Off Season Decoy Maintenance

Everyone has a pile of decoys that need a little TLC.

Everyone has a pile of decoys that need a little TLC.

Another season has drawn to a close. By the bitter end, your equipment was looking as ragged as you felt. Now that turkey season is over, hunters have a little time to do some maintenance before the cycle starts all over in the fall. One item that always seems to need a little TLC in the off season is your decoy spread.

CLEANING: Be it caked on mud or dried pond vegetation, decoys can look pretty ragged at the end of a long season. Clean water and a good scrub brush should take off most of the grime. Be careful using soap, some have brighteners that can leave an unnatural sheen on the decoy. Diluted dish washing liquid is OK, but nothing stronger. If you have a large number or particularly dirty dekes, a power washer with a fan tip can come in handy. Be careful to only use the widest tip available and don’t get too close or you will strip the paint from your decoy.

Take advantage of free labor.  Pot-roast scrubbing a season's worth of grime from a decoy.

Take advantage of free labor. Pot-roast scrubbing a season’s worth of grime from a decoy.

CRACK AND HOLE REPAIR: Now that you have the decoys clean and shiny, go through and check each for cracks or pellet holes. Pay attention to the areas along the keel and at the seams to make sure there are no hidden cracks. A great way to check your decoy is to give it a good shake and listen for any water inside to slosh around. Grab the decoy and press down on the back with both of your thumbs to see if you can force air out. If there is water inside, locate the hole or crack and drill it out with a 1/8 inch drill bit. Next drill another hole at the base of the tail of the decoy and hang it, tail down, until it is completely drained. Use epoxy to seal any cracks. For filling the drilled holes, I prefer a hot glue gun. Don’t skimp and use the cheap sticks, they won’t last and you will be back where you started. High quality sticks can be found at most craft stores.

RIGGING: Now that the decoys are cleaned and repaired, go through and check the rigging. If you rig Texas style, check and tighten any loose crimps. J Hook weights and rubber bungee cord rigs should be checked for dry rot and cracking in the rubber cord. For traditional nylon line set ups, check your knot areas for frayed spots. Summer is a great time to get a mold and melt some lead into extra decoy weights.

PAINTING: If the paint on your decoys is faded or peeling, a paint job is just the ticket for making tired decoys look new again. Before you start, use a wire brush and light sandpaper to remove any loose paint chips. Next, use a plastic cleaner (3M makes a good one designed for automotive use) to clean and degrease the decoy. Krylon has recently introduced a new spray paint line called Fusion designed for plastics. It makes a great base coat. Details can be filled in with any outdoor flat acrylic paint in your desired color.

FLOCKING: A step up from painting is flocking. Flocking a decoy coats either the entire body or sometimes just the head with a colored powder that softens the look and reduces glare. It makes the decoy appear much more natural. Many companies produce flocking kits these days. The process is simple. Clean the decoy, apply the adhesive with a brush then apply the powder onto the wet adhesive. An empty restaurant condiment squeeze bottle works well for squirting the dry flocking powder onto the decoy.

BAG REPAIR: While you are working on your decoys, don’t forget to take a look at the bags you carry them in. Repair or replace any broken straps or buckles. Sew or patch any torn spots to prevent them from getting larger. Check for broken draw strings and replace any that need it.