6 Waterfowl Projects You Need to Do Before Opening Day
Duck season is a few months away, and now is the time to get your garage full of gear in order. You need to get organized, but you also need to make repairs: re-paint old decoys, cut new longlines, etc. It’s also a good time to start (and finish) some quick DIY projects to make opening day a success. Here are a few you should work on before the fall.
1. Hot Glue Decoy Repair
Hot glue is a great way to repair shot-up decoys. (Joseph Albanese/)
One of the best things about diver hunting is the in-your-face action. Unfortunately for your decoys, this means they’re going to take plenty of stray pellets. If you have cork or foam blocks, this is of little consequence, as they’ll continue to float no matter how many times they’ve been shot. But hollow plastic decoys rely on their airtight shells to stay buoyant.
Luckily, you can patch holes in plastic dekes with a hot glue gun. Other sealants will certainly work, Lexel caulking being one of the better choices, but they take a while to dry and may not be able to fill wide holes.
Don’t stay too long in one spot or you could melt the plastic on your decoy. (Joseph Albanese/)
For my decoys, I prefer using low-temperature hot glue sticks. You just have to be careful not to linger too long in one spot or you’ll run the risk of melting the decoy’s plastic.
On large holes, start with the outside perimeter and work your way in. You may need to stop and let the glue harden before moving inward, making several passes before the hole is filled. If the glue sits a little proud when finished, take the side of the hot glue gun and gently press down until the repair is flush. After a few minutes of cooling time, you can pack the blocks away until opening day. This is also a great way to quickly get decoys back in action during the season.
2. Wader Motor Cover
Cut up old waders to help camouflage a boat motor. (Joseph Albanese/)
Even the best waders have a limited lifespan. Trudging through the marsh takes a toll on the most durable fabrics, and eventually, they must be retired. But that doesn’t mean their usefulness has ended. You can cut a band out of your old neoprene waders to attach grass to your outboard. The neoprene’s stretch makes it function like an oversized rubber band, securing vegetation and camouflaging your motor. You can also cut pieces and use contact cement or spray glue to add insulation to boat seats or backboards as well.
3. Replace Worn or Broken Decoy Weight Stretch Cords
Decoy stretch cords can rot, so it’s a good idea to replace them before next season. (Joseph Albanese/)
Many hunters have transitioned to Texas rigs, but if you hunt deeper water, J-weights are probably still a part of your life. These weights make wrapping things up at the end of the hunt simple, securing long decoy lines around the keel by bungeeing themselves in place. But those bungee cords will dry rot, or simply wear out, over time. Replacing them before they snap off in the marsh will save you from replacing the weight as well.
Shock cord and hog rings are a good replacement for rubber tubing. (Joseph Albanese/)
Using shock cord in place of rubber or surgical tubing is an excellent way to repair them on the cheap. I’ve always used 1/8-inch shock cord for this; it has enough stretch to anchor itself in place but still comes off easily when needed. Cut a 12-inch length and seal the ends with a flame to prevent unraveling later. The cord is thin enough that you can tie knots in it if you like, but I use hog rings that I have on hand from building crab pots. Attach one end to the weight and put a loop in the other and you’re good to go for the next season.
4. Call Lanyard
Make a call lanyard the way you want it. (Joseph Albanese/)
If anything can be considered a tool of the trade for puddle duck hunters, it’s the duck call. This siren of waterfowl song can draw ducks down from the heavens, so it must be kept at the ready. Lanyards keep them securely around your neck, ready to call out to passing ducks.
Call lanyards are one of the simpler projects one can make; all that’s needed is a hank of paracord and some free time. Your DIY lanyard can be as fancy or as utilitarian as you want. This is a great project to get kids involved in hunting, and letting them build their own gear will get them excited for the coming season.
5. Jerk Cord
Jerk cords are a great way to add motion to a decoy spread. They simulate the movement of live ducks and push enough water to animate the other decoys in the process. You can put your own together, complete with adjustable drops, in a couple of hours using commonly available items.
A home-made jerk cord will add life to your decoy spread. (Joseph Albanes/)
Start by attaching one end of a six-foot length of 1/8-inch shock cord to a brass snap and the other to a swivel. Hog rings are best, but there’s no reason you can’t just tie knots in the cord. Tie the 100-feet of paracord to the swivel, and wrap it around a handle of sorts. You can use scrap wood, but I opted to use some PVC I had laying around because it won’t be affected by water.
Make up as many drops as you’d like using decoy cord and snap swivels. Tie one end of an 18-inch piece of line to a snap swivel. On the other, form a hangman’s noose over the paracord. This will let you slide the decoys anywhere on the line that you’d like, so you can use your new rig in any depth of water you encounter. A folding kayak anchor makes the ideal weight, but you can use a piece of rebar if the water is shallow enough.
6. Layout Blind Gun Rest
This simple gun rest can be pressed into the ground to keep your shotgun within arms reach. (Joseph Albanese/)
If you’re hunting out of a layout blind or using a backboard, you’ll need a way to keep your gun at the ready. You can use a shell decoy as a support, or you can bend one out of wire that will ensure your shotgun won’t slip off. Grab a 36-inch length of 1/8-inch plain steel round rod from the home center. You’ll need a couple of tubes of varying diameter that you’ll use to shape the rod. I used 1- and 2-inch PVC pieces I had laying around, but broomsticks or shovel handles would also work.
Bend round steel wire to form the gun rest and trim it with bolt cutters. (Joseph Albanese/)
Start by bending the rod around the 2-inch pipe, and then bend it the opposite way around the smaller diameter one. Repeat on the opposite side until you have a “W” shape. Trim the rod to an appropriate height and file points on the ends to make it easier to stick in the ground. Clean it with a degreaser and give it a coat of matte spray paint. When dry, cover the bare metal that your gun barrel will come into contact with. I used heat shrink tubing, but Plasti Dip or even electrical tape also does the trick.