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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Decoy Snows In Close

Field tests prove that mega-spreads of full-body decoys are deadly on hard-to-hunt snows and blues
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There are approximately 850 full-body snow goose decoys wiggling in the wind when I arrive. More than 250 members of this faux flock are located within the upper 40 yards of the spread, with the layout blinds hidden among this upwind group. These decoys are set close together to simulate feeding geese. At the other end of the rig, the decoys are much more spread out, with lines and fingers tailing off the rear. The motion stakes are critical in bringing the decoys to life.

"We really don't use a pattern," Keller says. "We run a thin, long line of decoys on the downwind end to make it look like the birds are walking ahead. Then we will have a number of tight little bunches. We leave a small hole, maybe 10 or 15 yards wide, and put only a few decoys in there. What we are trying to do is get the birds to come across the entire spread to where we are sitting." 

The decoys are complemented by a customized electronic calling system that employs two callers and multiple speakers. Three speakers located in the lower third of the spread are set to run a feeding-style call. Toward the downwind end, the speakers produce actual calling flock sounds intermixed with the sounds of feeding birds. And, there are no tapes or compact discs for these guys—bird sounds are downloaded off a computer onto an MP3.

"The e-callers are another essential element," Keller says. "With what we use, there is clarity and no scratching. The birds have heard e-callers along the way, so we try to make ours as realistic as we can. The sound from the MP3s is crystal clear."

"One thing we are trying to figure out is the magic number of decoys," Vandemore says. "Will 400 be as effective as 800? We've been experimenting to see what works and what doesn't. I believe in having numbers when hunting geese, but from what I've seen, I don't think you're going to need a thousand full-body decoys to be successful."

The sky is cloudy, with temperatures in the mid-50s, and humid. There is only a slight wind. The conditions are less than ideal. Earlier today, following an early morning rain, this band of 20-somethings killed 72 snows. Ruff, Vandemore's three-year-old black Lab, chased down his share, and then some.

"This afternoon," Vandemore says, "we will be waiting for the birds to come off the refuge to feed. Because we don't have any wind to speak of, we're probably not going to see many flight birds. This might be a whole lot different from what you're used to as far as snows are concerned."

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