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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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2. Kevin Carter's Flooded Timber Spread

Kevin Carter specializes in hunting "green timber" in the White River bottoms of east-central Arkansas. When backwater flooding inundates tracts of bottomland hardwood forest along the river, mallards and other dabblers flock to the flooded woods to feed and rest. Carter and his hunting partners scout by boat in the afternoon to find an opening in the timber that is holding a good concentration of ducks. 

They take a minimalist approach to decoys and other gear. "We never bring more than two dozen decoys with us," Carter says. "We're primarily hunting mallards, so we use only mallard decoys. I like the Greenhead Gear Hot Buy decoys—the small economy models—because they weigh less and take up less space in the boat."

When deploying his spread, Carter sets a small group of decoys on the upwind side of the hole and scatters the rest along the edges of the trees in a horseshoe pattern. He sets these decoys in pairs to look like drakes and hens that have paired up. To put ripples on the water and add movement to the spread, he rigs three decoys on a jerk string. 

"We also splash and kick the water while ducks are working, so we always set a few decoys close to where we're hiding. We prefer standing in shallow water next to trees on the upwind edge of the hole. When the water is too deep to stand in, we hunt from a boat, which we hide in thick brush or under overhanging limbs," he says.

Carter doesn't hesitate to move his decoys during the hunt if necessary. "Sometimes the birds will hover over the hole and then pitch to one side or the other, depending on the wind direction. So we often have to adjust our spread to keep ducks landing in the middle of the hole. For instance, if they're veering to the right side, we'll move most of our decoys there to force them to land in the middle. We will also move our decoys to keep them out of the shadows and in the sunlight so ducks can see them."

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