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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Super-Natural Spreads

Create an ultra-realistic decoy spread that imitates the behavior and body language of live waterfowl
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Story at a Glance
  • Hudnall's Big-River Combination Spread 
  • Bard's Layout Spread for Divers 
  • Fujan's Marsh Spread for Dabblers 
  • Radcliffe's Plantation Goose Spread

Bard's Layout Spread for Divers

Mike Bard of Jordon, New York, hunts the big waters of the Atlantic Flyway, including Lakes Ontario and Erie, the St. Lawrence River, and the Finger Lakes of New York. Hunting from a layout boat, he mainly targets bluebills and redheads but also takes his share of buffleheads, goldeneyes, canvasbacks, ringnecks, ruddy ducks, common mergansers, and occasionally some sea ducks.

Bard's diver rig consists of 10 to 15 dozen decoys, the majority of which are strung on long lines. Six to 12 decoys are attached to each line. The lines are weighted on both ends. Decoys are grouped tightly together on the upwind end of the lines closest to the boats and farther apart on the downwind end. Individually rigged decoys are placed in front of the boat to beef up the upwind part of the rig.

"This spread is replicating a mass of feeding divers," Bard explains. "It's a large, tightly grouped spread with an open lane that is inviting for divers to land in. The downwind string of more loosely spaced decoys replicates birds on the outer edge of the food source swimming in or resting."

GHG oversize and life-size bluebills in low-head and high-head positions along with oversize redheads form the backbone of his spread. When specifically targeting bluebills, he uses six dozen bluebill decoys and two dozen redhead decoys. He reverses this ratio when redheads are the primary quarry. Oversize canvasbacks and redheads are mixed throughout the spread to provide more visibility and color contrast in different light conditions.

Bard's spread also includes oversize goldeneyes and buffleheads, which he sets in groups of three to five decoys. "I like to mix in a line or two of buffleheads or goldeneyes leading right into the feeding mass," he says. "These decoys have a lot of white on them, making them highly visible attractants, especially on sunny days."

Diagram of Bard's Layout Spread for Divers – click image to enlarge.

Shooting Tip

For right-handed shooters, the bulk of the spread should be set to the left of the layout boats. The opposite goes for lefties.

Fujan's Marsh Spread for Dabblers

Ben Fujan of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, specializes in hunting dabbling ducks on marshes in the Prairie Pothole Region. His standard duck spread consists of 75 to 150 floaters. The vast majority of his decoys (80 percent) are GHG life-size mallards in active, sleeper, no-head, rester, and surface-feeder body styles. The rest of his decoys consist of life-size pintails and wigeon and oversize black ducks.

"Most hunters in my area don't use black duck decoys because we seldom see them over here," Fujan says. But their large size and dark color make them highly visible from afar. "I haven't witnessed any problems finishing mallards or other puddle ducks with black duck decoys mixed in with my mallards," he adds.

Fujan sets a handful of life-size Canada goose floaters on the periphery of the spread to provide greater visibility and to attract any passing honkers. He also places three or four active-style mallard decoys in the landing zone to look like a small flock has just landed. "Often, when ducks hit the water they stay in the sentry position until they settle down," Fujan says. "I mix the no-head, surface-feeder, and sleeper decoys closest to shore. The birds in the shallower water are more likely to be feeding or sleeping. The deeper the water gets, the more rester and active decoys I use."

Fujan's Marsh Spread for Dabblers
Diagram of Fujan's Marsh Spread for Dabblers – click image to enlarge.

Decoy Tip

Rester, sleeper, surface-feeder, and no-head decoys help create a safe, contented look.

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