#1. Make sure you are properly licensed

No matter your level of experience, it is always a good idea to review the requirements for any kind of hunting. Regulations and requirements can change season to season, leaving you in the dark and with a possible fine. Just a few minutes looking over what licenses you need can save you some headache and some money. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources calls for hunters to have a Georgia Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, also known as a HIP License. There is also the Federal Duck Stamp that all duck hunters sixteen years of age and older must have. These are in addition to a standard hunting license and a Georgia Waterfowl Conservation license.

#2. Know your limits and the species

Different species of waterfowl have different limits per day, and even different seasons. Although you may see many species of waterfowl while hunting, make sure those you’re shooting are in season. Get yourself pumped up to get out and hunt smart by familiarizing yourself with the characteristics that distinguish the different species. This small refresher course will have you itching to get out in the blind and keep your birds legal. When you’re all caught up on identification, make sure you are aware of the legal limits. Each species of waterfowl has their own limit. While individual species daily limits are small, there is a large diversity in game to keep your season full of action.

#3. Remember to check for leg bands

Waterfowl, like all other animals, are studied. Researchers track and record migration patterns by placing markers such as leg bands, neck collars or webtags on a small percentage the birds. Bringing down a banded bird is a prestigious achievement and is highly celebrated, but with this achievement comes an extra responsibility. It is important to report your banded bird to the Bird Banding Laboratory online at www.reportband.gov or by calling 1-800-327-BAND. This should be done as soon as possible; this way you will be able to report accurate information as to when and where the bird was shot. This not only allows researchers to continue productively monitoring these migratory birds but gives you as the hunter a chance to see where your bird was tagged, the age, the gender and how far it has come. Additionally, you receive a certificate of appreciation as recognition for the smart, responsible hunter you are. You can also get paid for hunting. Although it is very rare to find a reward band, they are out there, and they come with a check for doing something you love.

 #4. Know your options

Since most hunters don’t own their own lake or swamp, and hunting on property that belongs to a friend of a friend can get tricky, public waterfowl impoundments are often the best option. Georgia has plenty of options when you’re trying to find a lake to hunt on, but be sure to read up on all of the rules and regulations you will need to abide by. This is particularly important because different companies and groups that manage lakes, such as Georgia Power Reservoirs, will have varying rules for how much hunting clearance you need around structures.

#5. Keep good company

Hunting for waterfowl is known to be an uncomfortable experience and, unfortunately, it seems the colder, wetter and more miserable you are, the better the hunt. No one can control the weather, but you can help yourself and everyone around you to have a much better time with a little preparation. Safety is priority number one. Keeping yourself warm doesn’t just keep you from being grouchy, but it also protects from hypothermia, so keep hand and foot warmers in abundance. Another important element is camaraderie; don’t hunt with people you don’t get along with. Hunt with those who have a similar tolerance to you for the conditions you will be exposed to. The last thing anyone wants to hear is a string of complaints at the first temperature drop.