I’m fairly new to waterfowl hunting and am still working through the process of figuring out what equipment is really necessary vs what can be left at home, what equipment I like, and how everything “duck” related works in general.
Walking out of the woods this past weekend I think I found the answer to the question “Is a duck tote really a must have item?” The answer is, YES! It is! Not only is a tote a must have, a GOOD duck tote is what’s really required.
While we didn’t shoot a limit, we did have a pretty decent day. When it was over I found myself needing to haul 10 large mallards along with my shotgun and all of my other kit out of wet, nasty, and difficult terrain. I was thanking God that I had my Owen Game Carriers brand Skull Keeper duck strap in my pack. I was also cussing the other hunters that forgot to bring a duck tote with them under my breath at the same time :).
Had we been hunting a typical pond or lake side blind where things are only wet for the first few feet, and the walk back to the truck might only be a couple of hundred yards, maybe any old duck tote would do. This wasn’t pond hunting though. We had been hunting flooded timber. The truck was a long distance away, and the path to get there was rough to say the least. We had about a half mile of total distance to cover, and most of it was through ankle to knee deep mud and bog.
The Skull Keeper is designed to be worn cross body, like a bandoleer. This was a huge advantage over my other duck tote which is worn over the shoulders. The Skull Keeper is also fully adjustable and has a quick release buckle built into it, making it easy to put on and take off. Being adjustable allowed me to cinch the strap down snug enough so that it wouldn’t shift while walking, while leaving it just loose enough to maintain mobility and comfort. Another advantage was that once I got the tote adjusted property my hands were left free to carry other equipment, and I was able to maintain my balance much better than I would have been otherwise if I were constantly having to reach up and mess with a “traditional” carrier draped around my neck.
The Skull Keeper is extremely well made. I’m guessing those 10 ducks weighed in right at about 30lbs. Made of heavily stitched 1” thick webbing, mil spec para cord, steel d-rings, and a solid brass snap, this is a heavy duty tote, that I am sure could have carried a whole lot more weight than I hung on it. I also like that everything on the Skull Keeper is easy to clean and maintain. We were all covered in mud from the hips down after coming out of that bog, and every piece of equipment carried was absolutely filthy by the time we made it back to the truck. Cleaning up the Skull Keeper was as simple as spraying it off with the hose when I got home and then leaving it to air dry overnight. My other tote is made of leather. I worry about it stretching or becoming damaged if it gets too wet or stays wet for too long. I’m glad that wasn’t the tote I took on this hunt.
All of this, and the Skull Keeper is very reasonably priced too!
I was in a big, well known outdoors store on Friday afternoon picking up some last minute items before the hunt and took a minute to look at all of the duck totes they had on the shelves for sale. Prices ranged from $19.99 for totes that were obviously not as well made or thought out as the Owen Game Carrier option, to $39.99 for other totes that were probably similar in quality, but were the more traditional over the shoulder design that I wasn’t interested in. The Original Skull Keeper sells for $15.99 on the Owen Game Carriers website (www.owengamecarriers.com). The 2nd Gen Skull Keeper is $18.99. I think that’s a serious bargain!
For what it’s worth, I’m sold on the Skull Keeper. I don’t see me going back to my leather and brass over the shoulder tote ever again. I’m headed off to Argentina next week to do some dove hunting, and will be taking the Skull Keeper with me. It’s a versatile piece of gear and should work just as well for the little guys as it did for my big mallards. I’ve also got a combo pheasant and quail hunt planned in December and plan on using it on that hunt too. If you follow me on any of my social media accounts check in over the next few weeks. I’ll be posting pics and providing updates on the Skull Keeper there. Also, when you have a minute, go take a look at the Skull Keeper and other products being sold on the Owen Game Carriers website. They are a neat small business. All products are designed and hand made by a hunter in the USA.