Duck Hunting on a Budget: Save money on the 7 things you need

Duck hunting, just like any other hobby, can be as expensive as you want to make it. But what if you want to do it on a budget?

Duck hunting on a budget costs between $45-$1,260. This range is dependent on how much money can be saved by borrowing gear, hunting public land, and buying used equipment.

Keys to duck hunting on a budget:

  • Only buy what you need
  • Know what to spend the extra money on, and what to buy as cheap as possible
  • Barrow as much gear as you can

How to Duck Hunt on a Budget

1. Only buy what you need when trying to save money on duck hunting

The first step in reducing waterfowl hunting costs is determining what you do and don’t need.

Technically, all you need is a place to go, state and federal required licenses, a gun, and shotgun shells. Only having these however would make duck hunting quite a bit more challenging than it needs to be. If you’re trying to save money but still want a good shot at harvesting ducks, a realistic list of items you’ll need is:

The 7 essentials needed if you want to duck hunt on a budget:

  1. Place to hunt
  2. Shotgun
  3. Shotgun Shells
  4. Decoys
  5. Warm clothes
  6. Waders
  7. State license and federal duck stamp

Range of costs associated with duck hunting

The table below outlines realistic ranges of costs for duck hunting on a budget:

Essential for Duck HuntingRange of Costs
Hunting Spot$0-$250
Shotgun Shells$15-$45
Warm Clothes$0-$250
Legal Documents$30-$65
Total Costs for Duck Hunting$45-$1,260
Range of costs for duck hunting


2. Saving money on hunting locations:

In some places across the country, you’d have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a day to hunt with a guide or outfitter. While most of these options will provide you with plenty of shooting opportunities, they are expensive and there’re no guarantees when it comes to duck hunting. You may spend all that money and still walk away empty handed.

If you’re looking to save money on a hunting spot, there’re a few options:

Hunt on public land
You might be amazed at the hunting opportunities located near you. Several states have areas that are specifically managed for waterfowl hunting, but there’re also usually conservation areas available. If you’re going to be hunting on public land, it’s essential you do some scouting ahead of time. Take a day or two and visit the areas. This will give you a better “lay of the land”, which will make it easier to get around in the dark, and you’ll be able to determine miscellaneous items you might need to bring along.

Ask a local farmer/landowner
There are many “hidden gems” out there that aren’t open to the public. The best way to look for potential private land to get permission on is to narrow down locations.

GIS maps are great FREE TOOLS to help you determine properties with water on them. This way you can spend your time looking in the right areas, and know the name of the landowner when you go to introduce yourself to ask permission.

*The easiest way to find these maps is by typing “[county and state you plan to hunt in] GIS map” into google. Below is a link to a GIS map example:

Some property owners will let you hunt for free, while others might charge a small fee for it. Either way, this will be much less expensive than using an outfitter or guide.

Here’s our article about Freelance Waterfowl Hunting


3. Saving money on a shotgun:

You don’t need a fancy shotgun to duck hunt. Any fully functional 12 or 20 gauge will do.

See the article below if you’re wondering if a 12 or 20 gauge would be better for you:

20 Gauges for Duck Hunting: Pros and Cons

It can be a pump, semi-automatic, or even an over and under. There are 2 essentials needed for a shotgun that’s used for waterfowl hunting. 1. It has the capability of shooting steel shot without damaging the gun. 2. It has the ability to use either a modified or full choke.

Below are 3 budget friendly options for a duck hunting shotgun:

  1. Buy a used gun from a trusted dealer
  2. Borrow one from a friend or family member
  3. Buy a reasonably priced new shotgun. Check out Field and Stream’s article about budget shotguns

4. Buying shotgun shells on a budget:

There’re so many different shotgun shell options available it can make your head spin. Here are 3 tips for saving money on duck hunting ammo:

  • Buy in bulk and split the cost with a buddy
  • Buy shotgun shells in the off season
  • Don’t feel the need to buy the latest and greatest

Read our best shot size for duck hunting article to determine which is best for you.

5. How much do you need to spend on decoys for duck hunting?

You can buy an effective duck decoy setup for $100. By spending spending up to $200, the quality of the spread will increase exponentially.

Best Decoy Spread for a $100 Budget:

  • Flat/Matte Spray Paint: $10-$15. DON’T use any paints with gloss or reflective sheen. You don’t have to repaint the entire decoy to bring it “back to life”, and really only need a few colors: 1. Off white (stone color) 2. Light Brown 3. Forrest Green 4. Black

Here’s a video walking through the repainting process. They are using these to hunt divers, but you can customize to match the species in your area.

  • Jerk Cord: $30-$45. Instead of buying a motion decoy, the best bang for your buck with a $100 decoy budget is to go with a jerk cord. This will allow you to create motion throughout a large portion of your spread without using your entire budget on a single decoy. Check out current amazon pricing and reviews of our favorite jerk cord:
  • Used Duck Floater Decoys: $40-$60. Buy as many used floaters as possible with the remainder of your budget. Shoot for a minimum of 1 dozen, with 2 dozen being exponentially better. Species and size don’t matter. You’ll be painting over them so their current look should be of little concern. What DOES matter, is that they don’t have holes in them. No matter how good they look, if they don’t float, it’s tough to attract ducks with them! Great places to find used decoys for repainting is Facebook marketplace and local garage sales.

Best duck decoy spread for a $150 budget:

One spinning wing Decoy: $60-$95. It sounds like a lot to spend that much of your budget on one decoy. The reality is, it will open up your ability to attract ducks from much further distances away. Hunting without a spinning wing decoy is absolutely possible. It does however require that you set up in a spot the ducks are already frequenting vs being able to use the spinner to attract ducks that hadn’t planned on making a “pit stop” close to you. Species and size does not matter that much (as long as it’s within a reasonable resemblance of the size of a duck). Our top pic for a budget friendly spinning wing decoy is shown below. Click on the image below to check out pricing and reviews on Amazon:

Flat/Matte Spray Paint: $10-$15. The same as mentioned above. Buy 4 colors: off white, light brown, forest green, and black. Make sure to only use paint that has no gloss and is non reflective.

Used Duck Floater Decoys: $40-$80: As mentioned above: You’ll be painting over them, so size, species, and color make little difference. Just make sure they don’t have holes in them. Get on Facebook marketplace and or go to a garage sale and get as many as you can with the remainder of your budget. With this dollar amount, you should be able to buy 2 dozen minimum. Go for quantity over cosmetics, the more the merrier.

Best decoy spread for a $200 budget:

A single Spinning wing decoy: $60-95. As mentioned above, it’s worth spending this much of your funds on a single decoy so you can expand the range of ducks you can attract.

Jerk Cord $30-$45: This is a cost efficient way to add motion to your spread. The motion instills confidence in ducks that are working you.

Bargain Duck Floaters: $60-$110: At this spending level, you can afford to buy new, cost friendly decoys. This is a step up from used because they’ll last longer, and they can be repainted as needed (probably every 3-4 seasons). Once again, buy as many as you can, but this time buy teal, mallards, gadwalls, or wood ducks. They can all be the same species, or best to get 2 different species to add realism. Check out Amazon reviews and pricing of our favorite bargain floaters by clicking on the image below:

*Note: With all of the above options, you’ll need some type of decoy weight. These are attached to the decoys to prevent them from floating away. These can be made from just about anything, so I didn’t include them as an expense in the above examples. You can use: Nuts, bolts, washers, fishing weights, etc. As long as they weigh at least 3 oz. and can be attached to a string they will work.

DIY Duck Decoy Weights:

6. Duck hunting clothes on a budget:

This might seam like something you can go cheap on, but it’s actually one of the essential items that I would recommend NOT buying the lowest cost option you can find. Because I haven’t included a blind bag or other gear carrying device on this list, it’s going to be essential that you have a coat with enough storage to carry your “stuff”. Stuff would include: snacks, shotgun shells, hand warmers, hunting license, etc.

*Because I haven’t included gloves on this list, it would be very beneficial to look for a coat with not only storage pockets, but also insulated ones you could keep your hands warm in. Another feature to consider when looking for a coat is shotgun shell holders on the outside. This frees up the other pockets for additional “stuff”.

Unless you’re duck hunting with a dog, in a field, or with a boat, you’ll need to buy waders for duck hunting. This is because you’ll need to get in the water at some point to set decoys and retrieve downed ducks. Because most of your time hunting will be in colder weather, I would recommend spending the extra money and buying a pair that’s insulated. Just like with with a coat, waders with storage pockets will come in very handy.


7. Save money by barrowing gear:

It may go without saying, but the best way to save money is to borrow gear. While this may seem great, there are a few things to watch out for when barrowing certain items:

Coat: Check it for fit and holes. Make sure the zippers work properly. Evaluate pocket space to ensure you can carry what you need in it.

Waders: Make sure they fit properly. Walking around in waders that are too big or small can really diminish the fun factor when duck hunting. CHECK THEM FOR HOLES! You’d be amazed at how many pairs of waders have holes in them.

The only way to truly find out if they will leak, is to go to a local pond or lake and take them for a “test drive”. If you do find out there’s a leak, most of them can be fixed with a repair kit. This would be MUCH more cost efficient than buying a new pair.

Shotgun: Believe it or not, this can be one of the easiest items to borrow. Many people have shotguns stored away that they haven’t used in years. Before using it in the field, make sure it’s patterned correctly.

Decoys: Go to a local pond or lake and toss them in to make sure they float. If you do find holes, a little patchwork using hot clue can usually do the trick. Also, make sure to ask the person you’re borrowing the decoys from if you can repaint them. You’d be amazed at how a little flat/matte spray paint can bring duck decoys back to life. The person you’re borrowing them from will probably be more than happy you did it!


License(s) and Stamp:

Every hunter (over a specific age based upon state) will need to have the proper legal documentation. At a minimum, you’ll need:

  • State hunting license
  • Migratory bird license
  • Federal Duck Stamp
  • *Note: Each state has different rules and regulations for duck hunting. Make sure to check with your state’s conservation department to determine what licenses you’ll need.

Nice to have but not needed if you’re on a budget:

If you still have room in your budget after getting the essentials, I would recommend spending it on the following in order of priority listed out below:

  1. Head Lamp
  2. Marsh Seat
  3. Decoy Bag
  4. Blind Bag
  5. Duck Call
  6. A-Frame Blind

I think one thing that keeps people from getting into duck hunting is the fear that it’ll be too expensive. I hope you’ve found this article helpful in showing you how to get into the sport without breaking the bank. If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to receive more like it in your inbox, click the subscribe button below.




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