How to Hunt Ducks

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

decoys is like a painter, working his canvas in the half-light of morning to create an illusion of nature and life. His raw materials are water, marsh, blocks of wood and a sense of proportion." - Norman Strung, Misty Mornings and Moonless Nights

To a novice, one decoy spread looks pretty much like another. But designing a "stool" that pulls ducks in is an art. A good decoy spread must take into account three rules of waterfowl behavior.

Ducks are polite

They won’t land in the middle of an area already occupied by other birds. Use this to your advantage by leaving an inviting opening in the middle of the spread and positioning that hole so it’s within shooting distance of your blind. Arrange decoys in the shape of a letter C or V so incoming ducks can land without flying over other (fake) ducks.

Ducks always fly into the wind when landing

Orient your decoy spread so birds flying into the open slot are flying into the wind. Position yourself slightly to one side of the birds’ approach path so they aren’t looking directly at you.

Ducks are detail oriented

Gun-shy ducks are quick to spot details that make a situation look "wrong." If ducks refuse to land in your spread, check the following details.

  • Real ducks don’t have anchor cords draped over their heads or backs. Overturned decoys should be righted as soon as you spot them.
  • Ducks only huddle close together when they are spooked and ready to fly. Keep decoys at least three feet apart.
  • Ducks tend to cluster in groups of three to 10 of their own species. Imitate this "family" grouping habit.
  • Real ducks paddle around, dive and preen. If no wind stirs your spread, kick up some waves with your feet to make the decoys bob. Or tie several decoys to a long rope and tug on the end occasionally.
  • Adjust the orientation of your spread for wind shifts. Monitor your spread constantly for drifting decoys or other problems.
  • Freeze. Don’t turn your head to watch circling birds when they go behind you. Don’t fidget with your duck call or other gear. Ducks may ignore unfamiliar objects that sit still, but strange things that move make them nervous.


"One man’s blowing can be wholly effective, of course, but put two fellows to work who know their notes on well-tuned instruments and some added ‘come hither’ gets into circulation." - Nash Buckingham, from Mattock Bay Mallards

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