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Late-Season Decoy Spreads

Overcoming the challenges of winter waterfowling requires both realism and creativity.
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Canadas in Snow-Covered Fields

Late in the season, Canada geese feed in large concentrations, often in snow-covered fields.

When snow falls, Avery pro-staffer Tyson Keller of Pierre, South Dakota, sets as many decoys as he can put out. Keller and his hunting partners frequently deploy 300 to 500 decoys, although 100 to 150 decoys will suffice for most hunters in this situation.

“We mainly use shell decoys and full-bodies without the foot bases, and we set them right on the snow,” Keller notes. “When Canada geese come into a snowy cornfield, they will sit down soon after they hit the ground; they’re not up walking around. So having the shells and full-body decoys sitting on the snow looks natural.”

Keller arranges his spread in a pear shape with the narrow end pointed downwind. Decoys are concentrated close together in the upwind part of the spread. In the downwind part, Keller sets small, tight family clusters with plenty of open space between them. He also mixes in a few full-body decoys with foot stands on the edges of these groups to simulate geese walking from one group to another. His layout blinds (with snow covers) are aligned in the spread about a third of the way from the upwind edge, facing the open landing areas just downwind.

“We kick down the snow and root up dirt to look like feeding activity around the main group of decoys, but we’re careful not to disturb the snow cover around the blinds,” Keller adds. 

Coastal Marsh Spread for Ducks

Chester Moore of Orange, Texas, hunts coastal marshes in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. He says that by January, ducks are wary from hunting pressure, and when the birds get tough, most hunters respond by setting bigger spreads. But several seasons ago, Moore discovered that with heavily hunted ducks, using fewer decoys worked better than using more. “I was running late one morning, and as I went out the door, I grabbed just one sack of decoys,” he says. I had a great shoot over them, and that experience led to what I call my ‘Dirty Dozen’ spread, which I continue to use during the late season.”

Moore’s spread consists of eight magnum mallard hen decoys and four drake blue-winged teal decoys. He says the hen mallards will attract any large puddle ducks—gadwalls, mottled ducks, shovelers, and greenheads—and the white crescents on the teal capture passing birds’ attention.

Moore looks for small potholes to set his dozen decoys. He hides on the upwind edge of the pothole. As he faces downwind, the mallard decoys are clumped in the upper right portion of the pothole, while the teal are set in a line on his left, angling toward the mallards. He leaves a 10-yard landing zone between the two groups.

“I want it to look like the teal have just come in and are swimming to the big ducks,” Moore explains. “I don’t know why this spread works so well, but it does.”

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