By Isaac Neale
February 26, 2019 - The ‘18-’19 duck season has come to a close, and if yours was anything like mine, the close may be a relief as much as anything. To say this season was rough would be an understatement, but as every grisled waterfowler would be happy to point out, “that’s why they call it hunting, not killing!” As tempting as it would be to dump all my gear in a pile and crawl into my bed until early September, there’s still work to be done. Now is the perfect time to lay the foundation for a fruitful next season: scouting and cleaning. While February is great for patterning late season geese, that’s a topic that will have to wait for another chat. For now, let’s focus on the postseason deep clean!
As far as the postseason cleaning/inventory/repair goes, I generally group it all into three categories: Gun, Garb, and Gear. The first one should be obvious: it’s your gun. The second is everything you wear on your body. This can include clothes, waders, boots, etc. Lastly, Gear is everything else - things like decoys, blind bag, calls, and other accessories. I don’t hunt with a boat or an ATV, as I prefer walk in spots on public land and waterways, so that will need to be covered another time.
As far as cleaning gear goes, I don’t see any downside to getting it out of the way before your stuff sits for 6 months, but I can think of a number of potential pitfalls. In addition to getting everything taken care of to ensure another season of good, hard use, spring cleaning provides the perfect opportunity to take inventory of the things that broke or have been misplaced in the last season’s pursuit of waterfowl. I like to make a list of everything I’d like to replace or gear I’d like to try out next year. Once equipped with this list, I keep an eye out for deals in the offseason when demand is low.
1. Gun - My gun takes a lot of abuse throughout the season and it doesn’t complain (I pulled my trusty Stoeger M3500 out after a week off, only to discover it was soaked from a 6-hour sit in the rain - whoops). The way I see it, I don’t show her much love any other time of year. She deserves a full deep clean before her hibernation. Break her down, clean and lubricate every part, put her back together! If you’re like me and enjoy some spring light goose conservation hunting, this a great time to pull the magazine extension off and put the plug back in. Don’t be ashamed if you’re not exactly sure how to deep clean your gun…there are some great gun cleaning instructional videos from firearm manufacturers.
2. Garb - I’m pretty hard on my clothing and don’t mind getting it dirty. Now is the time to inspect, clean, and repair it if necessary. I have a waxed canvas jacket that I was given by my grandfather a number of years ago. Around this time of year, I like to patch holes that have developed from wear and re-wax it if necessary. Some of my clothes, like my Midweight Wingshooter Shirts, go in my regular closet because I like to wear them year-round, while most of the hunting clothes get sent to long term storage. I have a rack in my shop where I hang everything up, and plastic bins to store gloves/hats, etc. I find that when everything has a home to live in, things rarely go missing.
3. Gear - What’s left is the lion’s share of the work… everything else. I like to deep clean, organize and store the rest of my waterfowling gear, starting with my blind bag, in an orderly manner. I’m pretty methodical (some might say anal retentive?) when it comes to this stuff, but I’ve noticed that it wards off a lot of confusion, panic, and heartbreak the night before the next season’s opener. I start by emptying my blind bag, throwing away trash, cleaning calls, hearing protection, etc. and putting them back where they belong. Make sure you pull the batteries out of any electronics so they don’t get corroded. I have a wire shelf that holds all this gear and it lives next to the clothing rack. I then like to move on to decoys and accessories. I usually need to clean and detangle the jerk rig. Next, are the motion decoys. I’ll pull the batteries, check for damaged parts that need to be mended or replaced (i.e. broken or missing wings, rusted up poles, dead batteries), before cleaning the bodies with a mild soapy solution. I throw the motion decoys back in their bags and store them on the wire shelf.
Lastly, I take all my decoys out of their bags and give them a good cleaning. I by no means have a prodigious spread. I usually run two dozen decoys or less. I think my whole collection amounts to less than 50 birds, which allows me the luxury of hand washing the decoys. It takes longer than lugging them down to the car wash and power washing the lot (which is not a bad option for those of you with more decoys than you can shake a stick at). In my experience, it extends the life of the decoys, or at least the life of the paint and flocking. After they’ve been washed, I like to hang them in groups of a dozen. I usually keep the bunches knotted close to the decoys to keep them from getting entwined with one another in the bag. But if I know that I won’t be getting out for a week or two, or in this case six months, I hang them, unknotted, from the loop at the end of the Texas rig, so the lines will relearn how to be straight!
That’s my routine and it works for me. Feel free to borrow any part of it that works for you and forget any part that doesn’t! Just remember, you’ll thank yourself come fall if you do some spring cleaning.