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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Decoy Spreads for Canada Geese

A variety of decoy strategies for honkers
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Story at a Glance

Canada goose decoy strategies:

  • Large Field Spreads
  • Designs for Field Spreads
  • Beyond the Basics
  • Motion in Goose Spreads
  • Downsizing a Spread
  • Hunting Over Water
  • The Final Word

Downsizing a Spread

So what if you can't put out a large spread either because of a lack of decoys or manpower? How can the above advice be applied to a two- or three-man party and a few dozen decoys?

"Everything's the same, just smaller," Mann says. "I'd still recommend three dozen silhouettes per hunter. One man can easily handle this many, and I'd still go with the X or V design. I might put the decoys in little groups of three to seven in a skeletal version of the X or V, to extend the spread some, but everything else would be the same."

Bartz says, "Sometimes when birds have had a lot of pressure, a small spread will work better than a large spread. I've done great with 12 decoys per hunter. It takes this many to conceal a hunter in a layout blind.

"But when you're hunting with a smaller spread, it's critical to be in the exact spot where the geese have been feeding. You won't have as much long-distance pulling power, so you've got to be where the geese want to come. Good scouting is absolutely essential for a small spread to work"

Cochran echoes Bartz's advice: "You've got to be in the center of the bullseye—right where the geese want to go—when you're hunting with three dozen or fewer decoys. Now you've got to rely more on aggressive calling and flagging to gain the birds' attention. But I'll tell you, one or two dozen decoys can make an awesome spread, especially late in the season."

When setting a small spread, Cochran usually places the decoys a few yards away from his layout blinds. "A small spread doesn't afford the concealment that a large spread does, and when a flock is approaching, I don't want them looking toward the blinds. I'll put the decoys where they're highly visible, like on a rise or where the stubble is low, and I'll try to position the blinds where they're less noticeable, and I'll go to extra lengths to conceal them so they will blend into the terrain."

Decoy Spreads for Hunting Canada Geese Over Water

Today, most Canada geese are taken over dry ground, but these birds aren't called waterfowl for nothing. Honkers routinely feed and rest on lakes, marshes, and ponds throughout North America, and many water areas offer top-notch hunting opportunities.

So how can hunters set an effective decoy spread on water? For starters, using floating decoys is obvious.

"I build floats for 42-inch shell decoys, and I put 24 of these out for hunting over water," says Flagman Randy Bartz. "These oversized decoys show up a long way over water. Sometimes, I'll also put shells on long motion stakes in shallow water."

Bartz sets these decoys in a U- or crescent-shaped pattern, with the middle of the crescent upwind, near the blind. "Having a good landing pocket is just as important with a water spread as it is on land," he asserts. "You've got to funnel the geese into easy shotgun range."

Sean Mann uses "from six to 150 decoys" in a water spread. In a large spread, he uses 25 V-boards (three silhouette decoys per board) and 75 full-body floaters. In small sets, he uses fewer, but always in equal numbers. "The reason I like the V-boards is that they sit higher than the floaters, and they're more visible over longer range." Mann arranges a water spread in a J design with the blind at the end of the long (bottom) part of the J. He hunts over such spreads from shore or from a stake or boat blind.

"Here's an important tip," he adds. "I like my anchor cords to be two feet longer than my deepest hunting depth, and all lines should be equal in length. This keeps decoys from tangling and retrievers from getting caught up in the lines."

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