Story at a Glance
Big rigs in this article include:
- Playing the Field
- A Good Layout
- In Black and White
- Going for Number
- Other Big Rigs
Big Rigs: A Good Layout
During the past decade, Missouri has emerged as one of America's top duck destinations. Thanks to the state's ambitious land acquisition and wetland habitat restoration programs, some of the best hunting is available on public land. Arkansas state waterfowl biologist Mike Checkett is a Missouri native who returns to his home state every year to hunt waterfowl on public lands.
"We do most of our hunting on moist soil management units consisting of big expanses of shallow water interspersed with low vegetation," Checkett explains. "Since there is little cover in these areas, we began using low-profile layout boats that enable us to hide in small patches of vegetation in the middle of open pools where the ducks feel secure." Checkett has also discovered that using a large decoy spread gives him an advantage on heavily hunted public waters.
"We try to set a rig that has a much different look than what the birds are accustomed to seeing day in and day out," he says. "Most hunters use a standard spread of three to five dozen decoys placed in a J-hook configuration, or in two groups with an open hole between them. My partners and I never go out with less than 20 dozen decoys, and we frequently use up to 45 dozen when we hunt with four or five people."
"We don't place our decoys in any particular pattern," Checkett continues. "We just start throwing them out around our boats to cover as much open water as we can. Ideally, we like to completely cover the pool with decoys, so that the birds have to hover over the rig while looking for a place where they can squeeze in. We leave a little more space between the decoys just downwind of our boats, to give the birds room to land."
Checkett's spread consists predominantly of mallard blocks, plus 60 drake pintails that he places together in one group on the upwind edge of the rig. In very shallow areas, Checkett bolsters his spread of floaters with homemade mallard and pintail silhouettes that he places on mudflats and dry humps. "Pintails are common on our hunting areas, so we include decoys in our spread that will draw them in. The white on the pintail blocks also enhances the overall visibility of our rig."
Like many avid waterfowlers, Checkett is a firm believer in the value of motion decoys. "We like to have as much movement in the spread as possible to represent the natural activity of feeding and loafing ducks," he says. "I rig several decoys on a jerk string, which creates ripples throughout the spread. I also strategically place a few battery-powered motion decoys in the rig. On sunny days, their flashing wings reflect light, which can be seen by trading flocks from a mile away."