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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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3. Michael Reed's Flooded Pasture Spread

When winter rains come to western Washington, rivers back up into ditches on the region's many dairy farms, flooding low-lying pastures with expanses of sheet water. This seasonal wetland habitat draws clouds of wigeon and pintails from the coast, but a lack of cover makes hunting them a challenge. Mike Reed has devised a system to conceal hunters and decoy ducks in these pastures and in other wide-open habitats such as flooded grainfields. 

"First we get an exact fix on where the ducks are resting and feeding. Being in the right location is absolutely critical," Reed says. "Next we'll slip in after dark and leave scattered piles of tall grass or brush in the area the birds are using. We cut this natural cover with a power hedger and carry it in with us. We leave several piles in a 30-yard- to 40-yard-wide area. Then we wait three or four days for the ducks to get used to this new cover."

When the birds are comfortably using the area again, Reed and a hunting partner go in before dawn and set up layout blinds equipped with waterproof NeoTubs. They completely cover the blinds with canary grass to make them look like the other piles of cover placed in the hunting area. "We haul in more grass than decoys," he says.

Reed then sets out a mixed spread of 18 Greenhead Gear pro-grade wigeon, pintails, and green-winged teal. He arranges the decoys in what he calls a "lane spread." With the wind quartering over his shoulder, he sets 10 to 12 decoys in a loose line in front of the blinds. Next he places a small group of decoys, consisting of a combination of wind-powered wing-spinners and feeder decoys rigged on jerk strings, about 25 yards upwind of the blinds.

"Every one of these decoys provides some type of motion," Reed says. "In such an open environment, it's important to have a lot of movement to draw the ducks' attention away from the layout blinds. When they're coming in, they'll usually focus on all the commotion, and that's where they'll want to land."

As the season progresses, Reed reduces the number of decoys in his spread. "By the last few weeks, birds are really spooky from gunning pressure, so we dial our spread back even more. We may just put out a half-dozen motion decoys upwind of our blinds. We do very little calling. Instead, we just work the jerk strings and watch the ducks come straight in."

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