By Travis Thompson
The season has ended . . . Now what?
There are only so many things you can do to bide your time until September . . . And tops on many hunters’ list is shopping for deals on waterfowl equipment.
Here are some tips on where, how, and when to find the best deals on used (and maybe some new) equipment.
First – begin scouring the usual suspects. Facebook groups are a great place to score a deal on blocks of decoys. I belong to several nationwide groups that blew up with guides changing out inventory at the end of the season . . . If you want to be early on these deals, make sure you turn on the alerts for the group so you see new posts. Many sellers will post with the thought “let’s see if there’s any interest” . . . 10 minutes later they’re besieged with PM’s and comments.
Another spot I frequent, particularly for large groups of diver decoys, is eBay. You can sometimes message with a seller and obtain a quantity discount, as well as discounts on shipping, on top of the already low prices.
Finally, there’s Craigslist. Diligence is key here. If you’re really looking to stock up, use a search aggregator a la searchtempest.com to search multiple Craigslist cities/regions. You’re able to set a mileage radius to search. At this moment, a cursory search of my house came back with 22 people selling decoys within 50 miles. Another advantage to Craigslist is the “haggle.” If you can get the seller on the phone and commit to a quick sale, there’s usually a discount to be had.
Has anyone ever NOT been shopping for a gun? Seems counterintuitive with new models coming out every year. If you’re not hellbent on shooting the latest and greatest, there are always a few great deals available post-season.
First up is the aforementioned Facebook groups. It’s astounding how many hunters almost “shut it down” at the end of the season, and liquidate much of their paraphernalia. Why this phenomenon occurs, I’m not sure – some probably need the cash; others are looking to upgrade during the off season.
This means there are deals to be had on “last year’s” models . . . This season, with Benelli releasing the SBEIII and Winchester the SX4, many brand loyalists are looking to make the switch. I’ve seen both “older” models for sale at $300-$600 off the normal “out the door” price.
You’ll also find hunters just simply looking for a change. They’ve shot that A-5 for 10 years and want to try something different.
All of this is fantastic news for those of us looking to bargain shop in the basement of their impulsivity.
Facebook requires gun groups be kept “secret” so they’re a little more difficult to crack into. Post on your wall asking your friends to add you to these groups. Also, don’t be afraid to go “fishing” for the gun you want . . . A simple “looking to find a Beretta A400 – cash in hand” will sometimes cause a seller on the fence to pull the trigger . . .
Regional gun trader and broker sites are also good places to look, as well as the “used” table at your local Gander Mountain.
This is the dicey one. The best time to buy a boat, traditionally, is Fall and Winter. That’s because folks use them in the Spring and summer and then look to sell. The opposite is true for duck boats.
The best time to buy one is late in the season (Late-Dec) through March. You’re looking at vessels that are being sold for several reasons: a mechanical problem; cash restraints; or the season is coming to a close and they are looking to move an asset.
Mechanical problems on boats with surface or long tail motors are not generally expensive fixes. These are basically souped up lawn mower engines; general maintenance is fairly simple to perform, and even more “complex” items like carburetors and belts can be DIY’d with some help from YouTube. All this to say mechanical issues shouldn’t necessarily be a turn off.
On aluminum boats, check the seams/rivets . . . I would recommend never buying a boat without a wet test, a ride to check for leaks and to see performance.
The main recommendation I have for buying a duck boat is to be ready, cash in hand . . . In markets like Florida, Arkansas, and the Mississippi Delta, the good ones don’t last long . . . Stay diligent. Put the word out that you are looking for a good deal . . . A good place to start is, again, the Facebook groups – but don’t constrain yourself to local deals. You can sometimes save thousands of dollars if you’re willing to drive off the beaten “flyway” a bit for a good deal. I know of one acquaintance who drove from South Carolina to New Hampshire – extreme, maybe, but he saved almost $4k on a nearly new boat (the owner had relocated).
Search different terms on Craigslist – not just “surface drive” or “duck boat” – be specific on brands and misspellings . . . Indexing on many of these sites is seller-dependent, which means someone who spells their motor “Gatortale” won’t show up in a “Gatortail” search. Stumbling across this mistakes can often result in a steal, as the seller won’t have had as much foot traffic.
Long lines. Waders. Jackets. Jerk rigs. Sleds. All those items that cost top dollar in September can be found if you know where to look and what to look for.
Most local communities will have Facebook swap groups – garage sales, waterfowl gear for sale, Central Texas Duck hunters . . . These are great places to look for the big ticket items, boats and guns, sure, but you can also seek out specific items. I’ve found waders for both of my kids on this type of forum before, just by asking.
eBay, again, can also provide some deals for resellers looking toward fishing season. Most mom and pop shops don’t want to run an inventory of waterfowl gear all summer long, so sometimes you can find rock-bottom prices in March, April, and May.
Finally, for sites like the Facebook groups and Craigslist, remember this isn’t retail . . . If you stumble across someone with decoys for sale, see if they have any items you can “bundle” for a discounted price. You’re trying to catch the seller “dumping” gear he doesn’t believe he’ll need or want anymore. When you pick up the decoys, ask if he has any waders or jackets.
This is also the point in the story where I’d tell you to be diligent surrounding the larger waterfowl retailers – Bass Pro, Cabelas, Mack’s, Rogers, Academy – all will usually run blowout sales after turkey season to liquidate excess inventory. Subscribe to their e-mails and watch them for special deals, closeouts, and coupons or rebates.
Sure, this isn’t glamorous, but come next fall, when your buddies are envious of your spread, you can smile and know you’ve saved mountains of cash. And it feels even better after you start to pile up the ducks!