Hunters tend to fall into a rut when decoying ducks; we use the same weekly spread with declining results. If the weather doesn't push in new birds consistently, you're just showing them the same thing each time you go out. The key is diversity and change. Change is a constant in a waterfowl hunter's life and should be in your spreads, too. If you're hunting mallards, experiment with drake and hen mallard decoys, but if you're hunting different species like canvasbacks, teal, or pintails, you'll need new decoys altogether. Changing the number of decoys and both still and motion decoys can also be very effective.
Goose decoys can also be an additional touch that other hunters in the area are not using and will make your spread the most popular spot. Finding unique ways to attract ducks to your water is crucial. Here are a deadly dozen decoy spreads that you can use this fall to fool even the most decoy-shy birds.
Small meandering rivers can offer some of the best waterfowl action each fall. Many have islands you can set up on, with plenty of shallow water nearby for ducks to lounge in. Locate a spot like this and deploy this spread in open water for some hot action. Notice how the geese act as a blocker on the one side upwind; this will keep the ducks from swinging too wide of your setup.
Reservoirs offer a great place to hunt ducks, but how do you get them to commit to your spread? First, find where they like to go. Not all areas of the reservoir will attract ducks the same. Then show them something new, like this spread. Goose decoys behind your blind on dry land will help convince them this is the place to be.
Is there anything more reliable in duck hunting than the famous fish hook spread? There is a reason why this is a waterfowlers favorite, and hunters can apply it universally with almost any hunting condition.
Not only will it direct the ducks into the landing zone, but it's also easy to deploy with long lines. Numerous limits of puddle ducks and diver ducks fall to this spread every fall.
The Double O may look odd, but it works surprisingly well for many hunters yearly. Give it a try and see how well it works for you. You might be surprised how many ducks flock into it, especially if other hunters in the area do not use it.
At times, it can feel like bringing ducks into smaller, more shallow bodies of water is a challenge. This spread directs the ducks right down the landing zone. It's as if the blocks bring them in like lights on an airplane runway. Keep the sun at your back, or you might miss seeing the ducks coming down the pike.
No matter the water's size or depth, ducks love flooded fields. Hunting them can be as complicated as you make it. This easy deploy spread will be great for those mornings you're running late or don't feel like deploying many decoys. A common addition to this spread is adding a few low-head and feeder decoys on the muddy edges. This has been proven to calm pressured ducks and entice them even more to land.
Flooded timber hunting is a southern tradition that everyone should try a few dozen times. Seeing the ducks coming through the trees, legs down with the sun shining off them, is truly something to experience. But at times, it can be hard to present a good enough duck decoy spread to attract their attention amongst the thick timber. Here's an easy-to-deploy spread to help you fill your limit in the flooded timber this fall.
Finding a well-used slough is like hitting the duck lottery. They are not easy to find and will take some legwork, but generally, they pay off. Here is a go-to spread you should deploy the next time you hunt. It resembles the fish hook spread and works just as well with its smaller size.
Hunting ducks in freshly picked fields is a blast, pun intended. They tend to decoy well and will be coming in to fill their bellies before they continue their trip south. The key to any good field spread is numbers, so invite a few buddies and use their decoys to increase the number of fakes you deploy.
This is the time to get as creative as possible with your spreads. Field hunting allows excessive decoy deployment, as the realism is left up to the hunter. Don't be scared to throw in several low-heads, resters, and walkers to add to the party. Field hunting can bring in the most action if done right, so I tend to lean on the excessive side for my decoys.
Late Season River Spread
Nothing pulls in ducks better than flowing water. The later into the season you get, the less there is. Rivers are usually a good bet to stay open unless Old Man Winter sets in hard in your area. This late-season spread incorporates geese as well to add to the realism.
Potholes can continue to produce even late into the season if you're willing to do extra work. With your hunting partner's help, start breaking the ice up in the frozen pothole into big sheets and sliding them under the remaining ice. Take your time and don't sweat too much, or your hunt could be over before the sun rises. Add some goose decoys to increase invisibility and realism.
Divers do not tend to get as much press as puddle ducks but are still fun to hunt. Here's a classic diver spread that incorporates long lines and numbers. If you can get an excellent-looking raft of decoys deployed around your boat, you should be able to pull them in. This spread mimics the shallow water spread, or maybe puddle duck hunters have learned from diver hunters and copied their spread for shallow water. Either way, this spread will pull the ducks in for you.
Don't be afraid to branch out and try unique spreads and strategies this waterfowl season. Use these as a baseline and add your personal touch that fits your hunt.
I was duck hunting with a friend of mine last year, and I noticed that he was using a spread I had never seen before. It was like a Fish hook-Double O hybrid. In a confused tone, I asked him why. He said, "These ducks see the same decoy spreads every day, and I am sure they get wary. Why not pique their curiosity with something different?"
Happy duck hunting!
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