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Get Big Results from Small Spreads

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Story at a Glance
  • Small spreads can bring in big groups.
  • By minimizing your decoys, you make yourself more mobile.
  • Movement is still a priority with small decoy spreads.
  • No matter what size your decoy spread is; location is still the key to success.

Pocket-size decoy spreads—small, portable, and simple.

By Wade Bourne

In contrast to the “more is better” philosophy, minimalists opt for just a few decoys that are easy to deploy and maintain. This kind of spread rarely features battery-powered wing-spinners or swimmers. But it’s precise in its simplicity and quite effective in the places and situations where minimalists typically hunt.

“I’m definitely a minimalist,” says veteran duck hunter Richard Simms of Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I’ve never gone for the big blinds and oversize spreads. I’m a freelance, portable kind of guy. I don’t wait for ducks to come to me. Instead, I find them and hunt where they want to be. Very rarely will my partners and I hunt the same place two days in a row.”

Specifically, Simms prowls flats and backwaters along vast Tennessee River lakes in southeast Tennessee and northeast Alabama. He scouts regularly to find concentrations of ducks.

“If you hunt where ducks want to go, decoys are almost an afterthought,” Simms says. “Now, I’ll always put out a few. I think it gives working birds confidence to see other ducks where they want to be. But if I’m hunting in flooded timber or a swamp, I won’t put out more than a dozen decoys, and if I’m hunting open water, two dozen is usually plenty. Again, being in the right spot is everything.”

Simms’ decoys are old Herter’s Styrofoam blocks that are flat on the bottom. They are lightweight, and they move well in little wind. “These decoys have a lot more motion than the ones with weighted or water keels,” he says. “They’re old and beaten-up, and their colors have faded. But I still use them because of how they move. I’ve never had a time when I thought ducks flared off them because of their weathered look. When ducks are circling a hundred yards up, I don’t think they can see anything but bodies and shapes anyway.”

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