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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Super Spreads for Ducks

Surefire strategies for setting decoys in classic habitats
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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

While hunting ducks on river channels and sloughs, Latendresse uses a spread of six dozen Greenhead Gear mallard decoys and a dozen drake wigeon decoys. He places most of his mallard decoys in a large group slightly upwind of the blinds. He sets the rest of the mallards, as well as the highly visible drake wigeon decoys, as singles and in pairs and small groups farther downwind. 

“Anytime you are hunting a slough or river chute, it’s a good idea to completely block the channel with decoys,” Latendresse advises. “Flights of ducks typically work along the main river channel and then cut into sloughs and side channels when they see the decoys. If you have the channel completely cut off, they’ll often drop right in on the first pass. I also like to place singles, pairs, and smaller groups of decoys downstream along the edges of the channel to look like relaxed, loafing ducks and to create pinch points to funnel landing ducks toward the shooters. The wider the channel, the more decoys I’ll place on the opposite side to force birds to land closer to our blinds.”

Ponds and Potholes

South Dakota-based wildlife photographer Jim Thompson specializes in hunting prairie potholes and small lakes rimmed by mudflats or exposed banks. While often overlooked by waterfowlers, these open habitats are favorite loafing sites for dabbling ducks, especially mallards and pintails.

“I rarely spook any ducks when I go in and set my decoys,” says Thompson, who is also a member of the Avery pro-staff. “The birds usually roost in large concentrations on bigger lakes and marshes and then fly out to feed at first light. After they’ve finished feeding, they break up into smaller groups and fan out over the countryside to spend the day on smaller wetlands. Many of the mallards I bag don’t arrive until the middle of the morning.”

Thompson hunts almost exclusively from shore blinds, preferably with the wind at his back. He uses a rig of 50 to 70 Greenhead Gear mallard decoys placed in a crescent formation with an open pocket in the center of the spread. “The whole point of how you position your decoys is to try to encourage the birds to land where you want them to,” Thompson explains. “Ducks might work decoys as a flock, but when it comes time to land, it’s every bird for itself. That’s why I provide a clearly defined landing area for individual birds to focus on when they are making their final approach.”

Roughly half of Thompson’s spread is composed of full-body mallard decoys, which he believes offer many advantages over traditional floating decoys. “When ducks are loafing, you often see just as many birds standing along the shoreline as you do in the water, and the standing birds are much easier to see than those that are swimming,” Thompson attests. “When a duck is sitting on the water, you can see only 60 or 70 percent of its mass, but when a duck is standing up, its whole body is visible. Full-body decoys are much more visible than floaters for the same reason. They just have a lot more surface area. They also come in a greater variety of body positions, which will give your spread a more natural look.”

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