For many who love the outdoors, duck hunting is a simple pleasure in life; one that brings friends and family together and offers a unique connection to nature.
However, duck hunting is neither the simplest, nor the most affordable type of hunting. Game laws can change, and there are dozens of species with different habits, behaviors, and seasons to consider.
To make sure you’re adequately prepared for your next duck hunt, here’s a guide on the essential gear you need to get started.
The Types Of Ducks
Before getting into the duck hunting gear you need, it helps to understand what you’re getting yourself into.
There are over 100 types of ducks, but most can be grouped into one of three categories: diver ducks, puddle (or “dabbler”) ducks, and perching ducks. You can find each in the United States, but each has distinct behaviors to consider when selecting hunting gear.
Diver ducks are adept at diving and swimming underwater. These birds are often found in larger open bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and seas.
Built for life on the water, diver ducks have a unique way of taking flight. They run across the water’s surface and gradually ascend into the sky, much like an airplane during takeoff. You’ll need more firepower and precision to take down a diver duck.
Some diver ducks you might encounter include:
Puddle ducks have a more direct flight path than diver ducks, taking off with their wings flapping and gaining altitude quickly.
Puddle ducks (or, “dabbler ducks”) tend to stay closer to shore and shallower bodies of water, and it’s common to see them walking around on the ground (like the ones you might feed at the park).
Puddle ducks are also known for being quite sociable; they often form large flocks which will fly together in the same direction. This can make them easier to hit than diver ducks.
Some common puddle ducks you may come across include:
Unlike most other types of hunting gear, which are more versatile, duck hunting gear is specifically for duck hunting. As you grow your passion for duck hunting and hunt in different locations, you’ll find you need jackets, waders, decoys (plus rigs and bags), calls, and other gear that’s specifically designed for duck hunting.
In general, 12 gauge shotguns are the best for hunting ducks. Since you’ll likely take shots from further out, 12 gauges offer the extra power you need to make a clean kill.
Some of the best guns for duck hunting are:
Remington 870. The Remington 870 is a reliable and affordable pump-action shotgun that has been around since the 1950s. While you have to reload every time you take a shot, this makes it less likely to jam or fail. The 870 is available in 12 and 20 gauge models as well as .410 bore.
Benelli Super Black Eagle III: The Benelli Super Black Eagle III, a semi-automatic shotgun designed for hunting, is popular among avid duck hunters due to its reliability, accuracy, and durability. With a recoil reduction system to minimize felt recoil and various configurations like different barrel lengths and finishes, this versatile shotgun is available in both 12 and 20 gauge.
Beretta A400 Xtreme: The Beretta A400 Xtreme is another semi-automatic shotgun. Its main differentiator is its innovative gas-operating system that reduces felt recoil, increases reliability, and offers multiple configurations like varying barrel lengths and finishes.
Hunting ducks requires lead-free, non-toxic ammo. The two most common types are steel and bismuth. Steel is cheaper but has a shorter range, while bismuth offers increased accuracy and penetration power. Many types of ammo contain a blend of steel and bismuth.
The Apex Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat Blend is a good ammo choice for duck hunting — it’s a unique 12 Gauge mix composed of S3 steel and Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). The TSS/S3 Steel version unites the Apex S3 Steel with the well-known impact strength and carrying power of TSS.
When it comes to duck decoys, go with realism and quality.
Duck decoys come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and range from hand-carved wooden decoys to plastic decoys that are more affordable. If you want to get the most out of your hunt, it’s best to use decoys that have realistic features, are sturdy, offer movement to your decoy setup, and do not reflect light.
Durability is another critical consideration when shopping for decoys. With the exception of diver hunters, you probably aren’t shooting your decoys. However, you should consider how the ones you purchase will hold up to regular hunting conditions; that is, whether they’ll crack in freezing winter temperatures or chip their paint when being packed and unpacked.
If you’re hunting diver ducks, you’ll use diver decoys, which float on the surface of the water with their heads down, simulating a flock of birds diving beneath the surface for food.
When considering a decoy setup for duck hunting, you’ll need at least 12 decoys per person, although as few as six may be acceptable in smaller water areas.
In more expansive areas, such as ponds and lakes, more is always better.
A call is an important tool for any duck hunter, because it can help lure ducks in or create a sense of comfort and security.
Calls come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles that produce different sounds. Considering the different types of ducks, one of the best calls to go with is the Buck Gardner 6 -in-1 whistle.
Although the exact clothing you’ll need depends on where you’re hunting and the weather conditions, there are some basic must-haves every duck hunter should consider:
Waders: These waterproof boots keep your feet and legs dry while you’re in the water. Some models come with built-in insulation, which is essential for colder weather.
Jacket: Duck hunting jackets are designed to provide ample warmth and dryness even in the wettest conditions. They often feature multiple pockets for storing gear.
Gloves: Good gloves are essential to any duck hunting outfit, as they will help keep your hands warm and dry even in wet conditions. Neoprene gloves are a great option for colder weather.
Hat: A good-fitting hat, such as a hunting beanie or cap, is essential for keeping your head warm and protected from wind and rain. Ideally, it should also provide camouflage so you can blend in with your surroundings.
Final Thoughts On Duck Hunting Gear Essentials
Duck hunting is a challenging yet rewarding sport, and having the right gear can make all the difference. The most important pieces of duck hunting gear are your gun and ammo, but don’t forget about the other essentials like decoys, calls, and clothing.
Hunting ducks combines the patience required for deer hunting, the interactivity of hunting turkey, and the action and precision of bird hunting, all in one.
Taking the time to find the right gear for your duck hunting trips will pay off in the long run.
In this article, I’m covering a re-test of the 125-grain Annihilator Broadhead.
When I originally tested this broadhead, it performed extremely well in terms of penetration, (i.e., draining a water jug) and in terms of the hole that it produced in a layer of MDF.
It also flew really well out to 50 yards. However, beyond 50 yards, there just seemed to be a drastic drop in velocity, causing an incredible drop in the point of impact.
I decided to re-test the Annihilator after talking with multiple people that had not gotten the same results as I did in my original test.
However, after making a video of that test, I was contacted by some friends who had also tested this broadhead at longer ranges, but did not see the drastic results I had seen.
I then visited with the designers of the Annihilator broadheads at the Archery Trade Association (ATA) show. They also said that their tests had not shown the drastic drop. In fact, they had seen really consistent flight, even at longer ranges. So, I told them I would very gladly test it again.
The backstory to my original test of the Annihilator broadhead
The day of the re-test, it was sub-zero temperatures (with the wind chill). When I re-tested the head, I found that the people I had spoken to were exactly right. It flew extremely well, even at longer ranges.
I realized that in my original test, I had made a two-fold mistake.
My two mistakes
Before I tested the Annihilator broadhead the first time, I was talking to a friend about it. He told me that when he shot it at longer ranges, there was a really large drop due to the wind resistance of that big surface area that they have. And so, that was already in my mind.
So, then when I shot it and tested it and there was a big drop, and I thought, “Oh, this just confirms what my friend had said.” I didn’t retest it or question my test results enough. That was my first mistake. I shouldn’t have had that in my mind.
The second mistake that I made in the initial test is that I had made adjustments to my site tapes and I didn’t take that into consideration when I was testing the Annihilator.
So, I felt really badly. I went back and made the adjustments in my site tapes and… Boom! Dead on!
I feel really badly that I made both of those mistakes, and both of those mistakes adversely affected the reputation of Annihilator (as well as my own reputation for doing a poor job in testing the broadhead).
I want to give a sincere apology to the makers of Annihilator broadheads, to their loyal fans, and especially to those who I turned off from these broadheads after my initial test, because it actually does fly very well even at longer ranges.
So, that’s why I wanted to do a completely new test. I’ve got new test mediums for 2020 that I’m using anyway. So it’s a good way to do those.
The Annihilator broadhead | The specifics
So, let me explain this broadhead just a little bit for those of you that aren’t familiar with it.
So, the hole that it creates, and the tissue that’s displaced, is in theory far greater than if it was just 3 crossblades of 0.91 inches. It has an incredible surface area. (That showed in a test that I had done originally. The Annihilator drained a water jug in record time. It also put a big hole through MDF. And so, in the retest, I wanted to show that).
The Annihilator is designed to put a much larger hole than the head size suggests. The small surface area allows it to fly really well, but then displace a lot of tissue. And so, it makes a really nice hole.
Another cool thing about this head is that it’s a solid piece of 4140 tool steel. That is a really high quality of tool steel. So, it’s way more resistant to impact and much tougher than stainless steel, for example. It has a Rockwell hardness of 52, which is a pretty good balance of being soft enough to resharpen and hard enough to keep its edge.
You can just lay it flat on a flat stone or any kind of a flat edge surface and it is very easy to sharpen to a razor-like edge.
For penetration testing I used MDF board, foam padding and ballistic gel.
In my re-test, I used a half-inch layer of MDF surrounded by 1/3 of an inch of rubber foam mat. Beyond that was a gel block by Clear Ballistics, so you can see what happens to the broadhead once it enters the gel. (I will be doing this for all the broadheads I test this year).
Then, I shot it through a 22-gauge steel plate 5 times. (I like to shoot it through the steel plate until there begins to be significant damage to the blades. So, I basically see how many times it can be shot into the steel plate without facing significant damage. But, I stop at 5 because with some heads, I could keep going forever).
In terms of penetration through the MDF and gel, the Annihilator did very well. It did not do as well as some other broadheads I’ve tested, but it still had good penetration and made a nice hole in that MDF, as well as the gel.
Below, you can see the penetration of the Annihilator after going through the MDF and the rubber foam mats and into the gel. It penetrated 8-1/4 inches.
The Annihilator, through MDF, foam pad and ballistic gel.
Below is a steel plate after I shot it 5 times with the same head. You can see the Annihilator really does make nice holes. Thus, it should displace a tremendous amount of tissue.
The Annihilator, shot into a 22-gauge steel plate.
In terms of the durability of the edge (edge retention), the Annihilator is pristine. There is not a mark on it. It doesn’t quite shave hair, but it still bit into my fingernail… very impressive.
So, it’s durable as they come. It went through 5 layers of steel back-to-back-to-back with zero damage. That’s what that 4140 tool steel is going to do. It kept its edge really, really well.
The Annihilator kept it’s edge incredibly well, even after being shot 5 times through a 22-gauge steel plate.
The water drainage test was just other otherworldly. I don’t know any other word to describe it. It drained the bag in .40 seconds!
The reason I used the water bag drainage test instead of a water jug drainage test is that I felt that in a water jug, because the plastic is pretty stiff, sometimes the plastic folds in, sometimes it comes out, sometimes it stays in place. And so, the results are very inconsistent. Even with one head, I get different results.
But with water bag drainage test, and I fill it up 10 cups the same amount that the line is the same in all the tests that I do, try to shoot it in the same spot every time.
It’s much more consistent and much more like an animal because the bag is a little more nimble, like the tissue or the hide of an animal. And so, what you see is kind of what you’re going to get in terms of the drainage.
Water drainage test.
The Annihilator goes into the bag and displaced so much water so readily, it actually created a back-pressure to the water. When I looked at it in super slow motion, I could it make the hole and suck the water right out of the bag.
It was just amazing to see that. It’s an indication of what may happen with blood-letting and tissue damage within an animal as well. I can’t wait to test it on an animal at some point in the future.
Conclusion on The Annihilator Re-Test
I’m really grateful that I was encouraged to retest the Annihilator, because I knew it was a great head before. It tested really well in all categories except long distance.
However, now knowing after the re-test that it actually flies extremely well, even at long distances, it has gone from a very good head to a phenomenal head.
So, now I have confidence in this head at longer ranges. It gets a 10 out of 10 in terms of accuracy at long range.
The Annihilator re-test report card.
The Annihilator did excellent in all of the test categories. This is a winner of a head and it’s something to really consider for pretty much any animal you are going after. Give the Annihilator a look. Great job, Annihilator!
And now a Battle! [Annihilator Original vs. Annihilator XL]
I was really excited to battle the Annihilator Original vs. the Annihilator XL. The XL is basically just a bigger version of the Original.
For my flight and some of the penetration testing, I used the Bishop FOC King Arrow from Bishop Archery. For some of the more harsh durability tests, like shooting through steel, I used the Bishop Frozen Fire Arms Dispatch (FAD) Eliminator. It has a nice footing on the end and that prevents the steel from cutting through the shaft.
And then for some of the concrete tests, I’m using a tank of an arrow by Bishop Archery. It’s called the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). The Goat with a 125-grain tip weighs 1300 grains. Just the shaft is like a weapon in and of itself. It feels like a giant tent stake or even a spear. It is the best of the best when it comes to arrows.
Here’s a good look at both models of the Annihilator heads below. The Original has a cutting diameter of 0.91 inches and the XL has a cutting diameter of 1-1/16 inches or 1.06 inches. So, 0.91, 1.06, about a 17% difference.
The Annihilator XL (on left) is a larger, beefier version of the original (right).
For my flight comparison, I shot two broadheads of each model as well as a field point, to compare.
Here’s the Annihilator Original size. You can see the two broadheads there on the left. The field point is dead center, but I dropped just a little bit.
Here are the Annihilator XL’s. The field point is in the middle at the top and then the XLs are on either side.
Out of the box sharpness comparison
In the out-of-the box sharpness comparison, I used a sharpness testing machine, by Edge-On-Up. This tester holds a wire and measures how many grams of pressure it takes for the blade of a broadhead to break it.
The Annihilator Original took 450 grams of pressure to cut the wire.
Annihilator XL took 475 grams of pressure to cut the wire.
I shot both the Original and the XL into ballistic gel, fronted by rubber matting and 1/2″ MDF.
The Original penetrated 7-1/2 inches and the XL penetrated 7-1/4 inches.
I decided to test the sharpness of the heads after the ballistic gel penetration test. The original cut the wire on the tester with 475 grams of pressure.
The Annihilator XL took 525 grams of pressure to break the wire after the ballistic gel test.
Cardboard penetration comparison
I shot both heads through layered cardboard to determine how many layers each could penetrate.
The Original penetrated through 65 layers.
The XL penetrated through 59 layers.
Steel plate penetration test comparison
I shot both the Original and the XL through a steel plate five times each.
Here, you can see the holes that the Annihilators made in the steel plate. On the left is the Original and then on the right is the XL. And you can see they made great triangular chunk holes, not just 3 slits like some heads will do.
Those all make triangular holes really similar to this. But, I do prefer those to just 3 slits. I mean they make a lot more internal damage and cause a lot more blood-letting than just the 3 slits do.
Here’s the Annihilator Original after being shot into the steel plate five times. It spun true and was still in fantastic shape. You really can’t even tell it has been shot, let alone shot through a steel plate five times.
And here’s the XL. It too spins perfectly true. And like the Original, you just can’t even tell it has been shot, let alone shot through steel plate five times.
Cinder block test comparison
I shot both the Original and the XL into a cinder block to see how they would hold up. The XL showed out! See picture below.
Look how deeply the Annihilator XL embedded into the cinder block! I couldn’t believe how stuck in there it was! It wasn’t budging at all!
Here’s the Original after being shot through the steel plate five times and into that concrete block. Spins perfectly well even with a bunch of concrete still embedded at the end. It’s just in excellent shape. Even the tip is intact. The edges are intact as well.
Now, let’s look at the XL. Spins perfectly well even with all this concrete stuck to it. If there was any wobble, it was because of the concrete. The tip on this one is still super sharp and not blunted at all. The edges remained in perfect condition.
How to sharpen the Annihilator broadheads
Now, you saw how durable they are and how they hold their edge really well. But, if you want to get them really sharp, one method of sharpening is super easy.
Because the Annihilator heads are 3-blade solids at a 60-degree bevel angle, you just one flat on any stone or any surface and just stroke it gently. Just be sure you have the same number of strokes on each side.
Do this until it comes out just like you got it from the factory. It’s super easy to do. You can even do it in the field. Again, you can do it on any surface. I love that about these 3-blade, 60-degree bevel heads.
You can also use the Stay Sharp Guide. They come out with individual sharpeners that are not very expensive at all for different styles of broadheads. And, in most cases, they put an edge on those heads better than how you got them from the factory.
They have a sharpener especially designed to put an extra sharp edge on these 3-blade, 60-degree heads. This is super helpful, because one of the drawbacks is that you can only get it so sharp with that 60-degree bevel.
What can I say about the durability of these Annihilator heads? They are absolutely fantastic!
Both of them performed really well and both had some great strengths.
My only critique of the Annihilator Original is the size of the cut. It has got some really cool features and it’s incredibly durable. It flies super well, penetrates exceedingly well, but I just have a little concern about that small cut.
And then you have the Annihilator XL. Even with it’s larger surface area, it still penetrated and flew very well and it was just still extremely durable.
So, for me and my hunting purposes, like hunting whitetails and hogs and stuff like that day in and day out, the broadhead battle winner of the Annihilator Broadhead battle is… the Annihilator XL! (check out the scorecards below).
In this review I tested a broadhead by Lone Wolf, which has traditionally been know for manufacturing deer stands.
Now, they have made a foray into the broadhead market with a really unique design.
Lone Wolf 100-Grain Fixed Blade Broadhead
Here’s a good look at the Lone Wolf 100 grain broadhead. And wow, there are all kinds of unique things going on here! I’ve never seen another broadhead like it. You notice first of all, that it’s just one piece construction. But unlike a lot of other heads, it’s not one piece of steel. This is one piece of 6061 aluminum (which isn’t the strongest aluminum but it’s still a pretty strong.)
Now, the strength of a broadhead doesn’t just come from its materials. It also comes from its geometric design, like how thick it is, which can affect its structural integrity.
You could have a super-high quality steel, but if it has poor design, it then it could break. Or, you could have something made out of aluminum that a really stout design and it could be really durable.
So, I was eager to see if this will be durable like that or not, given that it’s all aluminum.
With this head being all aluminum, the advantage is it allows the broadhead to be a lot thicker than it would be able to be at this weight (100 grains) than if it were made out of steel. It would be a couple hundred grains at least, maybe 250, if it were made of solid steel.
The Lone Wolf head has a relatively short overall design and it feels relatively sharp. It has a super sharp tip. The backs of the blades are sharpened as well, to make it a little bit easier to pull out of a target or out of an animal. If the animal is moving with the broadhead still embedded, then the back of the blade will be cutting as it is backing out.
So it’s just three blades, but the blades are thick! (At the base, the blades are 0.22″). These are some of the thickest blades I’ve ever seen!
But, instead of just cutting a neat little slit, it’s going to take a chunk out of the tissue, or whatever it hits, and create a wound channel that would be really difficult to close up, thus displacing a lot of tissue.
It also has a hard, anodized coating over it, which will give it a little extra durability.
They say the coating has a Rockwell hardness of about 60, whereas the aluminum itself is about 45 to 50. So, I didn’t know how durable it was going to be. And, I didn’t know how durable that coating was and what was going to happen when it rubbed off a little bit on the edge.
Nonetheless, I was very intrigued by this broadhead. I really liked the looks of the wound channel that I thought it would generate and I was eager to put it to the test!
Let’s take a look at the various tests I performed with the Lone Wolf brodheads and the associated results!
For the Lone Wolf broadhead testing, I used my Bowtech CP28 set at 72 pounds. I also used Bishop FOC King Arrows for most of the shots, but then for the really hard impact ones, I used the Bishop FAD Eliminator.
Flight Forgiveness (I field pt then I broadhead @30 yds):
As you can see, the Lone Wolf head had good flight versus a field point.
Initial Sharpness Test
It took 350 grams of force to cut through the wire which is a 8.5 on a 10-point scale.
The Lone Wolf head had no issues penetrating the angled MDF and carpet.
Durability Test (1/2″ MDF max 3 shots):
I shot the Lone Wolf head into MDF three times. It remained in excellent shape.
Durability Test (22 gauge steel plate max 2 shots):
And here it is after the two shots through a .22 gauge steel plate. As you can see, the tip got pretty blunted and the blades got really dulled. But structurally, it held together fine. And, it made really nice holes. They are not just a circular wound channel with three slits, but they are really triangular holes, due to the extra thick blades.
Concrete Block Test
I shot the Lone Wolf broadhead into a concrete block and it actually stuck.
Here is the head after all the durability tests. Now, after the steel plate, the edges got really dulled from that.. very dulled. And, the tips was really rounded as well. But structurally, it held together extremely well and stuck very deeply into the concrete. It still spun true.
Man, I tell you. It has some real unique strengths to it. And, I love it whenever somebody comes out with something different and tries some innovation, because that’s what makes broadheads evolve. Somebody tries something and maybe they hit it dead center and you’re like, “Wow! This is the best thing.” Or maybe it spurs on some other idea.
But, in terms of real performance when it comes to sharpness, edge retention and durability, it proved to be lacking.
So I can imagine it’s going to really put an animal down if you hit it in a good spot, but in terms of prolonged usage and resharpening and so forth, I think you’re going to have some challenges with it.
Here’s the Lusk Grade (7 Golden Arrows) for the Lone Wolf Broadhead.
So, I applaud Lone Wolf for coming up with a really creative design. Be sure to check out the score sheet to see how it did in the areas that matter to you, and see if this broadhead might be a good fit for you.