Mallards are tough to hunt in the late season, no matter the state or flyway. Traditional water decoy sets can still work, but many mallards will be spread-savvy by now, particularly north of the Mason-Dixon Line where the season has been under way for well over a month. This is the time to head to the fields and give those wary greenheads a look at something different: ultrarealistic full-bodies and shells.
Here’s a step-by-step plan for success.
Step 1: Get the right the decoys.
Ducks, especially mallards, feed heavily in fields. Use more head-down (feeder) dekes than head-up (active or walker) ones. Less expensive field shells boost decoy numbers, so don’t be afraid to mix them among the full-bodies—the more the merrier.
Step 2: Set up the right spread.
Arrange walkers and feeders in a W shape in front of, behind, and between your and your hunting buddies’ layout blinds. Mix in a few rester- and sleeper-body styles as well as non-mallards, like pintails. Two to six full-body Canadas off to one side will help attract the mallards’ attention from a distance: Ducks often key on geese when looking for a food source.
Step 3: Use layout blinds.
A well-camouflaged, low-profile layout blind that can be easily repositioned, such as the Avery Outdoors Power Hunter is the ticket for field mallards. Don’t hesitate to reposition once the birds show you where they want to go in relation to the decoys.
Step 4: Set up on the X and call convincingly.
Successful gunning begins with in-depth scouting. Set up as close to the landing spot you’ve scouted out as possible, and cover your blinds with stubble. Ground mallards are often noisy, so put three or four good callers to work on rolling feeding chuckles, with the occasional choppy QUACK, quaacckk, quaacckk thrown in. For safety purposes, always have one hunter call the shot.