Anytime I ask someone if they hunt waterfowl I get one of two answers…one being “yes”, and the other being “no, I don’t want to get into it because of how much money I will spend”. It is time to set the record straight on this matter. While it is not possible to truly know what the average duck hunter spends a year, I can simply go off an average of what I spend a year; I usually spend around $500 a year. This includes: licenses for multiple states, federal duck stamp, shot shells, fuel to and from locations(any long distance trips I split fuel with the group I go with), cheap hotels, etc. I am sure some people reading this right now are asking me why I left out the purchasing of my shotgun, my boat, waders, and clothing. This is my reply, when buying meat or produce from the grocery store you don’t take into account the cost of refrigerator/freezer, electric bill, gas to and from grocery store, etc. If you did you might find that the chicken you got on sale was not such a good deal after all.
Duck hunting can be done and done well without spending all your hard earned money. Now, if you are a show boater and you want to have the best equipment… your gone pay for it. But looking good at the boat ramp and being a waterfowler are not the same thing. More often than not when I see a guy pull up with a duck boat that probably equates to my yearly salary I say to myself, “what an idiot”; Then on the other hand when I see a guy pull up with his jon boat, with years old gear, and looks like it has been a day or two since he has seen a shower I say, “I should probably follow that guy”. No one can argue that there is waterfowl equipment, shotguns, shells, waders etc. that cost an absolutely ridiculous amount of money and if you’re one of the people that spend that kind of money on those items, there is nothing wrong with that; however, your cost efficiency won’t be good.
I shoot a shotgun that cost less than $1000 bucks and shells that I can usually get on sale for $11.99 a box. Even the people that I hunt with wear waders that are years old and use equipment that is at least 10 years old. I personally hunt many different species of wild game so I have to spread my money around more efficiently. I don’t consider myself a die hard waterfowler… I enjoy it just like all other hunting, but in my mind I have a quota for how much duck I want in my freezer before the season runs out. My main stomping ground for ducks is where I live in Georgia. I shoot a good amount of wood ducks each year and 90% of them on public land. I am sure most of you know Georgia is not the best state for hunting waterfowl, especially in the area of the state where I live. The Atlantic Flyway doesn’t have the migration numbers that the others do(Mississippi, Central, and Pacific). Unless you plan on hunting some coastal ducks, you’re not going to see flights of birds like you would in Arkansas. I hunt rivers, lakes, and WMA’s and I still have a tough time hunting; however, I am still able to get the job done with enough money left in my budget to take a trip or two to Arkansas or Mississippi.
So lets get into the ROI (Return On Investment) part of this article. I would say on average I am able to put 30 birds a year in my freezer in hopes that a few are some Canadian Geese. Some are wood ducks that weigh in on average 1.5 pounds and mallards which way on average 2.5 to 3 pounds. I like to leave the skin on and actually pluck the duck as opposed to breasting the duck and tossing the rest; This cuts down tremendously on meat loss, especially for mallards. So for the sake of keeping this simple, we will say that I put 30 pounds of duck in my freezer each year(that would be on the low end if you managed to shoot any geese). At $500 dollars spent for 30 pounds of duck, that comes out to $16.67 cent a pound/duck. People that live in better migration areas could beat my ROI easily. Farm raised duck prices vary and it is not really a fair market to compare to wild ducks (usually a store bought duck goes for $5 to $7 per pound). They are fed out to weigh 6 pounds or more per duck, so I won’t argue that you get more meat off of a duck from the grocery store. My argument will be that the quality of meat that you are getting from a wild duck is far beyond what you can buy from a store. Any wild duck is invaluable, you just can’t buy one…so how much is something worth that can’t be bought? The truth is $16.67 cent a duck is a cheap price to pay for something that is not for sale to begin with. Watching the sunrise in flooded timber or hearing the wings of wood ducks pass over you just as it is getting daylight is more of an experience than you will ever have in a grocery store. Plus, I don’t know about yours… but my local Kroger would not tolerate me blaring my duck call and blasting my shotgun at the poultry counter..
Photograph above is a hunting trip we took as a family to Mississippi and got into some spoonbills and buffleheads. My father Kenneth(far left),my brother Hunter(left center), me(right center), and my brother Tyler(far right).
Last modified: February 7, 2020