Changing Up Your Decoy Spread

Mallards, gadwalls, wigeons, pintails and teal all fly great distances for winter migration and do you know what they all have in common? They all get shot at and see more of the same looking decoy spreads along the way. Making them more and more wary of decoys as the season goes on.

I’m not going to give ducks credit for being smart animals and having the capability of telling the differences between a real duck and a fake duck. They have a brain the size of a pea. But I will give them credit for being able to recognize the same old decoy spreads time after time and coming to realize or having some sort of instinctual trigger kick in making them say hey every time I fly into a spread like that one I get shot. If they weren’t able to detect danger waterfowl would have went extinct a long time ago.

Most duck hunters have an all mallard spread and who can blame them. Everyone loves shooting limits and mallards and they are the most dominant species of duck in North America. But how often do you just see mallards sitting in a field or on a pond. Not very and I am willing to bet that there is another species of duck sitting in there with them. So why not have more than one species in your decoy spread. It will help lure in other species of ducks to fill out your limit and also set your decoy spread apart from other hunters. Especially helping out when you’re hunting high pressure hunting areas.

I am going to leave you with one more thought. Confidence decoys. They say to ducks all clear everything is safe down here. Goose decoys are a popular choice and will feed in the same area as ducks and will also give you a chance of being able to bag a goose or two if you are lucky. Herons or cranes are another popular option and are some of the wariest birds and by placing one 45 yards or more outside your spread will help instill safety in your decoy spread to other ducks. If you are hunting in an area where coots are around I recommend giving them a try. They often feed in the same areas as ducks and I guarantee you will be one of the few hunters that use them. Just place them on the side of your spread. You may get laughed at by fellow hunters when you pull out your coots, but you will have the last laugh when you are on your way home with a limit of ducks and they are still sitting in the blind wondering why ducks aren’t decoying into their spread.

A Breeze might turn to a storm

Drake, the Innovators in Waterfowl Hunting recently released a whole new type of decoy.  Drake’s Breeze-Ryder™ Decoys brings a change in the way your wrap your decoy line and it’s movement in the water.

Each Breeze-Ryder™ Decoy comes with integrated Cord Wrap Cleats allowing you to wrap your decoy line without a keel providing maximum movement.  These molded Cord Wrap Cleats offer durability and strength.  Located at the front and back of the decoy, the Cord Wrap Cleats have built-in Depth Adjuster Cord Locks for quickly adapting to different water depths.Drake-Breeze

The Cord Wrap Cleats are also equipped with Anchor Points providing you with two rigging points.  There are also two other extra Anchor Tabs allowing for rigging your decoys from multiple positions, which creates variable decoy movement.  Change your tabs on different decoys to give your spread a mix in movement.

Drake didn’t forget about the times when a keel is needed, so they introduced a new type.  The Breeze-Ryder™ Twist-Lock Keel is designed for those hunting situations that require a keel.  This cylindrical (circular cylinder) shaped & sand filled keel is unique and provides a hydro-dynamic, minimizing drag & maximizing decoy motion.  Drake-Breeze2The keel attaches to the decoy with a simple twist-lock mechanism which will keep the keel securely in place.

The new Breeze-Ryder™ Mallard Magnums retail for $70 while the keel’s MSRP are $12.00/half dozen.

Life-Like Look and Rotating Motion…

One of the most anticipated part of being a duck hunter is the start of Dove season.  We get to practice our leading while shooting those fast flying and tasty birds.  In the recent years, motion Dove decoys hit the market running at a full sprint.  Most hunters would either have a wind operated decoy or a battery operated decoy along with a small bag full of “clip-on” decoys normally found clipped to a tree limb or bob-wire fence.  This season, we have a cool new product that won’t break the bank, but help bring more Dove-closer.

dff_web_page100Hunter’s Edge released their Dove Feeding Frenzy alongside their Winged Dove Decoy.  The Dove Feeding Frenzy features three of their Winged Dove Decoys, which are hand painted to not only look real, but move just like the real thing.  The Dove Feeding Frenzy rotates in a clock-wise circular bumping motion, making these decoys simulate feeding on the ground with other Doves.

The Winged Dove decoy is a single decoy that comes with a 24-inch stake allowing you to place it in a cut field or anywhere else where there is not an object for you to clip it to.  However, when you’re hunting along a fence line or bank of a pond, the Winged Dove Decoys has a high quality metal clip for fences, tree limbs, a stick on the ground, etc.

How to Start Duck Hunting

Submitted by: Caleb Wilds

WARNING! Duck hunting can be highly addictive and may change the way you spend your time, money and energy!

If you want to learn the art of duck hunting there are a few basics you need to get started.  I’m not going to lie, it is possible to go to your local sporting goods store and buy a dozen duck decoys and go to your honey hole and have a good hunt. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But what I am going to recommend is going to help you have more enjoyable, successful hunts.

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When someone asks me about duck hunting the first thing I say is once you start it is hard to stop. The second is I am serious. I have converted a lot of deer hunters into duck hunters. The third thing I tell them is before you go out and spend a lot of money on decoys, waders and other hunting accessories go on a couple hunts first and see if you really do like it. Even though I love it! It is not cut out for everyone.

Ask a buddy- Having a friend who knows what they are doing is a big asset to have when you first start out. Even if you don’t have waders, decoys or even a spot to go to they more than likely will. So you won’t have to worry about wading in the water to retrieve ducks and decoys or where to go. They might even have a pair of waders you can borrow. The other bright side is it gives you an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the do’s and don’ts. I can’t emphasize enough on asking questions. Because the more you know the better chance you will have of having a successful hunt when you go out on your own. A friend can also help you identify breeds of duck you are shooting and help make sure you are hunting within the regulations.

If you don’t have a friend to show you the ropes the second thing I recommend is go on a guided hunt or two. They are professionals and more than likely the reason they are guiding hunts is they know what they are doing and usually have a high success rate. Another good thing about being guided is the only thing you need to bring is you and your gun and it will give you a taste of the sport. Again ask a lot of questions. Learn as much as you can and they will usually have good pointers for beginners.

Places to Hunt- If you don’t have anywhere to go hunting go online and look for public hunting lands. You can usually find lakes that allow hunting to the public. But if you want a little less competition spend a little time and gas and drive around looking for waterfowl and once you found them ask the property owner for permission. You might get told no a few times. But you will never find a place unless you ask. Offer your services to help around the property doing work in exchange for permission to hunt will also help you get your foot in the door.

Decoys- A dozen decoys to start out should do. I will recommend getting mallard decoys as they are the most persistent breed of ducks in North America and most other breeds will land with mallards. Don’t forget a decoy bag. In a perfect world I always recommend setting up with the wind at your back and set the decoys in a U or hook with the biggest group closest to you. I know it is not always possible so you can set up with the wind coming from your side and never set up with the wind blowing in your face.

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Remember do your homework and scout ahead. You can have all the decoys in the world and the ducks still won’t come if you are not where they want to be. The only point of decoys is to get them to land where you want.

Concealment- You will never shoot any ducks if you stick out like a sore thumb. Use natural grasses and vegetation when you are building  a duck blind. Ducks have very good eye sight and can see color better than we do and depend on that to keep them safe. Also having a roof or some sort of cover over your head  will help hide you more and come  in handy later in season when the birds become more weary and fly around a couple of times before committing.

Shotguns and Shells- There are an assortment of shotguns and ammo to choose from and you really can’t go wrong with any. You don’t have the best of the best shotguns that are semi automatic and chamber three and half inch shells. A 12 gauge pump that chambers three inch shell will do just fine. In fact many hunters use a pump and brag about their dependability. It’s also important to pattern test your gun to see what shell and choke combination gives you the best result. If you have to choose one choke I recommend a modified for most beginners and many waterfowl hunters prefer them. Try and refrain from sky busting. Even if you are having a bad day, all that results in is wasted shells and injured birds that you will not retrieve. Remember no lead!

Waders- Wader’s one of the most important things to have when duck hunting. A pair of hip waders will get you around. But a good pair of chest waders will get you all most anywhere. Waders aren’t a thing to go cheap on either. Go ahead and spend the money and buy a good pair with at least 800 grams of insulation. The more insulation the better! If you don’t you will get cold and miserable and give up before you even get started.

wilds_studio5Calls- Buy a double reed and instructional CD. You will be able to learn while you drive around. Even if you are only able to give a quack it will help make your spread look more realistic. The number one mistake most novice callers make is they call too much and you are better off leaving it at home until you become a decent caller and understand how it should be used.

Conservation- Once you get hooked I recommend that you get involved in waterfowl conservation. They do a lot great things for the sport and make sure that great duck hunting will be here for years to come.

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.

Low Pressure Tactics for High Pressured Ducks

Submitted by: Michael Pendley

We’ve all been there. The scouting trip from the previous evening had pinpointed that perfect public land spot. The birds had poured in, the cover was thick enough to hide in and the wind was forecast to be perfect. Early the next morning you make the trek back to the spot, hopes high and spirits soaring with the promise of the high paced shooting to come. Then you see it, the tiny pinpoint beam of headlights in the distance that lets you know someone else had marked the spot as well. Or even worse, you get there and place your decoys, build your makeshift blind and hunker down to wait for shooting light only to watch someone come in and set up on top of you, ruining both your chances for a good hunt.

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Photo courtesy of B. Pendley

Or maybe you have had the spot mostly to yourself for a while now. Several good hunts have resulted and it has been a pretty spectacular season so far. But lately the ducks are shy, flaring farther and farther out and refusing to work. No amount of added decoys or pleading calls can coax the fowl into shooting range. It is clearly time to make a change.

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Photo courtesy of B. Pendley

It’s time to make a move. Hang up the decoy bags and break out the maps. Downsizing the water you hunt and the equipment you use can be just the ticket this time of year. Follow these simple steps to get back on the ducks.

Internet scouting can work: No, I am not talking about scanning the forums for grip and grin photos of successful hunts then paylaking their spots. Instead, pull up your hunting area on Google Earth or Wikimapia.org. Can’t get good images of your spot? Pick up a good old fashioned topo map of the area. Think back to previous hunts and scouting trips in the area. What flight path did most of the birds use?  Check that area for smaller ponds and creeks away from the road. Keep an eye out for hardwood timber areas where beavers might have dammed a creek and flooded a section. Moving water can be particularly productive in the late season when standing water has locked up with ice.

Hang up the decoy bags: When you find a hot spot on small water, a half dozen decoys is more than enough spread to attract attention. To make up for the small number of decoys, run at least two of the six rigged as a jerk string. Ducks can pick up on the movement from remarkable distances as they fly over. Since you don’t need a lot of decoys, make the ones you do use the most lifelike available. As the birds make their fly overs, they will have time to check out each and every deke, make sure they pass inspection.

Leave the waders at home: I like a good pair of hip boots for small water hunting. To get away from high pressured public areas often requires one heck of a hike. Chest waders will wear you down in hurry. Most small waters are wade-able with hip or even knee boots. If you do find a deeper spot, pack your chest waders in a backpack and put them on when you get to your destination.

And keep the calls in your pocket: Well, not really, but tone your calling WAY down. High pressured birds have been hit with more highballs, feed chuckles and pleading comebacks than a contest judge in Stuttgart. Once the birds start to work, stick mainly with quiet chuckles and quacks. Throw in a drake call or two or mix things up with gadwall, pintail or wood duck calls to give the birds something they haven’t heard. When the birds are in range, take the shot. Wary birds over small water are hard to land. They might not make that extra pass either. Don’t pass a shot when you have it, you might not get another chance.

Next season, when the birds get shy and the crowds get thick, put these small water, low pressure tactics to work. The shooting might not be as hot and heavy as an open water blind with fresh birds, but it beats the heck out of sitting all day without picking up your gun.

DCVR Superior Outdoor Products allow you to transform floaters into field decoys.

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DCVR Superior Outdoor Products released their new innovated products featuring the most popular, Amphibious Decoy Stake.  These products let you take any decoy with a “keel” and quickly and easily transform it into a standing decoy.  Made of ¼” cold-rolled steel and powder coated, it makes it perfect for placing them at the water’s edge, through ice in a shallow pond, cut corn field and many other scenarios.  DCVR has released a total of 8 different stakes including the Turkey Auger Stake, Spinning Wing Auger Stake, Spinning Wing Decoy Stand, the Amphibious Decoy Stake, Stand, Low-Profile Stand, Dual Decoy Stake & Stand.  In select stake boxes, DCVR gives you one Defeeters Duck Feet and Goose Feet.  These along with their black rubber Stabilizers, are available as accessories.