Continued from the front page
Every hunter out there has his own ideas on what the proper way to do just about anything is - the proper gun to use, the best load, the warmest jacket, the proper type of waders, the best blind set up, heck, even the best breakfast to eat. But, the thing everyone loves to argue about and no one can agree on is what is the best strategy for duck decoy placement. And, if you’re a newbie it can get pretty darn confusing…a lot of rookie waterfowlers seem to just close their eyes, toss out their spread and hope for the best. Some even pray…but when it comes to throwing out the best spread to bring birds in nice and close, God isn’t on your side. Lucky for you, the Hunting Sensei is.
Here are my top 9 tips for better decoy placement.1.
First and foremost, visibility is key. If flying ducks can’t see your decoys then they are doing you absolutely no good. Don’t bother hiding decoys in cattails or toolies. Don’t put them over in a hidden corner of the field. Keeping the decoys out in the open where they can be seen by high flying birds is the number 1 basic of the game.2.
Don’t spread your decoys out too far. More decoys may be better but if you’ve got your spread out to 100 yards then you’re never going to hit anything. Keep it tight at about 35 yards on the outside. That way, when birds come in you’ll be able to better judge when they are in range. A good rule of thumb to remember is not to shoot until you can see the feet of an approaching duck. Once those little puppies come in to view, fire away!3.
Next, make sure to leave an opening landing zone area for incoming birds. If you’ve got your spread bunched up and without any space, ducks will just move on to the next pond. Give them some place to land and make sure to control what direction that is. You can’t completely control a duck, but if you can influence it a little you’ll notice more kills winding up in your bag. Also, and this is just a general tip as opposed to a decoy tip, don’t shoot at a bird if it is a little high on its initial approach. A lot of ducks will do a flyby or two before they commit to it.4.
When setting your decoys, make sure to note wind direction. You want to have the wind at your back when throwing out your spread. Duck land into the wind and positioning your decoys accordingly can help give you some fantastic shot opportunities. 5.
Know when to ignore tip #4. Take a look at a relaxed group of ducks in the water and tell me what you see? That’s right, they aren’t all facing in the same direction. I like to have 1 in 4 of my decoy facing in a different direction (figure 25-30%). What this does is help show high flying birds that your little pond is a safe, calm haven for feeding. A flock of birds all facing the same directing will appear to be agitated and ready to bolt. Changing up your decoy positioning will help bulk up your kill ration in no time.6.
Add a little motion to your spread. Use battery operated decoys, wind activated decoys or flagging to give your spread a bit of life. Ducks are used to seeing splashing, movement and feeding, and motion decoys are a great way to simulate that. Big Steven and I use flagging when we go goose hunting and that technique works just as well with ducks. 7.
Don’t forget color and contrast. Increase the visibility of your decoys by using more drake mallards or drake bluebills in your mix. Try placing darker decoys in light patches and lighter decoys in darker patches. Mixing dark and light colored decoys in the same spread can work as well.8.
Keep your most realistic decoys closest to your spread’s landing zone or open area. This lets approaching birds see them clearly. Take your less realistic decoys (your flags or silhouettes) and keep them further out and less visible to birds who have committing.9.
“V” is for victory. A great basic and effective pattern for decoy placement is in a “V” or crescent pattern with the point or head facing into the wind since that is where ducks prefer to land. The area between the arms of your “V” are where you want birds to land. You also want to make sure to have hunters covering all angles of approach.
And that should do it. Just remember, ideas are like butts — everyone has one and they all stink. Well, except for mine. Now get out there and use these tips to help bag your limit.
Until next time, happy hunting!
- Steven D., the Hunting Senseihttp://www.huntingsensei.com