest green hat by McFly Outdoors, a local fishing and recreation store with venues around north central West Virginia.
October and November
Once it starts cooling down in the mid-fall months, it’s time to break out part of the midseason Realtree system. Regular duck season – everything except black duck – runs from Oct. 12-19. That calls for the insulated bibs and loose fit jacket. Still hunting in fields, there’s no reason to take out waders but good, solid boots with GORTEX and insulation is key. Just like any season, you want your feet to stay dry and warm.
Following the regular duck, sea duck season kicks off Nov. 2 and ends Jan. 10. Eclipsing the first portion of late goose season (Nov. 23-29), sea duck season calls for the full system I use for deer hunting.
Starting at the top, I’ll be running a Carhartt toboggan over my ColdGear balaclava. Moving down, my base layer will be leggings and a crew shirt. On top of that, I’ll run my midseason jacket followed by a North Face vest and UA Storm jacket. Underneath my insulated bibs, I typically wear sweatpants tucked into my boots. It can get bulky, but it’s warm and that’s what matters when you’re barely moving.
The second portion of the late goose season runs from Dec. 16 to March 10, and as the temperature warms up the layers will obviously disappear.
Typically, a hunter will need multiple sets of camp, but in a time when technology advances by leaps and bounds every year, there’s no need to constantly replenish your inventory. Sure, it looks nice and is tempting to break out your wallet for the 2019 gear, but it makes more sense to buy patterns that have multiple uses – even if you’re using it for three, five or 10 years.
The example being, I wear my Realtree in the wintry hills of West Virginia in late-buck season. And, in addition to setting up in fields for geese, I use my Ridge Reaper and tan bottoms for coyote or the rut when the leaves are changing or when I need a little extra warmth while I’m fishing on the shore or in a boat in the closing months of fall. It’ll get its use in the midseason duck hunt, too, depending on my surroundings in Maryland.
Be smart and have fun. Hunting doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive.