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Building a Decoy Spread

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Story at a Glance
Elements to consider in building a spread:
  • Decoy Species
  • Decoy Size
  • Decoy Materials
  • Solid Keel or Water Keel
  • How Many Decoys?
  • Specialty Decoys
  • What Type of Spread?
  • Rigging Options
  • Thoughts on Movement

Options for Rigging Decoys

Proper rigging will render decoys much more effective and convenient to handle. Decoys rigged with the right components and methods will be easier to set out and retrieve, and they will not drag in waves or current.

Either of two lines are recommended for rigging decoys: plastic "tangle-free" line, and #48 or #60 tarred nylon line. Both these lines are tough, rot-proof, tangle-resistant and easy to unwrap or wrap. Both are also available at reasonable cost. (Use special line crimps to secure plastic line to decoys and anchors, since this line doesn't hold knots well.) 

When it comes to decoy anchors, freelancers hunting in swamps and shallow backwaters can get by with light weights (4-6 oz.). One good anchor is the strap-type weight that wraps around a decoy's neck to prevent line tangles. Two other suitable options are the over-the-head anchor (wire loop protruding from a lead "mushroom") and the neck ring anchor (molded in a circle or "double-H" to ride as a collar around a decoy's neck).

For freelancing on big open water, hunters should opt for over-the-head or neck ring anchors in 12-16 oz. sizes. Extra weight is needed to keep decoys in place when waves or current is rolling.

Thoughts on Decoy Movement

No discussion about decoys is complete without touching on movement. In recent seasons, mechanical wing-spinning decoys have been the rage. And before wing-spinners came along, hunters used an array of jerk strings, dipper decoys, water shakers, and other means of imparting "life" to a static spread. This is especially important on calm wind days when decoys are unnaturally still.

Now, ducks see wing-spinners everywhere, and there's much discussion over whether they're learning to avoid them. Nobody knows for sure, but many hunters are choosing to eliminate them from their spreads or use remote controls to turn them off once ducks start working.

Whether or not to use a wing-spinner is each hunter's call. However, there is no question that having movement makes a decoy spread far more realistic. Agitated water and moving, dipping decoys look like real ducks, and hunters should use any legal means of imparting action that will convince circling birds to come in.

Wade Bourne is the author of Ducks Unlimited's Decoys and Proven Methods for Using Them. Copies may be purchased through DU or from www.wadebourne.com

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