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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Five Small Spreads for Ducks

Here's how to make the most of a limited number of decoys in five common waterfowl habitats
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  • photo by Kevin Hand
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1. Rusty Burnam's Slough Spread

Rusty Burnam knows that when rivers rise over their banks in western Missouri, ducks will take advantage of the freshly flooded habitat. He scouts along back roads near a chosen river, watching for ducks piling into a hidden slough or low-lying field. 

"When we see birds hitting a spot, my partner and I often have to hike in to hunt them," Burnam explains. "We'll carry in a couple dozen decoys and a pair of marsh seats to hide in whatever natural cover is available. Also, we will set out a spread that looks realistic and is highly visible to working ducks."

For starters, Burnam uses Greenhead Gear's new pro-grade January mallard decoys, which are painted with more white on the drakes' backs to give the appearance of birds in full breeding plumage. Sometimes he also brings along a few drake shoveler and pintail decoys to add even more white to his spread. "Decoys with a brighter, whiter color scheme are a lot more visible from longer distances, and when your decoys show up better, you can use fewer of them," he says.

Burnam sets half of his spread in a group well off the bank, with the wind at his back whenever possible. However, if the wind is blowing at a quartering angle, he moves this group of decoys slightly upwind of his shooting position. In both cases, he sets his decoys with lots of space between them so they appear to be birds resting in comfort and security.

Burnam scatters his remaining decoys along the banks—a pair here, three there. "I don't try to form a clearly defined fish hook or J, but I do position my spread to force incoming ducks to land in front of the main group of decoys at a range of around 25 yards," he says. 

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