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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Super Spreads for Ducks

Surefire strategies for setting decoys in classic habitats
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  • photo by Avery Outdoors
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Story at a Glance

Habitat types discussed in this feature:

  • Big Water Points and Islands
  • Rivers, Streams, and Sloughs
  • Ponds and Potholes
  • Flooded Timber and Swamps

By Matt Young

Just about the most important decision waterfowlers make on any given morning is where to hunt. Make the right decision, and a good hunt is often guaranteed. Choose poorly, and nothing will convince trading ducks to go where they don’t want to be.  

Savvy waterfowlers know from experience where to hunt in particular habitats based on the wind direction, weather conditions, water levels, and other factors. They also know how to strategically position their decoys in a manner that not only is attractive to working birds but also maximizes shooting opportunities. In this article, Ducks Unlimited interviewed four highly resourceful waterfowlers—Tony Toye, Jake Latendresse, Jim Thompson, and Kelley Powers—about their favorite hunting areas and the decoy spreads they have devised for hunting in these habitat types.

  • Big Water Points and Islands
  • Rivers, Streams, and Sloughs
  • Ponds and Potholes
  • Flooded Timber and Swamps

Big Water Points and Islands

Tony Toye has guided waterfowl hunters for more than a decade on famed Pool 9 of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. This extensive network of open water, islands, and marsh is renowned for hosting the largest concentration of staging canvasbacks in the world—numbering more than 200,000 birds at peak times—as well as tens of thousands of other ducks, geese, and swans. The birds are drawn to Pool 9 for its abundance of wild celery, a favorite waterfowl food that grows in extensive submersed beds. “During the past five or six years, zebra mussels have really cleaned up the water, producing a bumper crop of wild celery,” Toye says. “Now everything feeds on the river. It’s been four or five years since we’ve killed a mallard with corn in its crop, and now even the geese in this area are feeding on celery tubers.”

Toye hunts Pool 9 in a sturdy johnboat equipped with an “Odessa-style” permanent blind. Hunting is prohibited more than 100 feet from shore to allow canvasbacks and other waterfowl to rest. Toye hunts on points and islands along the shoreline with a large spread of more than 150 decoys. He positions his rig in a classic J-hook configuration to intercept flocks trading between their open water roosts and vast mats of floating wild celery uprooted by wind and waves.

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