Decoys have been used for hunting for a long time, particularly for duck and goose hunting, as a means of encouraging wild birds in to land nearby. As well as various types of waterfowl decoys there has been an increase in the use of deer decoys too.
There is an art to placing your decoys and a decoy spread that works in one location will not necessarily work in another. The size of the decoy set will make a difference depending on where you are hunting.
As you spend more time hunting waterfowl you must pay a lot of attention on the movements and activities of the birds. Understanding where they prefer to go at different times of the day or year, what they do in certain temperatures and how they react socially will help you develop strong instincts that will make setting your spread more successful.
When in a large body of open water such as a lake, a large number of decoy sets is suitable. A smaller are such as a stream or river might require a smaller number of duck decoys. It has to look natural and the birds will spot danger if the decoy set looks unnatural.
When thinking about ways of setting up a realistic looking array of decoys part of it should provide some sort of movement. There are a large number of different types of motion decoys that may be used to add some type of movement to the spread.
For those decoys swimming or feeding in the water it may be worthwhile adding a few motion decoys that produce ripples in the water. Other decoys that are flapping their wings add a different type of movement that may help create the illusion of ducks that are comfortable.
The use of a set of decoys is a vital part of the waterfowl hunter’s arsenal and it makes sense that a good selection is close to hand so that any conditions can be matched.
There are many different brands of duck decoys available in a variety of different activities or poses to give you the opportunity to prepare for all types of situations.
The question of how many duck decoys to use when building a spread often comes up. Even if you’re talking about large and small areas there will still be a point where a decision will have to be made over how many is too many.
A small number of decoys can range from 6 to 36 decoys. Many more can be used in the more expansive areas. It is unheard of that ducks or geese are scared away because there are too many decoys.
If you’re carrying in your decoys on your back you are going to be limited in the number you can use simply by your physical capability to carry a large number of decoys as well as your other equipment.
The final factor that is possibly going to limit the number decoys you use is a financial one. Decoys cost money and the more you need, the more expensive your hunting trip is going to get. You may be able to get around this by building up your decoy spread over a number of years.
There are quite a few quality decoy producers making close to real life looking duck decoys in a variety of different poses and suited to different conditions and times of the year.
Browse through the selection of our articles that examine duck decoys more closely:
We also take a look at the process of preparing your decoys before getting them to the water including the important step of how to Texas rig your duck decoys.
Types of Duck Decoys
Filling your spread is not simply a matter of grabbing a bunch of decoys and placing them in a random pattern. Well, it may be for some but there is more to it than that for those who want to be successful.
For starters you have to give some thought to the different types of decoys that are available and then decide which ones are going to suit your particular circumstances.
Are you hunting over water or in a field? Is it early season, mid-season or late season? Do you need to create movement or will a static spread be enough?
Mixing your decoys will obviously be the preferred method to create a more natural look. And for this you will need a range of different types of decoys.
Firstly, you should probably try to mix up a range of different duck species. Start with the mallard, which is the most universal of the species and probably the decoy that will be most dominant. But also include pintails, gadwalls, teal, wood ducks, black ducks and widgeon if you are going for a puddle duck spread.
Then you can choose from a range of different poses and other decoy types to round the spread out. Full body decoys will be used for those placed on land in fields or just resting by the water’s edge. Feeder ducks come in a range of different poses from stretching necks to bent.
Floating decoys will also make up a good range from swimming to feeding and diving.
Choices range from shells, silhouettes, inflatables and soft foam. Some decoy choices will be determined by the fact that they are light to carry and easy to deploy. Others will be determined by how close to the real thing they look.
The thing is that the decoys that may work a treat today and bring the ducks clamouring in may be completely ignored tomorrow. Getting the mix right means that the number of times your spread will prove popular will increase.
Duck Hunting Decoy Tips
There are many different techniques and preferred methods that hunters like to follow when they are using their decoys. Some are going to be relevant to specific situations and others are going to be important in most situations. The following is a set of some basic tips for using duck decoys when hunting.
- Place your decoys upwind of where you want the ducks to land
- Try to add life to your decoy spread with movement
- Set up the spread to match the behaviour of ducks in that type of water (i.e. feeding, resting, etc.)
- Use a small number of decoys when hunting on a small backwater
- Large expanses of water will require more decoys
- Set out your decoys close to your blind
- Make your setting look as realistic as possible
- Leave room among the decoys for incoming ducks
For an extremely comprehensive selection of articles that explain the many tips and techniques you can use to great advantage when using duck decoys you should visit the authorities themselves at ducks.org.
The use of goose decoys is not always a foolproof method of attracting honkers. A method that works well one day might not attract anything the next. Early season, mid-season and late season the results can be unpredictable.
But that shouldn’t stop you trying.
Some people prefer to use large sets of decoys, sometimes setting up into the hundreds in a field in an effort to fool a few geese into showing up. Others swear that smaller sets of a couple of dozen, if properly placed, can experience success.
Using good quality decoys is going to yield better results and you should mix up different poses among the flock. It needs to look as natural as possible if passing geese are going to land.
To help with the success of your goose hunting trips we have included a guide to buying and getting the most out of your decoys. The following guides are available:
Goose Hunting Decoy Tips
- Don’t face all decoys into the wind. Position them in different directions and at varying angles
- Scout the area to find where they prefer to congregate
- Mix up your decoys – feeder decoys, sleeper decoys and resting decoys
- Geese will land, feed and rest where they feel secure
- Place your decoys in the middle of a field or water, away from anything that may offer potential cover to a predator
- Place decoys on the downwind side of a hill or vegetation when there are strong winds. Geese prefer to land and feed out of high winds
- Leave a landing zone in your decoy spread to best position the bird for shooting
- Place goose decoys in family groups from 5 to 12 decoys. These groupings should be separated from each other because families of geese like their own space
- Ensure there is a small percentage (less than 20 per cent) of decoys with sentry heads. Too many that are on alert can spread alarm to the geese
- Use the most realistic decoys possible such as shells and full bodies
- A more realistic spread can be achieved by including decoys that are capable of movement. Get decoys with bobbing heads, wing movement or side to side movement will add a more natural look
- Place dark colored decoys in light colored areas and light colored decoys in dark colored areas to increase visibility
- Use some decoys as range markers by placing them 35 yards away from the landing zone
Turkey decoys are used to lure an amorous male turkey who will strut for the fake. The decoys take the form of simple silhouettes of hens, jakes or toms, or incredibly lifelike inflatable decoys that have bobbing heads and bodies that move around in the breeze.
The question that hunters have to ask is how many of each sex of turkey decoys they should use. A single hen that will lure the amorous male or a lesser tom that will challenge the pecking order.
Turkey Hunting Decoy Tips
- Use a single hen as the season progresses as the aggressive tom numbers reduce
- Take extra decoys in case a more aggressive tom is in the area
- Inflatable turkey decoys offer greater portability and more can be carried in a backpack
- Change your decoy as the season changes
- Put your decoy in open field edges or sparse timber so the turkey can see it
- Set your decoy well inside your shooting range
- Secure the decoy on windy days to stop it spinning like a top
To help you decide which turkey decoy will give you the best chance for a successful hunt we have put together a post that compares some of the top turkey decoys in the market.
Deer react to other deer in different ways. Some are social, some are aggressive, some are wary. There is no guarantee that a deer decoy is going to lure the buck that you want out to the point where you will be able to take the shot.
The use of a deer decoy is another tool that some people are going to swear by while others would never dream of it. Those who have used them properly and have seen the reactions of some of the whitetail wouldn’t dream of heading out without their decoy.
The reaction to your deer decoy will also be different depending on the time of year you use it. There will be a far different reaction from a dominant buck during the rut than at other times of the year and the same will be noticed with lesser bucks and does.
Deer Hunting Decoy Tips
- Place your deer decoy in an area of high visibility from long distance
- Position the decoy around 25 to 30 yards from you
- Keep the decoy scent free
- Spread some urine on the ground at the rump of the decoy
- If one decoy doesn’t work, perhaps two put together will
- Lure the buck in with some calling or rattling
The summaries and tips are a brief guide as to what to expect when hunting with a decoy. Each page that is devoted to the different decoy species will cover how to use and deploy your decoys in more detail.
You will also be able to find a wide selection of decoys for sale, no matter whether you’re looking for ducks, geese, turkeys, deer or some other game.
In the pursuit of trying to create decoys that are as realistic and lifelike as possible, some manufacturers have also turned to the practice of flocking a range of decoys. Take a look at the selection of some of the most lifelike fully flocked decoys available.
The thing to remember is that no matter how prepared you think you might be, there is never a sure thing when dealing with wild animals. How you set up your spread, where the ducks feel like feeding today and at what point in the animal’s life-cycle we have reached will greatly affect the effectiveness of your decoys.