Saturday, May 18, 2024

THE WASHINGTON OUTDOORS REPORT October 27 – November 02, 2023



WHEN IT COMES TO DECOYS – MIX IT UP:  Unless you are pass-shooting at birds flying overhead, you are going to want to have decoys to lure in ducks to whatever body of water (or ground) you are hunting.  It’s tempting to buy twelve standard mallard decoys with their heads up looking straight ahead but this doesn’t work very well because it’s very unrealistic and the ducks know it.

Instead, use a mix of decoys starting with different species.  Throw in some teal or pintail or wigeon and a couple of goose decoys with those mallards because ducks of different species co-mingle on the water.  In addition to this, make sure you are using decoys in different poses.  Have a couple of decoys in a feeding position with just their back end showing.  Have ducks in a sleeping position and others with heads turned to the right or left.  Now you are on your way to mimicking what a flock of ducks looks like on the water.

QUALITY DECOYS WORK BETTER:  You can spend a lot or a little on decoys but more expensive decoys do work better.  Cheap decoys, made out of plastic, unfortunately shine in the sun which is not at all natural.  Flocked decoys, made with a felt-like surface, do not give off a reflective glare and are much more effective.

MAGNUM VS. STANDARD DECOYS:  Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s magnum size decoys, 50-percent bigger than standard decoys, were all the rage.  The argument was these larger decoys drew in more birds.  However, that’s not necessarily true.  Shelby Ross, a waterfowl hunting guide who owns Ross Outdoor Adventures, says, “The one advantage of using over-size decoys is that the birds can seen them from a greater distance.”  On the downside, you won’t have as many decoys to put in your spread, especially if you are hiking into your hunting destination. 

SOMETIMES LESS IS BETTER:  Speaking of numbers, what and where you are hunting dictates how many decoys you should use.  If you are field hunting snow geese you will want to have several hundred decoys set up to attract flocks of these birds.  If you are hunting a small pond or creek, you can get away with a dozen decoys or less and have success.  Generally speaking, for most bodies of water you hunt, 18 to 24 decoys will work just fine.

CONFIDENCE DECOYS:  They say birds of a feather flock together but you will often see other birds besides ducks and geese on ponds, lakes or streams where ducks hang out.  That’s why confidence decoys can help bring in more birds.  Examples include a great blue heron decoy you can stake out at the water’s edge or coot decoys you can put at the edges of your decoy spread.

ADD MOVEMENT TO YOUR DECOY SPREAD:  One other issue that’s important when it comes to having an effective decoy spread to lure in waterfowl is movement.  Nothing looks as unrealistic in the world than a flock of non-moving decoys on a flat calm body of water.  In reality, waterfowl are moving around on the water and if you want to simulate that you need to make your decoys come alive.

Battery-operated, motorized decoys are not legal to use in Washington but you can stake in a couple of duck decoys over shallow water that have spinning wings.  These wings will spin in the breeze, giving the illusion to passing waterfowl that these ducks are coming in for a landing.

You can also impart movement to your decoy spread through the use of a jerk string.  Tie a string to a decoy in the middle of your spread and as birds fly overhead jerk on the string, creating a ripple effect in the water around the decoys.

Last but not least, if your blind is in the water near the decoy spread, you can literally kick your feet in the water to create ripples in the water, making your decoy spread appear more lifelike.  Duck hunters in the flooded timber of Arkansas have been doing this for decades.

There you go, a primer on using waterfowl decoys to lure in more birds.  Good luck out there this hunting season.

John Kruse – and



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