"Also, I think the bluebills serve another purpose," Smittle continues. "By the time ducks get to Oklahoma, they've flown over a lot of decoys and they're pretty leery of spreads that look like what they've seen all the way down the flyway. But not many hunters use diver decoys anymore. I think the divers give the ducks a different look, something they're not used to seeing, but which is very natural and appealing to them. Whatever the reason, they really respond to them."
What about motion decoys? "I quit using spinning-wing decoys a year ago," Smittle answers. "I started seeing ducks flare from them, so I didn't use one last season. Also, on open water where we hunt there's usually some wind blowing and wave action that makes the decoys bob around and look real, so adding motion isn't as important as it might be on a quiet wind-protected pothole.
All Things Considered...
Obviously, not many hunters will set out the number of decoys that Ronnie Capps uses. Nine hundred decoys? Twenty-four wing spinners? Eighteen swimmers and 18 Pulsators? No way!
Not many hunters around the country will hunt where gadwalls predominate and it's wise to set a decoy spread specifically for this species. Most hunters target mallards; other species are an afterthought.
Not many hunters will ditch their old decoys and buy all super-magnums to have a spread like Larry Smittle's. They may replace lost decoys with the oversized decoys a few at a time, but the smaller dekes still have a lot of wear left in them. They're too valuable to toss.
But the important thing is to study these hunters' decoy ideas and tactics and see how they relate to your situation. There are effective ways to add motion – judiciously - without going overboard. There are times when fine-tuning a spread to a particular species is as simple as adding some wood duck or pintail decoys. Painting a few mallard decoys flat black might increase a spread's visibility.
Too many hunters just toss out their decoys, hide and start calling. But by fine-tuning a spread, they can add to its realism and bolster its attraction to ducks that most experts agree are becoming increasingly wary. The time to be haphazard with decoys is gone. Creativity is now required to fool birds into thinking that your decoys are the real McCoys.
Editor's Note: The use of electronically powered or controlled decoys is strictly prohibited in some states and prohibited during certain time periods in others. Check with state wildlife law enforcement official in any state or province where you plan to hunt in regarding the legalities of using these devices.