Photo by Randy Hoepner / Windigo Images

Nothing is more frustrating than ducks that ignore your decoys. Flaring birds signal a glitch in your setup. But no response leaves no clues. A 2006 study published in Biological Conservation on wintering waterfowl in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay might offer help for such mysteries.

The researchers sought to understand the factors influencing wintering waterfowl locations, including available food, hunting and, in particular, landscape background. Both diving and puddle species preferred water with a vegetated background, such as shrub, grassland, brush, or forest. The water close to residential areas held fewer ducks–no surprise there–but interestingly neither did the water in front of undeveloped wetland edges that weren’t vegetated. Such areas possibly left the birds exposed to land-based predators.

Extend your late-season scouting to include water hidden from roadside view. After setting up in the morning, make sure your blind “fits” into the shoreline by taking one last squint back at the blind from the edge of the decoys. That’s how incoming ducks view things, after all.