Mel DeLang has seen many sunrises from duck blinds in southeast Iowa. DeLang, from Burlington, guided for 40 years on the Mississippi River and the Lake Odessa Wildlife Area. He is also a former world champion duck caller (1963), and he has judged numerous duck calling contests, including three world championships.
Now in his sixties, DeLang has given up guiding and competition calling, but he still hunts every day of the season from a permanent blind on a chute just off the Mississippi River, the former Lakewood Hunting Club. This is a typical open-water setup, where the decoys are exposed to strong winds and currents. DeLang and his partners maintain three blinds, each of which is complemented with its own large, permanent spread of up to 300 decoys.
"We use this many decoys for greater visibility and to attract high, passing ducks," DeLang explains. "We use all super magnums, mostly mallards with a few pintails mixed in. Mallards are the main ducks we're hunting. Also, we set about 50 Canada goose floaters off to one side of the blind and another 75 standup full-body geese on a mud flat behind our main blind."
The river slough where DeLang hunts is approximately two miles long by 200 yards wide. It is totally open-no brush or trees. It is also shallow, two-and-a-half feet deep when the Mississippi River is at pool stage at Burlington. "The chute runs north and south, and our blind is just out in the water off the west bank," says DeLang.
DeLang hunts over what he describes as a two-spread setup. Basically, this is a separate, rounded decoy spread of equal size off each corner of the blind with an open "meat hole" in the middle. Decoys in each spread are concentrated within 45 yards of the blind. The goose floaters are set off the north back corner of the blind, between the ducks and the mudflat. Then, the standup geese are spread behind the blind on the mud.