man holding duck hunting shotgun

Choosing The Best Duck Hunting Shotgun | 3 Things To Consider

No worse feeling exists in the sport of waterfowl hunting than pulling up to dust a flock of mallards and then… your gun misfires.

I’ve been in that frustrating situation before and I don’t want you to experience the pain I did. 

So, how exactly can you keep this from happening?

Well, it begins with the firearm you select. I’m not here to push one brand over another, but rather to help you find the gun and gauge that best fits you so you can go with it.

What exactly is shotgun “fit?” Scroll down and watch the video near the end of the article to find out!

Does price matter?

dead geese and duck
At the end of the hunt, you want a shotgun that has performed as expected, hopefully resulting in a successful harvest.

I’ve hunted with guys who bought the latest and greatest shotgun on the market only to watch them miss every duck that decoyed. I’ve also hunted with guys who were shooting a “pawn shop special” and they absolutely slaughtered every duck within a mile radius.

So, what was the difference?

Well, one group of guys thought the expensive gun would make them a good shot. The other group knew they needed a gun that they were extremely comfortable shooting in several different conditions.

Simply put, the best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable using.

But how do you figure that out?

Which type of shotgun fits your hunting style?

There are three main types of shotguns. The most popular is the semi-auto, followed by the pump-action, and the over-under. They all come in different gauges and all are solid choices when it comes to waterfowl hunting. I have personally hunted with all three for at least one season each. As I hunted with each, I found there are pros and cons to all.

I prefer to hunt with a 12-gauge shotgun, regardless of the type of shotgun I am shooting. But, enough about me, let’s look at three critical factors in determining the best shotgun for ducks and waterfowl.

The three criteria I used to determine the best type of duck hunting shotgun are as follows:

  • Dependability: How unlikely it is to malfunction in different weather conditions?
  • Ruggedness: How much abuse can it take from being tossed in the back of a truck and dragged through mud all season long?
  • Amount of birds in the blind: That should be pretty self-explanatory. If I was able to shoot more birds with it, I hunted with the firearm more often!

The Most Dependable Shotgun

shotgun and decoy
Part of having a dependable gun is knowing it won’t jam or misfire.

As far as dependability goes, an over-under is going to fire every time the trigger is pulled. A pump-action is going to fire basically every time, as well. The weather conditions are not prone to affect the firing capabilities of an over-under or pump-action.

The semi-automatic shotgun is a different story.

As long as they are clean and lightly oiled in warm conditions, a semi-automatic works great! However, in my experience, when the cold weather hits, semi-auto shotguns tend to become finicky. So, when I need a gun that is dependable, I hunt with a pump-action or an over-under. 

12 gauge shotgun shells
Shotgun types come in different gauges… my personal favorite is the 12-gauge.

The Most Rugged Shotgun

Ruggedness, once again, goes to an over-under or a pump-action. The over-under has so few moving parts that make it such a rugged gun. Now, this does not apply if your over-under is a gun that only comes out of the gun safe to get oiled and then gently placed back in its place. 

The over-under I used was as basic as they are made, perfect for the tough conditions I hunt. A pump-action has a few more moving parts, but in my experience hunting with one, they are just as rugged as an over-under.

The semi-auto shotguns I hunted with were not as rugged as I had hoped they would be, but in recent years semi-auto shotguns have made tremendous strides in ruggedness. 

The Most Deadly Shotgun

The most critical factor is the number of birds the firearm helps bring down cleanly.

semi automatic shotgun and black lab
Semi-automatic shotguns give you the ability to fire 3 shots rapidly, but may also lead the shooter to rush the shot.

The semi-auto shotguns are outstanding when I need to fire off all three shots quickly, but I have a tendency to rush my shot. That is my fault, not the firearm!

When hunting with a pump-action, I am forced to slow down just enough to be much more accurate and add more birds to my limit.

The over-under shotgun I hunted with drastically fell short because it lacked the third shot I was familiar with. My friend, Jason Cruise, claims the third shot is a wasted shot more often than not.

I would disagree.

Yes, many times by the third shot, the birds are out of range. However, when the ducks are back-flapping in your face, that third shot is a huge advantage. Every hunt I am on, I will consistently shoot all three shells in a single volley. When I hunted with my over-under, I desperately missed having that third shot. 

So, what exactly is “shotgun fit” and how do you get the right fit for you? Check out this video to find out.

And, the best shotgun type is…

As I mentioned above, all three shotgun types have their pros and cons. However the one that stands out the most is the 12 gauge pump-action shotgun.

The pump-action shotgun is a workhorse. It is not anything fancy but it consistently gets the job done. Time after time, adding birds to the limit. No matter the weather conditions, a pump-action shotgun will deliver what it promises… three shells. 

Why the Pump-Action Shotgun is the Best

The reasons I choose to hunt with a pump-action shotgun over the other two styles are because a pump-action is typically more dependable than a semi-auto, it is extremely rugged, and I shoot more birds with a pump-action than an over-under. 

I admit I am extremely tough on my gear. So, I need a firearm that will hold up to the abuse, enduring throughout the season. A pump-action shotgun does this for me more consistently than the other two styles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t bring my other guns on a shoot or two during the season. I love shooting my semi-auto when the weather permits and my over-under has become my turkey hunting shotgun. 

Whether you are just getting into duck hunting or waterfowl hunting has been a lifestyle for a while now, a pump-action shotgun is a tool that won’t let you down.

Before purchasing any firearm, do your research. I would recommend not only reading the online reviews, but also getting your hands on the gun you intend to buy prior to buying it. This ensures that it fits you well and you are more than comfortable handling it.

Buying a firearm is a big purchase, don’t rush into it. Take your time and choose the best shotgun for you

*All photos used by permission from Brad Alan

how to make a european mount

DIY Deer Skull | How To Make Your Own European Mount

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your very own European mount of your recent big game harvest But weren’t sure where to start? We’ll show you how easy it is!

6-point buck
The European mount is a great option for a buck you won’t be taking to the taxidermist. And, it can be done very inexpensively.

The European Mount | A Great DIY Opportunity

On a recent bow hunt trip to South Georgia, my partners and I had identified a wide 6-point with spindly antlers and very small brow tines, as a buck that we felt like would be a good one to go ahead and harvest if given the opportunity.

Well, that opportunity presented itself the very next morning, as I was able to able to take this buck with my bow at about 12 yards, which is always fun and always a blessing.

However, this management buck was not one I was going to take to the the taxidermist.

So, we felt like this would be a great opportunity to show those of you at home how to do your very own European mount.

The “euro mount” process is not near as difficult as it might seem. You can do the entire process as home for as little as $10.

Instructional Video

In the below video, N1 Outdoors® co-founder, Josh Wells, teaches you the Euro mount process, step-by-step. Be sure you watch to the end of the video where Josh teaches you how to prep the head and the skull for this process that he shows you. We hope you learn something. Enjoy!

Learn how to make a European mount | Step-by-step instructional video

Supplies You’ll Need To Make A European Mount

We’ve got a few essential materials that you will need to do European mount. I will go through those with you in just a second.

I want you to know that I’m not a taxidermist. I’m not a professional doing this. But, I have done it several times and over the years and through trial and error, have figured out some of the best practices in doing a Euro mount.

I’ve gotten the product where it has turned out almost as good as what you would get from a taxidermist. So, hopefully this video helps you out.

A few supplies that you are going to need to the European mount are obviously, a knife to skin the head from the skull, a good set of forceps, a screw driver.

items for euro mount
You can do your own European mount for under ten dollars.

You will also need two quarts of hydrogen peroxide and some liquid dish soap. You’ll also need some dark wood stain, masking tape, clear shrink wrap, and a pitcher or a big cup to add water to the pot as it’s boiling.

  • Knife for skinning
  • Forceps
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 Quarts Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Liquid Dish Soap
  • Dark Wood Stain
  • Masking Tape
  • Clear Shrink Wrap
  • Water Pitcher

How To Make A Euro Mount Step-By-Step

boiling deer skull
In just 5 hours, you can have a European mount for your deer skull that you can be proud of.

Time needed: 5 hours.

How to do your own European mount…

  1. Remove the skin of the deer head

    Using your knife, remove the skin from the deer head and remove the lower jaw.

  2. Boil the skull

    Add 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap to the water in the pot you will boil the skull in. On a very slow boil, simmer the skull for 4 hours.

  3. Remove tissue

    After you remove the skull from the water, use your knife and forceps to remove eyes, tissue and tendons from the skull. Use the screwdriver to remove the ear buds so you can access the brain cavity. Remove the sinus tissue with the forceps. Use a water hose to spray in the brain cavity to remove the brain tissue.

  4. Add Peroxide

    Add 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide to your boiling water.

  5. Wrap antlers

    Use shrink wrap to wrap around the bases of the antlers to protect them from being bleached. Secure the plastic wrap with masking tape.

  6. Boil skull again for 30 minutes

    Put the skull back in the water containing the peroxide for another 30 minutes.

  7. Remove shrink wrap and touch up as needed

    Remove the deer skull from the boiling water and touch up the bases of the antlers with the dark wood stain if there has been any bleaching.

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Time Requirements

This whole process will take about 5 hours. You will boil the skull on a very low boil for 4 hours. Then, you’ll need to budget about 30 minutes or an hour for cleanup and for bleaching the skull (bleaching will take about 30 minutes.)

The key to the process is the 4 hour boiling time. If you do it for 3 hours, it’s not going to come off as good. Slow simmer for 4 hours works best. If you boil it too hard, it’s going to weaken the bone and you’re going to break some bones. So, be sure it’s a slow simmer. Don’ try to do it too fast.

Remove Meat and Tendons

removing tissue from deer skull
After boiling, remove eyes and tissue from the skull.

After 4 hours of boiling the skull in the liquid dish soap, the meat around the skull will be very tender. You just work your knife in and remove the meat and the tendons as best as you can. Much of the meat will just fall away during this process.

You don’t want to get too aggressive with it because you can pop a bone loose.

The most aggravating part is around the eye sockets because all the eye sockets connect to the inside of the skull in the brain (we’ll cover how we are going to get the brains out shortly) and it makes them a little bit harder to get to.

Remove The Ear Buds

All After you’ve gotten all the meat scraped off, it’s now time to pop the ear buds out. This is how we get the brains out.

Take your screwdriver and work it around in the ear buds and pop them out.

removing sinus tissue from deer skull
Remove the sinus tissue from the from the skull with forceps.

Remove Sinus Tissue

Now use the forceps to remove all the sinus tissue.

You need to get everything out of the sinus cavity because anything that you leave, will cause the bone to turn yellow. It may take two or three years for it to happen, but I’ve had it happen.

Be gentle while the skull is hot, because if you are too rough while removing the tissue, you could break the bone.

And, if you do break the bone, don’t worry. Sometimes the bones at the bottom of the nose will come loose if these tendons get cooked too long. If they do, you can put them back with super glue. So, don’t worry if they come off. You can super glue them back.

Get as much of the sinus tissue as you can from the front side and then you can get the rest under the brain cavity.

rinsing out deer skull brain
Use a water hose to rinse out the brain cavity.

Remove The Brain

Once you get the ear buds popped out and you get the sinus cleaned out, you’re going to need a water hose to rinse out the brain tissue.

Some people will use a pressure washer for this step. I don’t like using a pressure washer because if you’re not careful, you can damage the bone.

Put the water hose into the hole where the brain is located and flush out the brain matter. Anything left over will break loose once we boil the skull for the second time in the peroxide.

Prep Antlers And Boil Skull In Peroxide

antlers in pot with peroxide
Wrap antlers in shrink wrap and masking tape and boil a second time for 30 minutes.

Once you are finished rinsing the brain matter out of the brain cavity, it’s time to boil the skull for a second time in order to bleach the bone white.

Add two quarts of hydrogen peroxide to the existing pot of water.

Wrap the base of each antler tightly with shrink wrap and secure it with masking tape. There’s not really any particular way that you need to do this other than to just get them wrapped from the base up to the bottom of the brow tine.

Once the skull is placed into the boiling water, the plastic wrap will shrink tightly to the antlers and keep out the majority of the water. Some water may find its way through and that’s why we have the dark stain.

We can come back and if some of these darker parts around the base get bleached a little bit, we just use a q-tip to re-color it and you’ll never know the difference.

Once the antlers have been adequately wrapped, place the skull back into the boiling water and peroxide for 30 minutes.

The Finishing Touches

After the 30-minute boil in the peroxide and water, remove the skull and take the plastic wrap off.

touching up bleached antlersq
Touch up any bleached areas of the antler base with wood stain and q-tip.

The plastic wrap will seem sticky and gummy, sticking tightly to the antlers. And, that’s what you wanted to do because that keeps the peroxide off of the antlers and prevents it from bleaching.

If there has been any unwanted bleaching on the base of the antlers, use a very small amount of the dark wood stain and apply to those areas with a q-tip. You can repeat as many times as you like to get the desired darkness.

But, how do you get the skin off the skull initially?

I wanted to go back and cover the preparation process of the skull before you even start to boil it.

Obviously, you have to cut the deer’s head off. And preferably, you would want to cut it at the last vertebra that connects to the back of the skull. (Normally what happens because the deer’s neck and ears compressed on the spine, is that most people naturally cut about one vertebra back, so you have to two things to cut off before you can start boiling the skull.)

brain lobe of deer skull
to remove the last vertebra, cut just behind the brain lobe as pictured here.

The place you want to be careful about is this lobe on the back of the skull where the brains are. Be careful not to cut into that lobe. Just use it as a guiding point as you cut. Once you cut around it, you will be able to remove the last vertebra.

But while the deer head is lying on the ground, get your knife between the teeth and just cut back toward the back of the head. There’s going to be meat back there, so you want to cut that on both sides, so that you can open the deer’s mouth.

Once you’ve cut, pull the jaw all the way back until the bones that joined up under the brain cavity are loosened. Then then you can remove the meat from around those bones and pop that bottom jaw off.

Now, you are ready to start boiling!

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed this instructional article and video on how to do your very own European mount. We hope you have a great deer hunting season, and remember… where moments happen, we’ll meet you there!

How To Tie The Uni Knot

In this N1 Outdoors® video we show you how to tie the versatile Uni-Knot (or Hangman’s Knot). Step-by-step instructions below video. We hope it helps you Put A Hook N1!

The Uni Knot [Hangmans Knot] | Step-By-Step Instructions

How to tie the uni knot illustration

Time needed: 1 minute.

Instructions for how to tie the Uni Knot

  1. Thread line through eye of hook or lure.

    threading eye of uni knot hook

  2. Grab the “tag end” of the line (the end NOT connected to your spool).

    grabbing tag end of uni knot

  3. Make a loop with the tag end of the line.

    looping tag end of uni knot

  4. Pinch the top of the loop you just made against the line with your index finger.

    holding uni knot loop end against line

  5. Loop the tag end of the line inside and around the top of the loop 5 times.

    loop the tag end 5 times

  6. Slowly pull the tag end away from the hook/lure.

    pulling tag end of uni knot

  7. Trim the tag end of the line. FINISHED! You have completed the Uni-Knot!

    trimming tag end of uni knot

See below for video transcript of how to tie the Uni-Knot

(Uni Knot video transcript)

Hey everyone. We know many of you enjoy learning how to tie different types of fishing knots. You may have watched some of our other videos on how to tie the palomar knot, or double palomar knot.

Today, we’re going to show you how to tie the uni knot, sometimes referred to as the hangman’s knot. And, it’s not a very difficult knot to tie, but we want to show you how to do that. And, it’s a great knot for just about every fishing scenario. So, it’s a good one to have in your skill set. So, we’re using just a lure today, because it’s a little bit easier to see and hold onto for the video and 12 lb. mono.

So, we’re going to take the line, insert it through the eyelet. And, we’re going to pull about 6 inches or so on the tag end.

You’re going to take your two fingers right here. And, we’re going to just hold them right here above the eyelet.

We’re going to take the tag end and we’re going to make a loop. We’re going to loop it and then we’re going to hold that loop against the line in between those same two fingers. So, this is what it looks like.

We’re going to take the tag end and we’re going to go down behind and through the big loop and then back up and we’re going to keep twisting that around like that five different times. So, we’re going to take the tag end and begin to loop it. One, two, three, four and five. And, when you’re done, the tag end will be sticking up right here.

Now, you can just take that tag end while you’re still holding the line against the eyelet and begin to pull on that tag end. And, you’ll see that knot begin to cinch up in the middle of the line.

Now, you can let go of the tag end, grab the long end. Hold onto the lure and just pull. And, you’ll see that knot cinch down on the eyelet of the lure, or the hook in your case. We’re going to take our snips and snip there.

Now, you’ve got a really strong, very versatile uni knot. And, this knot is great, as I said, for many fishing scenarios. You can use it for line to leader combinations as well. There’s many different uses for that.

So, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to tie the uni knot, or hangman’s knot. And, we hope you Put A Hook N1.

Be sure to check our Put A Hook N1 fishing shirt designs!

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