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Decoy spreads

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What's your favorite decoy spreads for open water and timber? I usually use
'J' or 'U' system, but would like to try different allignments
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Re: Decoy spreads
I've set my decoys in J's and U's and W's and hour-glasses and had success, but I can tell you from decades of flying aerial surveys ...... ducks don't sit that way.

I seldom have to do a double-take on decoy spreads when flying aerial surveys (they are just so obvious), but when I do, it's almost always a set of multiple small, species-specific groups mixed appropriately in the habitat ....... and of course, no continuous spinning wing decoys. Teal and mallards in apparently shallower water near cover; pintails and gadwalls in more open water, with smaller groups of gadwalls associated with coots in the later season; and divers in irregular strung-out groups.

That being said, I've killed so many ducks over UN-natural looking decoy spreads, that I've adopted a philosophy of 'whatever works for you' and I'm grateful for the young, dumb, and physiologically stressed birds that fall for my ruse. It's no surprise hunters kill only 10% of the duck population with how most of our sets look from the air.
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Re: Decoy spreads
Depending on the area I am hunting I either put out 2 separated V's angled approx 45 degrees with a couple of sets of 2 of 3 teal closer to the bank 'OR' I put them out as Larry suggested in separate groups spaced out in the water. Both work Great
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Re: Decoy spreads
Awesome. I will definitely take that into consideration, and see what works best for the area that I hunt. The unnatural look is a good idea. I too have seen hunters do this. Thanks for the feedback and good luck this season!
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Re: Decoy spreads
I try to follow the natural look as Larry stated. Species grouped together with no obvious format. Below are two pictures from the blind. Gray ducks, pintail, widgeon grouped together. Teal and a few divers for color on the outside grouped together. A big hole in the middle for incoming ducks.
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Re: Decoy spreads
I agree with what Larry said
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Re: Decoy spreads
This comment is priceless. If anyone knows about aerial views of canards, it's Mr. Reynolds. I know some folks will stress on decoy looks, spreads, and keeping fresh paint on them, etc..... Ducks see bodies on the water. No rhyme or reason to the setup. Like he said, whatever works, BUT, when we see ducks, we see bodies. Little brown dots on the water, aside from the white of pintails and shovelers.
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Re: Decoy spreads
I use about a dozen teal decoys on one side of my spread,pair up greys and widgeons and put a pair of huge black duck decoys way off to the side,about where a pair of mottled ducks would typically land and sometimes use a pair of pintails,again putting them by themselves and I sometimes employ a spinning-wind greenwing teal drake and toss in pair of redheads and pair of greys on jerk-rig set up(typically hunt solo and often forget to pull doggone string on jerk-rig but when done appropriately,seals de deal more often than not).The spinner I employ has remote so I can turn on and off,depending upon the attitude of the ducks.Did luck out few years ago and shot true black duck and that spread included pair of huge black duck decoys and very few decoys,probably maybe a dozen,all paired up by species(greys and widgeons with at least two hen mallards)!!

Mandevillian
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Re: Decoy spreads
In my opinion, it’s not so much the pattern of the decoys but their location in reference to the wind direction. You will get better and closer shots if you set up with a slightly crossing wind. Put most of you decoys about 20-30 yards upwind of the blind. Let them get in tight and actually pass across the front of the blind before you shoot. They will flare back across the front of your blind and second and third shots are just as close as the first. They won’t be able to get away from you and you can Kill the whole flock. We call it a Rain Out! Good luck this year!
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Re: Decoy spreads
As Proud Pop states if you are able to make the changes it is more important to pick the right place to set up to hunt than what you do with the decoys. Wind direction is always a factor unless you are able to set up in the middle of a pond. I have permanent blinds set up in the middle of ponds and I like that a lot. Most hunters are not able to do it that way so if you are going to set up on a shoreline I always try to set up on a peninsula of some sort. I don?t like hunting in coves.

Shoreline hunting:

If you set up on a peninsula with wind in general direction from behind then I like to put lots of decoys on either side with very few directly in front. It took years for me to figure out ducks often will fly outside or around the decoy spread until they commit to land in the decoys. So do the math, if you are in a cove and decoys are 30 yards in front you that makes for long shots. Do all you can to decrease the length of the shot.

With the decoys I don?t worry much about mix and match just don?t put them close together and depending on how many you put out there should be MOJOS in the mix. Grey?s and teal love the spinners.

There are so many factors that goes into how to set up, pond size, wind direction and even how hard the wind is blowing can affect outcomes. All ducks do have tendencies of how they react to circumstances but there are always wildcards that come into play. The best way to increase the odds of success is to spend the time in the marsh or timber and learn what the ducks do.
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Re: Decoy spreads
I agree with mileypop and do not have the luxury of permanent blinds since I hunt about 100% Federal or Public land but we are extremely well-concealed using huge palmetto branches so ducks have absolutely no idea where we are and Bayoubob and I have beards,though not Duck Commander-style beards and we employ face masks and I go to extremes to conceal everything,including ole reliable Beretta Extrema.I watch what the ducks want to do when they are un-disturbed while I am scouting and think some folks over-scout,meaning scouting too close to Opening Day and cruising all over spooking ducks and disturbing them(basically educating them that pretty soon they will be getting steel flung at dem).What I try to do is to possibly schedule some marsh fishing trips around the week or two before Opening Day and slowly and methodically fish somewhat close to where I might decide to duck hunt and just sit tight right before sunrise to scope out what the ducks want to do and let em land,un-disturbed and try my best to NOT spook em!!!Try using what we use to make blinds as mobile as ever and ya might find a spot on your lease that ducks are using and no where near any permanent blinds,just a thought!!I like nothing more than hunting outta my Chapman pirogue and search for the perfect-sized island with natural cover and just the right mix of SAV(where I have been hunting SAV galore)and predictably,early mornings on Opening Day typical to have 'ducky conversations' with bunch of resident and wary mottled ducks and just getting them to quack back pretty much ensures the rest of the non-wary ducks dat it b cool to fly near dat Palmetto-covered mobile blind!!!Getting DT's from not duck hunting and chasing Honey Island Swamp tree rats doing a decent job of scratching de itch!!!

Mandevillian
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Re: Decoy spreads
Great comments indeed. Ducks will figure out a decoy spread if they look at them long enough. Wind direction and movement are the key. Of course...nothing makes decoys work a good a strong cold front! LOL

Years ago, I got a lease in the marsh. Members of the club were under the impression that too many decoys would scare the ducks. They had convinced themselves that they had to 'Match the Hatch', so to speak. They would only use decoys that looked like grey ducks and teal, very few mallards, etc. We shared responsibilities on blind brushing and setting decoys on work days. I was assigned a certain blind and showed up at the landing with many sacks of decoys. I was chastised and told that I had too many decoys. I said that I intended to put out all of the decoys that I had brought and even add more. I agreed to come out and remove the decoys by myself if it was determined that it was causing a problem. I placed a lot of decoys all around the little island blind using my usual grouping method. There were decoys placed for every wind condition with small openings in between the groups, a lot for ducks to look at.

I killed a limit of ducks out of that blind every hunt, sometimes 3 and 4 man limits of pintails, greys, and teal with a mallard mixed in here and there. I never had to pick up those decoys....

Lessons learned.... Never show up to the landing with a full strap when others are not killing... Lost that lease ;)
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Re: Decoy spreads
Another quick comment... I began filming my duck hunts a few seasons ago and I noticed something. When working ducks with multiple people in the blind, most are not hiding well enough and there is way too much movement. If you can resist the urge for everyone to look, and keep still with your head down, you will decoy more ducks. This does not work well pass shooting ducks but there is a lot to be said for concealment and cover when trying to work ducks into decoys. This one thing will determine your success over how your decoy spread looks to a duck.
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Re: Decoy spreads
Good points duckaholic and everyone else. As far as cover and keeping your head down, that is extremely important. It is tough for some hunters to not look at approaching ducks. Movement is the biggest factor and even face paint and mask can’t disguise movement. That is another huge advantage of setting up with a cross wind. As the ducks approach the decoys the blind and hunters are not in the line of sight of the ducks. They are looking at the decoys and you are not on the other side of the decoys like you would be hunting with the wind at your back. You are on the side of the approaching duck and they will no see you or detect the sight movements of the hunters. Being a guide, I hunt with a lot of inexperienced hunters. The temptation for them to look at the ducks and move too early is something I need to overcome to get them good, close shots. Setting up with a cross wind helps us have better hunts.
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Re: Decoy spreads
I actually tried to employ a trick a buddy suggested and that was to try as much as possible to have a decoy or two behind my blind to entice ducks into swooping down almost on top of ya giving a relatively easy shot about straight on and it worked to perfection(ya gotta be blinded up ridiculously well)every time I used it and on one hunt we stuck a RoBo directly behind us and the shots we got seemed like we tied string around the feet of dem ducks(might have to employ dat trick this coming Opening Day-got few tiny islands just big enough for de Chapman)and will put teal RoBo behind blind along with maybe a pair of mallards and see what dat drags up!!!

Mandevillian
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Re: Decoy spreads
Duckaholic that is a fumy story about the match the hatch. I am amazed how some can make a relatively simple sport into a such a complex sport. If ducks were as smart as some people seem to think they are then why do they fly to groups of plastic decoys? Again, I know ducks do have their ways and can be difficult to hunt but don't over think it as many seem to do.
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Re: Decoy spreads
Mileypop,Well put and I say some of the exact same things about fishermen-sometimes new-fangled lures,etc catch more fishermen than fish and I try to may my duck hunts not nearly a production with as simple spread as possible,other than the possible addition of robo-teal or jerk-rig set up(hunt solo almost 100% of the time and not always easy to blow call and employ jerk string).When I do have ducks skittish,dat jerk-rig set-up often times seals de deal and can't tell ya how many quality ducks like mature green heads fall victim-need to start using Go-Pro for cool videography but dat would make me set up a production of sorts!!!I have to hunt hard and smart as we typically hunt Federal/Public land and dat in itself a challenge!!!

Mandevillian
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Re: Decoy spreads
I agree with not trying to over complicate things, but I also believe in giving myself the best opportunity at success as possible. I know ducks will sometimes decoy into coke bottles painted black, but you won't see me using them. I have a marsh spread, a timber spread, and a field spread. All have species that are found in the areas I hunt. I don't use Mallard decoys in the marsh, except for 1 or 2 hens to mimic mottleds , and I don't use pintails in the timber. Would it hurt my odds if I did? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that matching what is in the area can't hurt. I also put my decoys in groups by spices. I even separate my blue wings and my green wings. I have noticed that the majority of times (not all of the time) blue wings land with blue wings and green wings land with the green wings. When you hunt public land or high pressure areas, you have to throw everything you got at them. If it might help, but surely won't hurt, then I do it. Spread size is another common debate that will never be settled, but we'll leave that for another discussion. Good luck this season!
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Re: Decoy spreads
Funny dat ya mention spread size as I typically start my season with about two dozen decoys and typically end my season with about a dozen,kinda depending upon where I am ending my season.I have noticed over the course of about 10-12 seasons that ducks at ending of season tend to be paired up very nicely and it makes no sense to use greenhead decoys(other than maybe a few hens),unless by chance Arkansas has frozen up and some of their greenheads make their way to us!Love my small spreads and I rarely use any pintails,mostly grey,widgeon,a pair of huge black duck decoys,and a smattering of teal and dat's it!

Mandevillian
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Re: Decoy spreads
I am all over the map, and really base it off of the size hole I am hunting. I trow anywhere between 5 dozen in a large pond or bay to a half dozen in a small pond. I generally go with more is better as long as the birds have plenty of room to land in the kill zone. I adjust based on what I see the birds do from day to day. Last year, I set out a spread of 5 dozen on the last day of the season and had a limit before 9am. It just depends on the situation. It is mostly a gut feel. I am pretty anal about my spreads, and throw out the majority of them myself. Drives my brother crazy because he watches me do it, and wants to help. He'll say ' I'll put them right where you tell me to if you just let me help you'. The problem is, I can't tell him where to put it. I often don't know where the next decoy is going until the previous one is placed. I am constantly drawing a picture in my head of how the birds will work based off of blind location, wind, and specific decoy placement. It's a complicated algorithm that would make Eisenstein blush!
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