Ducks and geese that sail into your spread are your payoff for lugging decoys to the blind at an ungodly hour and carefully setting them out on the water or field. But you need to take some extra steps to get the most out of your spread. Here are 10 tips that’ll put more waterfowl in your landing zone.
1. Muddy the waters.
In shallow backwaters or flooded fields, walk through the water to muddy it up, which makes it appear as if ducks have been feeding. Ducks can spot discolored water from a long way off, so do this first thing in the morning and then again a couple of hours later as the mud cloud subsides.
2. Steer geese to your spread.
If geese are using two parts of a given field, set up in one area and leave a decoy bag in the other to make geese shy away from it and land where you want them to. One guide I know uses a 3-D archery target of a coyote for this purpose.
3. Hunt over a lone decoy.
Ever have a floating decoy break away from the spread, only to watch incoming ducks cup their wings and settle down right next to it? Some days, ducks want to land with only one or two companions. For a change of pace, try putting a blob of birds upwind and hunting over just a deke or two.
4. Mix in more goose sentries.
When a flock of geese is on the ground, as many as half or more of the birds will lift their heads to look at newcomers. Adding more sentries into your field spread helps mimic this.
5. Make a jerk cord for ducks.
Fill a coffee can with concrete and embed an eyebolt into the surface. When it dries, take it to your blind and run a line from a duck decoy’s keel through the eyelet of the submerged coffee can and back to the blind. Pull the line to make the decoy bob, creating movement and ripples that animate your spread.
6. Use a smaller spread for late geese.
Part of the function of a large field spread is to hide blinds. But Canada geese often grow wary of sprawling setups late in the season. If there’s enough cover to hide your blind, or if there’s natural cover nearby to hide in, try a spread of as few as eight decoys.
7. Use more black blocks.
Dark-colored decoys increase the visibility of your spread. Along with your usual puddle duck setup, mix in black magnum decoys—including black ducks, bluebills, ringnecks, or Canada geese—for extra pulling power.
8. Use coot decoys for ducks.
Put out a tightly packed raft of coot decoys. Ducks often steal bits of vegetation that coots bring up from the bottom. These black decoys also show up well from far away.
9. Bunch up your blocks in the late season.
In cold weather, pack your decoys together tightly. Don’t worry if they bang into one another. They’ll look like real ducks huddling together for warmth. If you hunt over a hole in the ice, jam part of it full of ducks, leaving a landing spot, and stand some full-body ducks and geese on the ice around the edges of the hole.
10. Move to where the birds want to be.
If birds are landing nearby but not in your spread, don’t dawdle: Pick up your spread and move. The best decoy setup is always in a spot where ducks want to land in the first place.