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Decoy Spreads for Waterfowl; Ducks & Geese

The information here is an excerpt from the book Duck & Goose Addict's Manual, which will provide you with all the information you need on duck and goose biology, and the most advanced and innovative duck and goose hunting techniques available. You can purchase the book from the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog. I guarantee that if you read it - you will learn something.

Land Based Duck & Goose Decoy Spread Location

All these great techniques help attract the geese to your spread (If you want to know what they are buy the book, I really am trying to make a living here). But none of them work if the last key to good decoying is left out; which is location.

There are two things to consider when you are putting out your decoys. First choose a spot that the ducks or geese are comfortable with, used to, or going to. Choose a place that offers food (a field of grass, hay, corn, barley, beans or other forage, or a water resting area for geese; a pond, slough, bay lake, stream or river for ducks) and some sort of security. A goose field should be large enough so the geese don't have to land near fences, ditches, rock piles, or brush. Then choose a location in the middle of the feeding site if possible, on a hill or away from cover. When you choose the spot for your decoys take into account where the ducks or geese are likely to come from, and where they are likely land under the weather conditions that day. On windy days ducks and geese may land or swing downwind, and they often prefer to land on the downwind side of the hill on land in strong winds. Ducks often prefer to land on waters that are out of the wind, or in areas on the downwind side of hills, points, cattails, grasses, brush or trees.

The other consideration as to where to place your decoys is visibility. When you are hunting open land areas, place your decoys on a hill if you can, the higher up they are the more visible they are, especially if the downwind side of the hill is the same side the birds are coming from. If the ducks or geese come from the wrong direction be sure to place some of your decoys on the top of the hill, or on the side of the hill where they can be seen by the geese. When you are putting out your decoys keep in mind that ducks and geese prefer to land into the wind. On cold, windy days they prefer to stay out of the wind. Place some decoys near the top of the hill and the rest a third of the way down the hill, where the wind speed is lower.

When you are setting up your decoys visualize where your shooting position should be in relation to the decoys. Geese and ducks often land short of the decoys, and you may want to sit downwind so that when the birds swing short of the decoys or land downwind, they are in shooting range. On windy days you may have to sit as far as fifty yards downwind.

One of the biggest mistakes goose and diver duck hunters make is putting their decoys near existing cover, so they can use the cover to conceal themselves. Do not set your decoys near available cover. Diver ducks and Geese are learning not to land near any cover that is large enough to conceal a predator, especially a hunter. I have seen geese walk near brush, tall grass and trees, but only after they have landed. Placing goose decoys near ditches, fence-rows, brush or rock-piles, is putting them in the wrong location. Geese prefer to land in the middle of a field, often on high ground where they can see. Security to a goose is being where it can see all around.

The location of your decoys should actually be the first consideration in setting up; after you have done your scouting to determine when the geese are flying, which way they are flying, where they are feeding, and where they prefer to land. Pick the right time and place to hunt, and then use the whole range of tactics for "High Visibility" duck and goose attraction.

Land Based Duck & Goose Decoy Spreads

I use an inverted "V" or crescent design when laying out the decoys, with the V pointing into the wind. The hunters sit along the sides of the V within shooting range of the landing zone. I have never seen a flock of geese positioned this way, but if the geese see an open area where they can land, they often use it. The main reason for the hole is to position the geese for a good shooting opportunity.

"V" Field Decoy Spread For Ducks or Geese

For use on days when the wind is from directly behind hunters. A pit or blind can be setup at the head of the "V", or the hunters can sit in or alongside the arms of the spread.

When I'm putting out my decoys I like to keep the least realistic ones away from the prying eyes of wary geese, and I don't like to mix different sizes. I usually place the larger shells upwind, away from the other decoys, so there isn't a drastic difference in size. However, when I lay downwind of the decoy spread on a windy day I put some of the 42-inch shells around me. I place my most realistic decoys, my full-bodied Big Foots, right where the geese will be looking at them as they land; downwind of the main spread, and around the landing area.

In the main body of my spread I use shells, and mix in a few North Wind windsocks. The shells and windsocks don't take up much space in the truck or trailer, and allow me to take along dozens or hundreds of decoys. I put the decoys in family units of from five to nine, and separate each family unit by a yard or more from the next family. Each decoy in the family unit is placed from one to two feet apart. Within each family I have no more than one sentry head, and I use one windsock or Closer, or add Flapperz wings to some of the shells and full bodies to simulate a goose stretching it wings.

If I am using silhouettes, or windsocks for low flying Canadas I usually place them on the upwind side of my spread. Because Canada Geese often come in low they are used to seeing the side profile of a goose as they approach. Silhouettes provide this profile, they take up little space and they are easily transported and set up. But, silhouettes don't work as well on high flying Snow Geese, because they see the top of the goose as they come in. Goose rags like Sheet Decs, and top view silhouettes, work better with snows and specks.

When I'm using flying decoys, I place them in the landing area where I want to shoot, because landing geese often come in right behind geese that are already landing. I've used both the Lander Flags and Pole Kites in the hole with great success. To help attract the geese and position them for shooting I also use Killer Kites, which can be flown singly or with up to 4 in a line. They can also be attached to an extendible fishing pole to get them up into the air.

Changing / Swirling Winds "X" Decoy Spread

"X" Field Decoy Spread For Ducks or Geese

For use on days with changing/swirling winds. A blind or pit can be set between

Windy Days / Geese Swinging Short or Downwind of the Decoy Spread

When geese swing short or downwind of the decoys, as they often do, especially on windy days, I place my hunters on the downwind edge of the decoys spread; so that when the birds fly short of the spread, the hunters have an opportunity at them either swinging by, or directly overhead.

Shooting at Birds Directly Overhead

If you really want to bring home some meat try this technique. When geese or ducks are directly overhead, and they are out there at 40-70 yards, lead them by tow to three bird lengths, follow through with your swing, and pull the trigger.

If you have questions on duck or goose behavior, or hunting techniques, log on to the "T.R.'s Tips" Talk Forum / Message Board. I'll do my best to help you.

Water Based Decoy Spreads

One of the keys to waterfowl hunting is to know where the birds like to sit. On windy days, puddle ducks often sit in small openings in cattail, bull rush or saw grass sloughs, ponds and lakes. They may also sit in small potholes or stock ponds that are low enough to be out of the wind, or in wooded river backwaters where the current is slower and the trees reduce the wind speed. Because these areas are small they usually contain only a few ducks, but on certain occasions there may be several dozen ducks of more than one species of water. Puddle ducks also like to sit in small areas on windy days, and they often prefer to sit on the downwind side of a hill, woods, or vegetation that further reduces the wind speed.

When you are setting decoys on water you should ask yourself how the birds will approach the water to land, where the birds can find protection from the wind, and where can you setup in a covered location that will still allow you a good position to shoot from. If you are hunting small waters, surrounded by vegetation (grass, rushes, cattails, brush or trees) or higher ground, the birds will usually approach into the wind, and land near the upwind side of the body of water. This will often put them on the downwind side of surrounding cover or higher ground, where they also have protection from the wind. If there is a point or bar extending out from the shore, it can also provide protection from the wind for the birds. Knowing this, you should try to choose a shooting location that is on the upwind side of the body of water; you should also be downwind of vegetation, higher ground, a point or a bar.

If there is vegetation where you plan to setup, you may be able to use it to conceal yourself, your watercraft, or a blind with the vegetation. If there is no vegetation, you may have to make a pit, construct a blind of nearby vegetation, or use a portable blind. When the area is bare of vegetation, and you have to use a blind, make sure it resembles the color and pattern of the surrounding area. You should also place the blind where it is not sky-lined if possible, and keep it as low to the ground as you can. The higher the blind is, and the more it sticks up above the horizon, the more visible it will be to incoming birds, especially if they are coming in low.

The following diagrams show a few common decoy sets for puddle ducks and geese. I usually set my decoys in a "J" or fishhook pattern, with a "hole' for the birds to land in. When I hunt ducks and geese I usually have the longer side or shank of the decoy set on the inside, closest to shore, because ducks and geese often sit close to shore.

 To order a complete set of waterfowl decoy-set diagrams, send $10 to T.R. Michels, using this order form. Write "Decoy Diagrams" on the order form.

Puddle Duck & Goose Decoy Water Spreads


Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Straight Shoreline

Wind blowing from the right of the hunters.


(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Straight Shoreline

Wind blowing from the hunter's right.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Straight Shoreline

Wind blowing from the hunter's left.

Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Point

Wind blowing from straight behind the hunters.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Point

Wind blowing from the hunter's right.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Puddle Duck or Goose Decoy Spread on a Point

Wind blowing from the hunter's left.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Diver Duck Decoy Spreads

When I hunt divers I usually have the "shank" or longer arm of the decoy set on the outside, because divers often sit farther from shore, and they often fly along (or sit in) the scum-line of the water created by points or bars.

Diver Duck Decoy Spread on a Point

Wind blowing from straight behind hunters. The decoys can be on either side of a point.

Diver Duck Decoy Spread on a Point or Straight Shore

Wind blowing from the hunter's right.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)

Diver Duck Decoy Spread on a Point or Straight Shore

Wind blowing from the hunter's left.

(Diagram available in the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual)






 © Copyright 2009, T.R. Michels / Trinity Mountain Outdoors

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