5. Casey Self's River Spread
When a cold snap freezes shallow marshes and ponds in central Kansas
, ducks often move to free-flowing rivers to find open water. Mallards and other dabblers typically fly out at dawn to feed in nearby grainfields and then return to rivers later in the morning to loaf. At these times, Casey Self and his hunting partners follow the ducks, focusing their scouting efforts on river sandbars frequented by resting birds.
"We're looking for puddle ducks—mostly mallards—resting in bunches of 25 to 50 birds on the sunny side of the river. We find them by scouting from the bank or in a boat," Self explains. "We scout mostly during midday, when the ducks have already come back to the river after feeding."
Once these hunters locate a concentration of ducks, they return the next morning and deploy their decoys in a pattern that funnels returning birds into easy shooting range. "We never put out more than 18 decoys, usually Greenhead Gear oversize mallards," Self says. "We rig them Texas-style so we can put them out and pick them up quickly. We set our decoys in a blocking pattern just upriver from where we hide. Ducks almost always land against the current, just like the wind. With this setup, the birds usually hit the water right in front of us."
For concealment, Self and his hunting partners wear ghillie suits and simply sit or lie back against the river bank in whatever natural cover is available. "Most of the places where we set up have timber or tall grass close to the water. Wearing the ghillie suits, we really blend into the background and don't have to bring along layout blinds or build a temporary blind. I hide my retriever in a dog blind on the bank behind us. It's quick, easy, and the ducks never see us," he says.