Flooded fields and swollen rivers hold ducks after major weather events. Be there. DU media photo
Decoys are only effective if the species you’re hunting wants to be with the fakes in your spread. DU media photo
By Steve Hickoff
As a hardcore waterfowler, you spend a lot of time trying to solve challenges that migrating ducks bring your way. That’s part of the fun. Sometimes problems occur when you’re not giving the particular duck species what it wants.
Woodies like acorn-rich waters, somewhat aloof and often apart from other species. Numerous wood duck dekes may enhance the visual pleasure you have looking out on that spot, but a minimalist set of single-species pairs might be just right: hen and drake woodie. Or mostly drakes, say 3 to 5, with an odd hen in there. Don’t push it.
Mallards mix well with other flooded field, marsh and river puddlers though. Three-dozen greenheads paired with susies and a few Pacific Flyway pintail, Central Flyway gadwall, plus wigeon and teal fakes isn’t pushing it, geography depending. I hunt Atlantic Flyway inshore saltwater in the late-season; just a few matching pairs of common goldeneye fakes and a seagoing black duck or two bobbing in the low-tide cove works.
At other times, go big with your mix and match spread as the location dictates, hauling your gear there with a Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side vehicle. What would you like to see if you were a duck? Take enough decoys with you to make it happen.
Maybe your single-species spread looks cold and uninviting. Throw some goose fakes in your mallard spread. Drop a few wigeon, pintails, black ducks and even shovelers in there. Coot fakes should be somewhere in your basement’s waterfowling warehouse, and adding some to the overall look can work.
Are all your spots getting attention from other hunters too? No matter what flyway you hunt, pressure dictates waterfowl movement. To go with this seasonal flow, set small spreads on back-country rivers, streams, and creeks. Farm ponds. Beaver dam waters. Bust out ice if necessary in the pre-dawn. Put some loafing mallard fakes on the sandbar if available. Have woodies mixed in among deadfall beneath oaks. You may not kill a limit this way, but it’s action when before you had none.
Okay, maybe your spots have all dried up as action goes. You’ve burned them out. Decoys don’t matter. The ducks buzz on by, ignoring them.
Think wet. After major weather events, spots that once seemed useless to you as a waterfowler, now become prime. Hit those washed-out fields ASAP. If mallards are likely to use them, go armed with many decoys. Set up fakes on the periphery of your kill zone, but also close to your hide. Then load and be ready.