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Create a Landing Zone for Ducks

Tips for a deliberately arranged decoy spread
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  • Bring ducks in where you want them with these tips from world-champion caller Barnie Calef.
    photo by Jon Huelskamp
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Story at a Glance

 

  • Choose specific decoy patterns over "natural," random arrangement
  • Set up on the upwind side of a lake or river
  • Create an "L" pattern with goose and duck decoys running perpendicular

by Wade Bourne

Three-time world-champion duck caller Barnie Calef of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, frequently hunts from a boat blind, and he's a stickler for proper decoy placement. Calef believes many hunters put too much emphasis on arranging their decoys to look natural, setting them randomly. Instead, Calef sets his decoys in specific patterns to cause ducks to land where he wants them to.

He explains: "When decoys are tossed out in a random blob, ducks will usually land on the outside edge of the spread, which can make for some tough shooting. Instead, I set my decoys very specifically according to wind direction to cause the ducks to drop in right in front of the blind."

Calef chooses a blind site so the wind will be blowing from his back, either directly or quartering. "I'll always set up on the upwind side of the lake or river so the wind is coming from behind me. This means the ducks will approach through the front door."

When deploying decoys, Calef defines his landing zone by setting an "L" pattern with goose floaters on one arm and duck decoys running out at a 90-degree angle. He explains, "Say the wind is quartering over my shoulder from left to right. I'll set a line of Canada goose decoys running straight away from the boat blind on the upwind corner of the boat. Then I'll spread my duck decoys across in front of the boat and down the reeds or brush line. With this arrangement, when ducks come in, they normally aim to land in the "V" between the goose and duck decoys, and they'll be clustered together and in close where my hunters can make their shots count."

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