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Late-Season Decoy Spreads

Overcoming the challenges of winter waterfowling requires both realism and creativity.
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Ducks in Frozen Potholes

By mid-November, potholes in central North Dakota are usually locked in ice, and hunters must resort to different tactics and decoy spreads to lure in any ducks that haven’t yet migrated.

Troy Shirley of Bismarck employs a lifelike decoy set for hunting frozen potholes. “My hunting partners and I stomp out a circle in the ice 15 feet in diameter,” Shirley explains. “We try to keep the broken-out ice in one big chunk, and we slide it under the ice at the edge of the hole, leaving an ice-free opening in the pothole.

“Then we set two dozen Canada goose sleeper decoys on the ice at the upwind edge of the hole, about one or two feet back from the open water. We also set two Canada goose sentry decoys at the edge of the sleepers. At the side of the hole, we set six full-body duck decoys directly on the ice without using stands. And the final components of our spread are three or four duck floaters in the water in front of the ducks on the ice and three or four goose floaters in front of the geese.

“I think the main thing is to leave the hole in the ice wide open,” he continues. “I want to give incoming birds plenty of room to land.” Shirley and his partners shoot from cattails 20 yards away from the hole.

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