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10 Ways To Improve Your Decoy Spread (Page II)

Sure, you might decoy a duck or two with any old spread, but many migrators are too smart for dated tactics.

6. Motion Kills
One day I hunted a field on a plateau and watched hundreds of honkers drop into a draw over a half-mile away. Even at that distance, the ground seemed like it was crawling. When I glanced at my spread it looked dead by comparison. No wonder every goose in sight bee-lined to that spot. How in the world could I compete?

In those conditions, I couldn’t. But, more often than not, you can fool your share if you add life to your spread, and that means movement.

7. Be a Flight Controller
The easier you can make it for birds to commit and land on their first approach, the more effective your spread will be. Sounds simple, but to prevent birds from circling overhead and scrutinizing it for signs of danger or landing outside the decoys, you’ll need to follow a few basic rules:

Since birds typically land into the wind, make sure you have a spacious landing zone with a clear approach from directly downwind. Don’t force them to fly over clusters of decoys to get there.

If birds are landing on the outside, your landing zone may not be large enough. Hard-hunted ducks could be avoiding the shoreline and be decoy-shy. If you’re on a narrow body of water, try setting your decoys off the other bank so that when they land “outside” the decoys, they’re within easy gun range. Or try placing your decoys 30 yards upwind and set a single or pair in front of you. Ducks will often key on those loner decoys.

If birds are favoring one side of the spread, either move blinds so more hunters can get shots or shift the decoys to funnel them where you want.

8. Orient Your Spread
 When possible, use the sun to your advantage. If waterfowl approach you with the sun shining in their eyes, they’ll have a harder time seeing you. If, however, the sun is in your eyes, it’ll not only blind you but your hands and face will be lit up and easier for the ducks to see.

Ideally your blind will also face the direction in which most birds are coming. Even if the blind isn’t facing directly downwind (where you’d expect the ducks to land), this allows you to watch them the whole way so you’ll know when to call and when to let up or cease altogether. You don’t always have to set up with the wind at your back. Sometimes setting up for crossing shots will give you a tremendous leg up.

9. Keep Up with the Joneses
In hard-hunted areas it’s good to know what the competition’s doing. For the same reason you shouldn’t hunt the same spread day after day, you also don’t want a spread that looks like everyone else’s. It doesn’t hurt to scout other hunters from time to time. Then you can adjust the size of your spread, the decoy style … whatever options your decoy stash might offer that’s different from theirs.

Where you set up can likewise make a huge difference. If most guys are hunting along fencerows because there’s little cover in the fields, figure out how to hide where they can’t. Timing can also play a big role. In public areas most hunters slug it out from first light until 9 a.m., then call it a day. Set up later in the morning and you might have the whole area to yourself when ducks and geese are returning from feeding in fields or migrating through your area.

10. Don’t Be Lazy (or Rely on Luck)
Whenever birds show they’re not interested in your rig, it’s time to change. If the first three flocks pass within easy sight and don’t waver in your direction, it’s time to move; you’re not in the right spot, even if you watched them bomb in there the day before. If they cup up but veer off just outside gun range, something’s wrong. Sitting back and hoping the next bunch won’t react the same way is just wishful thinking.

When they’re not showing you the love, hop out of your blind and check your setup. Maybe a decoy’s tipped over or a blind’s not hidden well enough. Maybe the wind shifted and now you need to reorient the blinds or spread. Perhaps you were sloppy setting out your late-season duck rig and dunked them in water. Now they’re coated in shiny ice. Whatever the reason birds aren’t pouring in, it’s up to you to figure out why and to do something about it before the flight ends. Ultimately, having an effective decoy spread means paying attention to all sorts of details … at least these 10.

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