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The Fowler's Kit
Fred Jagow asks "What is best taken? What is best left behind?"

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Ask a dozen different waterfowlers what a waterfowling kit should consist of and you will probably get twelve different answers I seriously doubt that you could get a minimum of three waterfowlers to agree completely on what a good waterfowling kit should consist of. There will always be a few items that some will insist on having, while others will just consider it excess baggage and weight.

There are, however, a number of items that all of us would probably agree are handy, if not necessary. I'll give a list of a few items that I take with my routinely. Most, if not all, of these items fit in a plastic, waterproof utility box that is roughly 32cm x19cm x 20cm. This box fits nicely under the front seat of my boat. It is a simple matter to remove it from the boat and store it in my SUV for the duration of the season while not hunting, so it is never forgotten at home in the event that I am using a different boat. In addition to being stored in a waterproof box, each item is also stored in a self sealing (resalable) plastic bag.

The first item I have is a map of the area I intend to hunt. I laminate these myself, and use a magic marker pen (dry, erasable) to make notes as the season goes on, such as areas with low water, poor cover, etc. I also carry a copy of the rules and regulations for that season. These come in handy for listing shooting times, season dates, etc. If one were to hunt in an area that was affected by the tides, I would laminate a tide table and have that information handy as well.

A map is rarely any good if one doesn't know direction, so a good compass is a must as well. I prefer the military-style Lensatic type; they fold up into a neat, small package and take up little space, and can be carefully stored away until needed. Some might suggest a GPS as well, and I do carry one, but if I was limited to one or the other I would forgo the GPS in favor of the compass. Why? Isn't the GPS easier to use? Yes, it is. I will draw you a map directly back to where you need to be. However, in order for a GPS to function it depends on a few variables, such as batteries and having an adequate number of satellites available at a given moment to fix a point from. Both have given me problems in the past, and I had to use my "fall back" plan.....a compass....to help me find my way.

Flashlights (Torches) are a must for a duck hunter. From finding your way to your blind or hide to finding the car keys that you just dropped, I seriously doubt that there is a fowler out there who hasn't cursed the darkness because of the lack of a usable torch.

But what type of flashlight is the best? There are several models, from bigguns' that use camping batteries for a power source to tiny ones that fit on a key ring. My favorite for hunting is a model that straps to your head, similar to a miner's light. Over the years I have found them to be most advantageous; they allow me free use of BOTH of my hands while piloting the boat, putting up a blind, fixing equipment, or setting out decoys. The light can be directed to shine where ever I am looking.....a big plus when trying to read signs when finding a specific spot on the managed areas. After once dropping a flashlight while setting out decoys and having some difficulty finding my way back to shore, I decided it was probably a good idea to carry a spare on my person at all times. I found that the small "minimag" flashlights to be just the ticket! It is light weight and fits in the breast pocket of my hunting jacket. Should my headlight fail, have another light source readily at hand. In addition to a spare torch, I also carry a small package of batteries. Currently, these are AA size. In addition to fitting in both flashlights, they can also be use to power up a dead GPS, among other things.

It's no fun being cold, and there are a number of goodies that I have in my kit to help stave off the elements. First are my handwarmers. I have two of these and they use a solid fuel stick to provide warmth. One in a breast pocket and another in a pocket where I keep a hand can help me stay afield and hunt longer. They last about 4 hours per stick, and I carry extra sticks as well as two butane lighters to in a plastic bag. The lighters will consistently light in a wind, even if it's wet. They can also be used in an emergency situation to start a fire to stay warm and signal for help. I also have a pair of neoprene gloves that I use when picking up decoys. They keep my fingers and hands from getting soaked and turning numb while driving the boat back to the launch.

One item I have found to be extremely handy is the Leatherman tool. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this device, the Leatherman is like a Swiss army knife on steroids! It folds up compactly to the size of a pack of cigarettes, yet has a blade, screw driver blades (including regular and Phillips), awl, pliers, wire cutters, file, etc. I have used this tool numerous times in the field to fix guns, outboards, trailer lights, decoys, .........the list goes on and on. While I use the Leatherman for most of my chores, I also carry along a Swiss army knife as well; what I can't do with the Leatherman, I can usually fix with the Swiss army knife. It has a tweezers for removing splinters, a saw blade, small scissors, etc. I also have with me a small stash of spare parts that might come in handy: cotter pins, shear pins, nuts, bolts, screws, a small roll of electrical tape, and other "knick knacks" that might come in handy. I also have a larger kit in my vehicle with such things as a roll of wire, light bulbs for the trailer, wheel bearings & grease, gasoline hose clamps, etc., for more complicated repairs.

Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than being unprepared for a medical situation, even a minor one. Such things as an insect sting, headache, diarrhoea, or a small cut can ruin a great day afield in short order. While perusing the tables at a local gun show several years ago, I cam across a fellow who was selling small, personal first aid containers. They were a little smaller than a pack of cigarettes, made of canvas with a zipper, and had a red cross on them. They also had a belt loop so they could be carried afield. I bought one and surprised myself at the amount of usable "stuff" that could be carried in its tiny space. This little satchel will hold a couple of Band-Aids, a small foil packet of antibiotic ointment, a couple of alcohol swabs, a couple of 2x2 gauzes, a small roll of tape, a dose of aspirin, a dose of Pepto-Bismol, a dose of antidiarrheal medication, an Alka-Seltzer tablet, and some throat lozenges. The medications are single dose and come in plastic or foil packets and are easily obtained from most gas stations and convenience stores. With this little "doctor bag", most minor medical complaints can be dealt with effectively, saving the hunt.

Just as with the tool kit, I keep a larger medical bag stowed in my vehicle. It contains such items as eye shields, iodine, more gauze, larger bandages, hydrogen peroxide, rubber gloves, various ointments, etc. It is larger than the one I take with me in the marsh, but is small enough to fit under the seat. Some medical kits I have seen would have given the owner the ability to do brain surgery afield; they contain a host of items that lay people really shouldn't have, such as scalpels, hemostats, and suture material! Remember: it's called "first aid" for a reason! It is initial treatment used to stabilize a wound or condition until further and more extensive medical care can be given. One final note: first aid kits are virtually useless unless you know how to apply them. The time to learn first aid is not during the hunt, but before. Reading up on it now can save time and anxious moments later. Even if you do know first aid, it is a good idea to refresh you memory from time to time.

One last item that I keep in my vehicle throughout the duck hunting season is my "dry bag". This is a small duffle that consists of dry clothing should I happen to take a tumble into the drink somewhere along the line. At it's best, a cold water dunking can make you miserable; at it's worst, it can cause hypothermia and kill you. My "dry bag" is nothing more than one of my daughter's old school backpacks that she doesn't use anymore (no laughing at the Tweety on the flap!). Inside I carry a spare pair of polypropylene underwear (tops and bottoms), a pair of skivvies, a sweat shirt, sweat pants, a pair of wool socks, two terrycloth towels, and a plastic garbage bag (for putting the wet clothes in). I have only had to use this kit twice, and both times it was a godsend! The first time was when we took an actual dunking; our canoe flipped on our way out of the marsh, and by the time we got back to the launch my friend and I were both shivering uncontrollably. I changed into my dry cloths, while the best my friend could do was wring out what he was wearing. Even with the car's heater going full blast, he was shivering when we got back to my house some 45 minutes to an hour later. The second time was after a heavy downpour, and both my friend and I were soaked to the bone by the time we got to the parking area. This time we both had our dry bags and we were both comfortable, warm, and dry on the trip home.

kitI carry a few other odds and ends in my kit as well: a small pair of binoculars, a pencil and pad of paper, a couple of granola bars, and a few strap anchors for the couple that seem to disappear every year off my decoys, a small pack of facial tissue (good for wiping your nose, your backside, or for use as tinder for starting an emergency fire). These are but a few of the many items I take with me. However, I feel that those items I listed in the previous paragraphs are a good basis for building a kit that can make your waterfowling forays more safe and enjoyable in the years to come.

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