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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I went on my first duck hunt (not counting the youth opener this year with my son) Monday and had a blast. As soon as I got home from Farmington Bay I went out and bought a dozen mallard decoys and now seek advice on set up and layout options. The sales person suggested I toss them out in an "upside-down smilie face" shape and the sit where the "nose" on the face would be.

The decoys are floaters, 1/2 drake, 1/2 hen. How much line would you string between the decoy and the weight? Is there a pattern I should try to achieve with my small layout when I throw the decoys in the water or is it a random thing? How far away do you sit from your decoys if in a camo-boat pulled into the reeds? How about if on a dike? How about if trying to hide in a patch of reeds surrounded by water? Do you want the decoys between you and in-coming ducks or do you want to try to get the ducks to land between you and the decoys? This is sure an exciting adventure, any advice is appreciated.
 

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I like big and loose for the lay out when there is no wind. If there is a wind make a pocket in them so that the ducks can land coming into the wind in that pocket. Know your shooting distance. Ducks will want to land kinda close but not too close to the decoys. If they are out too far then the ducks may not land in range. If they are too close to your blind then they dont look natural. I would recommend though that you put a hen close to your blind if you are calling. Ducks can pinpoint where a call is coming from and if there isnt a hen close to there it can seem strange. I put my farthest decoy out about 40 yards, a hen close 10feet and the rest inbetween. When setting up your blind location try to face the pocket in the decoys. This means that the duck is going to be landing coming right at you, so hold real still till you see the feet drop. Get a face mask or some camo paint, it really helps. If ther is more than one of you hunting the blind, designate a spotter. This person will be the only one lookin to the sky and watching ducks come in. The one tip that I can give for successful decoying is to keep em loose. ducks in a tight group in nature are nervous, and weary. A prospective quacker wanting to land isnt going to lock up on a place that the flock is going to abandon soon. If you ever get a chance to sneek up on some ducks in the wild and not be noticed you will see that they are far apart from eachother. If you make a noise then they all start to group together. The only exception to this is Teal and Some divers. I could go on for ever. This should be enough for ya to get em to lock up. Also if you plan on calling, keep it to a minimum. If a duck is coming in dont call just let him do his thing. If you call to a duck and it starts to come in dont get excited and quack his ears off. Keep it calm. One last tip. On really calm days when the water is like glass, use a jerk string. Take three or four decoys set them in a line going out from your blind. Stomp the farthest one's weight into the mud so it wont move out easy. Then tie a string to the other two or three ducks, dont put their weights down keep them wrapped around the keel, this will allow them to move easier. On the length of line, I like to put 6 ft tied off on the decoy, and tied off on the weight. Some guys will do a Carolina rig or other things. At six feet it gives the decoys room to move around a little with a slight breeze. One more thing you can find a bunch of good info on the DU web site. Look under the hunting tips page. They even have some pictures of differnt set ups. Now that I have given you this advise, which has taken me years to figure out, you have to make me a couple promises. NO SKY BUSTIN. Let the ducks work your decoys, see the feet then shoot. Second ya gotta let us know how ya do, and pics are a plus. Good luck.
 

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Now your hooked, good goin!

Decoys are something you'll learn most by trial and error, but there are people on here who can give you some tips to get things going right. Let's address these questions:

How much line do you string between the decoy and the weight?

It all depends on the water you're hunting, I've got most of my decoys rigged with about 2-3 feet of line where I usually hunt pretty shallow water. I would suggest going anywhere between 4-6 feet to keep your decoys in place on those windy days on any bays.

Is there a pattern I should try to achieve with my small layout when I throw the decoys?

This is where you'll learn a lot on trial and error. Mallards are puddle ducks and they won't all be in a line. I have found the most success by noticing the average flock size in the area and duplicate that in small families, forming a J or U shape. With only a dozen decoys however, it might be best to throw one or two out about 35 yards or so, then throw a couple families of 3-4 in closer on each side of you to try to duplicate any type of a J shape you can. If you ever get a chance, look at ducks and how they sit on the water, it's your goal to try to duplicate that as much as possible.

How far away?

Sit far enough away where the ducks won't be focused on where you are sitting, but close enough where your shotgun can still reach out to make an ethical kill over your decoys. I can't exactly give you an exact distance on this one, it varies on area you're hunting and cover and the weather/time of day.

And you do want to try to get the ducks landing somewhere in the middle of your decoys. This should be possible with the J or U shape in your spread, having a "landing" zone in the middle there.

A couple more tips if weather permits:

On a windy day, set up with the wind at your back. The birds land in to the wind and this will bring them straight to you, exposing their vitals.

If possible, set up so the sun is at your back (morning or evening shoots) - this will make it harder for the ducks to spot you and it will also make it easier to identify the ducks.

I would suggest, if finances permit, to buy another variety of decoys. I had the standard dozen mallards which worked for years, but I noticed a big difference when I added some teal to my spread. Make sure and match the species that are in the area.

One big tip that will help finish the birds, generate movement in your spread somehow. Whether it's a flapper decoy, a jerk string, a swimmer, whatever you can do to get your decoys moving and looking natural, that will help a bunch.

Anything else I missed guys?
 

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ya beat me to it huntducks! Good going...always good to keep us informed on how the hunting is going for ya!
 

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I might have beat ya but yours was far more uniform than mine. I just ramble on and on and on. I should go threw and delete all the periods and make it all one sentence, thats the way it sounds in my head.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for all of the GREAT input. I'm taking my boys out in the morning and boy are we excited! I am amazed at how my oldest studies the proclamation, can identify the different ducks, and tells me how many malards, honkers, etc... he saw on the way to school. I'll take the camera and post up for sure. And I promise, NO SKY BUSTING! Thanks again.
 

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You know... when I started out... at least hunting Farmington, I only had a couple dozen dekes. They were all Mallards and then later I picked up teal. Honestly... I set them in a ragged line (not straight across, kinda offset them a little) with a gap in the middle... the birds would set somewhere near the line.. and as long as I had it about twenty yards out from the blind... then the birds would be in range. I shot a lot of teal, gadwalls, pintails, shovelers and actually some divers at Farmington with that setup. Do yourself a favor and get some coots to throw in and around your dekes... they make a great "natural" addition to the spread. With only a dozen... you aren't going to be able to make much of a shape.... I wouldn't worry about that much at all until you really have a good spread to create bunches with. With only a dozen, I think your primary concern would be spacing... since the ducks may try and land right in and on your dekes if you're where they want to be. Good luck... decoys are like tattoos... once you start getting them, its nearly impossible to stop. 8)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Nice, first decoys and now a tat! Maybe "sky buster" with an X through it? Duck hunting is opening up a whole new world to me! Thanks for the input Riverrat, Huntduck, Avidhunter, et al...
 

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Hardwater said:
Maybe "sky buster" with an X through it? Duck hunting is opening up a whole new world to me! Thanks for the input Riverrat, Huntduck, Avidhunter, et al...
:lol: That would be hilarious but later I'm sure you'd think, "Man, that was ridiculous to spend money on that... I could have bought more decoys!!" 8) Your welcome for the suggestions. Hopefully you really smack some ducks over your new dekes and get em broken in right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I spaced my decoys to resemble what I thought looked like a "relaxed" group of mallards, added a Quiver Duck Butt, hunkered down with my boys and look what we got! It was a beautiful morning to spend time with the boys in the marsh. I'll never forget the pintail that went screaming by, from left to right, before my son or I could even think about raising our guns. They are FAST!

Side note, I've always hunted upland game with my semi-auto, but it does not handle 3", so I borrowed a pump action that does. I about straitened out the trigger once after shooting at a nice mallard, forgetting that I had to pump a new shell into the chamber. (OK, so I did this more than once, my boys laughed their butts off.)

It was a fantastic day full of firsts for us. Thanks again for all of the great suggestions guys.
 

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it sounded liek you hada good time. im glad what they told you helped you out.it all was nice to spend time wioth faimly in the marsh.nice pic to.
 

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Looks like a fun time! Another thing you'll find, especially on slow days, the second you head out to pick up your decoys, you usually have a duck with cupped wings coming in that you never saw, so of course it will flare off as he sees you...that happens way too often! Looks like you had an excellent set up and I'm glad we could help somewhat. Congratulations and good luck on your future hunts!
 

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agreed... that does look good in that little pothole looking area. Glad you got out and got some use from the dekes. Looks like boys had a good time also. :D
 
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