Duck Hunting Decoy Tips & Tricks on Spread: How to Set on a River & Pond

Duck Hunting Decoy Tips

The era of the modern decoy, however, was born with the age of the market gunner. This happened especially during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With time, duck hunting has changed a lot. Modern people like to try different techniques, hunting equipment, and hunting decoy tips for a better experience.

Though we deplore the excesses commercial hunting brought about, the perpetrators were nevertheless inventive sorts. They devised numerous ways to take scores of ducks and geese – not the least of which was the use of wooden decoys.

The term “blocks” – still often used to describe decoys – stems from the rough forms of the early wooden decoys.

Modern Duck Hunting Decoy Tips & Techniques


However, from the excesses of the market gunning days, modern decoys have undergone something of a revolution in design. Waterfowlers today have more options for lighter, stronger, and more lifelike decoys than ever before.

These modern creations mean hunters can deploy larger spreads in less time.

duck decoy tips

One can only imagine what effort it must have taken to lug a few dozen soaked wooden decoys from a favorite waterfowling hole. It will also ensure perfect hunting with proper safety and performance.

Use the most number of decoys.

For many waterfowlers – whether hunting ducks or geese deploying the most number of decoys is critically important. Many snow goose hunters have taken this to the extreme, throwing hundreds of white plastics.

Also, banking on the notion that the enormous spread will look enough like a flock of birds to keep the geese from looking at anyone rag. By the time birds are close enough to tell they’ve been duped, they’re usually within shooting range.

Waterfowling guru Tim Peterson says that it’s also important to have enough shooters hidden among the decoys who know how to blow snow goose calls when it comes to fooling snow geese.

However, this defies conventional wisdom because many believe that the deafening call of snow geese often travels in flocks numbering into the thousands.

It is so loud that it would be impossible for them to hear shooters calling from the ground. Peterson’s team of shooters who are past winners of the Bottineau Shootout, a contest to determine the best snow goose hunters in North America, has proven otherwise.

Advanced techniques to use Waddler decoys

Some snow goose hunters, meanwhile, are abandoning traditional rag spreads for more lifelike decoys. Tom Farmer, a designer of Waddler decoys, sees the trend growing.

This happens as snow geese become increasingly difficult to decoy while populations of lesser snow geese have grown exponentially; shooters are taking fewer birds despite increased bag limits and longer seasons.

This stems from the fact that once snow geese have survived a few hunting seasons, they become tough to lure to decoys. The average age of breeding lesser snows on a La Perouse Bay study area. In fact, it is an incredible 12 years old Such birds are nearly impossible to take using conventional methods.

Farmer’s Waddler decoys are cone-shaped creations that attach to stakes shaped and colored like the head of a snow goose. The decoys also wiggle back and forth in even the slightest breeze, hence their name.

More on Waddler decoys

Windsocks take advantage of gusts and add movement to a spread with each breath of wind. Waddler decoys and windsocks are easy to deploy, so hunters who want large decoy spreads and movement can have them.

Mark Higdon, a noted decoy designer, is also convinced that movement in a spread is vital to fooling seasoned Canada geese.

His finisher decoys feature flexible heads and legs. Higdon believes shooters will have the edge over other waterfowlers by adding several of these motion decoys to a spread. Especially whose decoys are merely stationary forms.

hunting duck decoy tips

Most Canada goose hunting in America is done near refuges. So, the birds often have plenty of opportunity to Study decoy spreads continuously deployed by hunters surrounding these refugees.

By late season, these birds have seen just about every kind of decoy spread imaginable. Too many shooters also make the mistake of leaving their decoys in the field throughout the season.

Pick up the decoys after the hunt.

Like deer hunting, waterfowl, goose hunting also needs some special techniques for better performance. Like, after associating gunfire with the static spread, geese will soon learn to avoid such places. Suppose you must hunt from the same blind throughout the season. Pick up your decoys after each hunt; otherwise, birds will quickly discern your decoys from live geese.

Try to shoot your birds out of small flocks, as well, so you don’t divulge the location of your hide. This is also to the entire refugee population of Canada.

Many seasoned guides will also rest blindly for a few days each week and Varying decoy spreads before each hunt. The best option, of course, is to move to the birds by Scouting their movements each day with the best bb rifle for hunting. Canadas routinely return to the site in which they fed the Previous day.

Decoy Position and Spreading in Right Pattern

Goose and duck hunting outfitter and decoy creator Darrel Wise advises hunters to position their blocks in small clusters. This simulates family groups feeding in a field, and Wise does exactly that with his “Real Geese silhouettes.

Also, make sure to leave an opening in the center of the spread where approaching geese can land. He deploys his spread under cover of early morning darkness, having selected the location by patterning the movement of geese the evening before.

waterfowl hunting duck decoy spread tips

He shovels out shallow coffin pits in which to wait for the dawn to deliver the honkers. The lightweight silhouette decoys make up a breeze, and being mobile is a huge advantage to any goose hunter.

To be sure, getting under flights of birds that are departing a refuge to feed is paramount to hunting success.

Setting Up Decoys in the Lake

Ducks of almost any species, however, will come into the lake into the wind. If there are other hunters out, you must make an effort to have the first set of decoys that oncoming ducks will approach; otherwise, you may be hopelessly cut off, and though many birds are flying, you may not get a shot all day.

There are certain rules of etiquette that apply here, though, and you should never put your rig within two hundred yards in front of another man’s blind.

It is infuriating to spend time picking a good spot and laying out a spread of decoys, only to have another hunter come along and push his boat into the rushes one hundred yards in front of your location. This practically amounts to his shooting over your decoys.

Mallard Hunting

Mallards are the most readily decoyed of all ducks and also respond well to calling. To have good results on them, one must put his decoys out naturally and in the correct position relative to his blind.

I like to have the wind at my back and the decoys out in front as much as possible; although this does not give the hunter his easiest shots (duck alighting are most easily hit from the side), it does hide the hunter and his boat from incoming waterfowl.

Cross Wind Duck Decoy Setup

The following best is the crosswind setup, with the wind coming from left to right if you are right-handed, as this provides you with shots that allow easy swinging from right to left. As the diagrams for decoy sets for surface feeders show, the central bodies of the decoys are separated so that there is an open area of water in front of the blind.

If this is arranged correctly, it will cause most of the ducks to land in the open spot in front of the boat. Do not put the decoys too closely together under any circumstances. This discourages ducks from landing in them and causes them to float unnaturally.

How to Set a Decoy Spread for Ducks

How to Set a Decoy Spread for Ducks

If the set is not to the liking of surface feeders, especially mallards, pintails, and gadwall, they will often circle until they either see a flaw in the decoy spread or spot the hunter and fly away.

If the decoys are too closely spaced, they may land far outside of the decoy spread and offer no opportunity for a shot.

Hunting Divers with Decoy in a Large Lake

Hunting divers on the large lakes differs from hunting surface feeders mainly because there are more significant expanses of open water to cope with. It is essential to locate feeding ducks in this kind of shooting. If the lake is entirely devoid of divers, I wouldn’t go out but would look for another lake to hunt.

Once the ducks are spotted, one should proceed to the location quickly and set up at shore, island, or point blind as close to the feeding grounds as possible. If the state laws allow it, a floating blind may be used. It is extremely effective when placed directly in the feeding area or as close as the law will allow in terms of the maximum legal distance for such blinds from shore.

How Far to Set Duck Decoys from Blind?

If you are forced to situate your blind some distance from the feeding grounds by law or some other circumstance, the old market hunter’s pipe may be used to draw ducks within range.

The divers and wood ducks will decoy well if your set is in an area they are attracted to anyway, and they can be called with some success, though not as well as most surface feeders can.

They will frequently swing over the decoys just once and be gone, offering only a fleeting chance for a shot.

Canvasback is especially noted for this. The hunter should be careful not to place his nearest decoys so close to that in all cases.

So, in looking over the decoys, the waterfowl will also see the blind, and the farthest decoys should not be placed so far out, except for various pipe setups, that they will cause ducks to land out of range.

How to Set Decoys on Big Water

Frequently the extensive water areas provide the opportunity to shoot divers and surface feeders at the same time. The best duck decoy setup techniques will be using pintail and redhead setup.

In a situation of this kind, I often set out my mallard and pintail decoys on one side of the blind and the scaup, redhead, and canvasback blocks on the other. This usually works quite well, but at times the diving decoys seem to flare the surface feeders.

This set up helps wood duck and waterfowl as they don’t see below the flooded timber of these baits and most of the time take it.

When this happens, the situation can usually be remedied by moving the diver decoys out another twenty to thirty yards from the blind. I have no idea what causes ducks to flare from another species’ decoys, but it occasionally happens.

Duck Decoy Spread Tactics for Mallard

Marshy set for mallards with two to three dozen decoys set in sparse slough grass. Decoys are spread in a feeding pattern around the boat, which is camouflaged in heavy cover. This is a good set for a calm day. These mallard decoys will be useful for waterfowl and wood ducks.

However, I had had days when almost every flight of mallards and also wood ducks that came in landed right amid my canvasback and scaup decoys. Divers decoy best to their species too, but if they are in a decoying mood, they will usually make a pass over a set of mallard and pintail decoys.

How to Set Decoys for Duck Hunting

How to Set Decoys for Duck Hunting

I suggested spreading out the lures in setting out for surface feeders, which is even more true for divers. Divers come in at high speed and land with a considerable skid.

For this reason, they need more room to land and will not come into tightly grouped decoys. In setting out my diver decoys, I try to keep them about five yards apart.

Arranging the Decoys on the River: Right Placement is Important

Arranging the duck decoy placement on the river, though guided by the same principles used on the lake, is more difficult because of the current, arrangement of sand bars, and so forth.

The swift water is a poor place to set decoys because they don’t float naturally and get washed downstream. The hunter should look for the quiet backwaters and pools and then situate his rig so that an adequate hide can be accomplished regarding the wind.

His decoys should be positioned so that waterfowl trading up and down the river will see them. Unlikely as it may seem, it is often productive to set up decoys for mallards among the shallow rocky riffles and rapids. These shallow water techniques help to attract a flock of geese and other waterfowl downwind.

Mallards like to perch on the rocks and sun themselves, pick gravel, and catch stream larva. Decoys can usually be set dry in this water; they can be placed on rocks.

How to Set Out Duck Decoys on Marshy Island

Decoy set for mallards around the marshy island on a windy day. A duck boat is camouflaged on a marshy island; three-dozen decoys are set crosswind with open space between groups for landing ducks raised areas of gravel or along the shore. Most ducks decoyed in this manner will come in pairs, singles, and small groups of four to six trading up and down the river.

This makes for very exciting shooting and is also very colorful. A good retriever should be used in these locations, or ducks knocked down in the current will quickly drift away.

How to Set Up Duck Decoys on a Pond

In the small ponds and sloughs, I follow one basic rule in selecting my decoy site. I always try to place the decoys near the center of the water as the open patches will permit. When coming into such water, ducks usually try to land as far from the shores as possible for safety.

Use few lures in the small sloughs; a large spread is not necessary and may give the effect of overcrowded water. Usually, six to twenty decoys will suffice in these places.

The rules of keeping the wind at your back and the decoys out in front apply here as elsewhere. Hunting the small ponds, potholes, and sloughs provides shooting on surface feeders almost exclusively.

Best Duck Decoy Hunting Weather

However, there are occasions when very stormy weather pushes divers off the large lakes and onto more protected waters. There is no need to set up diving-duck decoys on these waters, though. When waterfowls come into this kind of water, they will come in regardless of the kind of decoy used.

I have learned that weather makes little difference in decoy hunting on large waters. I have often had excellent shooting on days that have been sunny, warm, and only slightly breezy.

Ignore the old saw about “bluebird” weather being no good for waterfowl hunting. If the hunter equips himself properly, sets his decoys well, and can use the duck call to good advantage, he can have duck shooting in any weather.

Use pattern bird movements techniques.

While most duck hunting is done over water, it’s still a good idea to pattern bird movements. Just as you would when goose hunting, Overland Ducks often like to frequent different sloughs.

Also, the marshes happen at various times of the day. There are, however, several time-honored decoy rigs that will work for either divers or dabblers. According to the Stanford University,

“Diving ducks are ducks that propel underwater with their larger feet that. These legs come out from their short legs from the body.

“Dabblers,” terms used for the ducks, who have small feet. Most of the occasion their legs are placed more forward. Some of the dabblers may dive to feed or to escape predators occasionally. Also, most of the time, they skim and take food from the surface or feed, especially in an area of the lake, where the water is less deep, by tipping forward to submerge their necks.

Although the Wood Duck (not listed) dabbles and shares with the dabblers the ability to take off vertically. It is not ordinarily included in the dabblers.”

These patterns are designed to simulate eating or feeding ducks. And both puddle and diving ducks exhibit unique flock patterns on the water. For instance, diving ducks often feed rows; therefore, several diving duck patterns use decoys in relatively straight lines.

How to Approach Diving Duck

Approaching diving, ducks often fly directly down the line of blocks, choosing to land at the end of the baits where hunters should be waiting for Puddle ducks. They are often more discerning than their diving duck counterparts, especially late-season mallards.

These have survived a gauntlet of hunters from their northern breeding grounds to their wintering sloughs. Especially in the south, Decoys are only part of the equation to take these birds for calling hiding successfully.

Diving Duck Decoy Tips

Also, shooting all determine the outcome of a hunt as with any waterfowling. However, finding a spot where the birds want to be is critical.

To paraphrase the old real estate axiom, the three most important parts of successful waterfowling are location, location, and location as with geese, scout duck movements to find a spot where they want to be, and set your decoys there. And also, you’ll increase the chances of your decoy spread enticing birds tenfold.

Adding space and movement to decoys

Many puddle duck hunters also like to add movement to their decoys. Some attach strings to a few of their floating blocks. So, that they can jerk the strings to get the decoys to move as birds fly past. The movement of ripples on the water sometimes entices ducks to take a closer look, and it keeps the bird’s eyes focused away from you.

Some hunters, however, place their decoys too far from their blinds. When the birds do approach, they are often out of easy shooting range. This happens to direct the birds closer to guns, especially by leaving an opening in a spread perhaps 25 or 30 yards from the blind.

Also, some hunters forget to wear the proper outfits. In any bird hunting, you need the best upland hunting jackets and pants for making less movement and being attentive enough right till the hit.

Also, use a rangefinder to make sure of the distance, for this will help you reduce your chances of wounding and losing birds.

Final Thought

No matter how long you’ve been waterfowling, never cease studying the birds. Also, don’t stop studying their patterns for such information. Studying Duck Hunting Decoy Techniques will give you new insights into better hunting techniques. It will also add enjoyment to your waterfowling experience.

By experimenting with your decoy rigs, too, you’ll discover the spreads that work best in your area. Such ingenuity has been the hallmark of wildfowlers for generations, and with a little image nation, you can add your own traditions to the sport.

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