Waterfowl Hunting: How to Tune Your Decoys

Regular maintenance for your fakes is quick and easy—and will absolutely result in more birds in the bag. Here’s how to clean and keep several types.

Photo by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller

Ducks and geese spend a good part of their lives preening themselves. They never appear dirty, muddy, ragged, lopsided, or faded. Neither should your decoys. Regular maintenance for your fakes is quick and easy—and will absolutely result in more birds in the bag. Here’s how to clean and keep several types:

Silhouettes
Made of ABS plastic, silhouettes are durable and long-lasting—with proper care. When not in use, store them laid flat. To remove dirt or mud, scrub them with a stiff-bristle brush and cold water. Avoid soaps, as these can increase the ultraviolet-reflective characteristics of the plastic. Dulled sections can be lightly scuffed with 120-grit sandpaper, washed, dried, and revived with a plastic-approved spray paint such as Krylon Fusion (krylon.com).

Plastic Shells, Floaters, and Full-Bodies
To prevent curling, stored shells should be stacked upside down with a wooden-dowel spreader inside the top decoy. Clean all plastic dekes with cold water and a stiff-bristle brush—no soaps. Lightly sand and touch up faded areas with paint from Parker Coatings ­(mackspw.com).
For floaters, inspect and if necessary replace anchor cords, weights, swivels, gang-rig clips, cord, and crimps.

Flocked Decoys
Store and transport fully flocked fakes in slotted or individual bags. In the field, take the blocks directly from the bag to the stake, and vice versa, to cut down on dirt. For blocks with flocked heads only, a tube sock or heavy nylon stocking makes a perfect protective barrier. Remove dried mud by gently working a soft-bristle brush. Wash wet mud off with lukewarm water, and let dry. Touch up any scuffed or missing flocking by lightly misting the area with Krylon Fusion spray paint.

Spinning-Wing ­Decoys
Prior to the hunting season (as well as at least once during the season if your spinners get hard use), check all visible electrical connections, inspect the drive belt (if applicable), and lightly lubricate the gears with a quality gear grease. (Don't go overboard, as excess grease collects dirt.) Mist the wing sockets with a Teflon spray to ensure smooth and reliable operation—again, not too much. Now's also a good time to charge the batteries.