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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Big-River Ducks

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Wind is the primary factor determining where Humburg sets up to hunt. "You've got to pay attention to the wind probably more than anything," he says. "Birds are always going to work into the wind. The tendency on a cold, blustery day is for ducks to work into the wind, to work into a high bank for instance, or into a sandbar where they have some protection. They want to get into a place a little more comfortable than where they've been. I know from flying waterfowl surveys on cold, blustery days, those birds are usually tucked right up against the high bank where they're protected from the colder elements."

Both river hunters believe in the efficacy of large decoy spreads. Spencer uses as many decoys as he can get in his boat.

"Big spreads are better than little spreads because it's big water," Spencer says. "In timber, you hardly need decoysbecause when you see ducks, they're in working or shooting range. Big water is different; you may see a flock of ducks two miles away, and they must be able to spot your spread. You need a visual attractor, and the more decoys you've got, the better your visual attraction is. Take at least three or four dozen."

Humburg recommends placing the decoys in strings on the water. "I know from flying waterfowl surveys that many times you see ducks on the river in more of a linear fashion. Often they'll be lined up along a sandbar or along the bank as opposed to in a big block or big bunch like you'd set decoys out in the marsh."

Most hunters using large decoy spreads leave a pocket of open water in the spread to encourage the ducks to land there. "You want an open spot in your decoys within gun range," Spencer says. "Set the decoys around the open spot close together when the wind is blowing. Set them more loosely in calm weather. Mallard decoys or whatever you have will work. But you might want to put about a dozen floating goose decoys out with your others. That adds to the visual attraction because a duck can see a goose decoy farther away."

Good, loud calling is best.

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