For duck hunting to be successful, ducks must feel comfortable enough to come within gunshot range. Ducks have excellent vision, as most birds do. They can easily pick up on anything that does not seem natural or right. The best way to overcome this is with duck decoys. Duck decoys are reproductions of ducks that are very realistic. Because ducks are social creatures, they will stop to visit if they see other ducks in the area. The supposed presence of other ducks assures the passing ducks that the area is free of predators and safe to approach.
For centuries, duck decoys have been used to help humans trap or shoot ducks. American Indians used duck decoys made of reeds, rushes or cattails. Years ago, duck decoys were also made from wood or cork. Unfortunately these materials did not stand up to the rigors of duck hunting, nor were they very durable.
Since then, duck decoys have also been manufactured with plastic and foam. One problem with the earlier plastic and foam models was that they didn’t balance very well in the water. The foam models also became brittle after awhile. These days, thanks to modern technology, duck hunters can use mechanical duck decoys that move and act exactly like real ducks and look much more authentic than their predecessors.
Before purchasing decoy ducks, it is important to find out what species of ducks normally frequent the area that you will be hunting in. Although different species of ducks do interact with one another, they are more likely to interact with their own. If you are not sure of the species or if the species model that you need is unavailable, mallard duck decoys are a safe bet. Try to get equal amounts of drakes and hens.
Regardless of species, make sure that the decoys you choose are as realistic and as natural as possible. Avoid duck decoys that are too glossy or shiny, as that will give the decoys away. Larger decoys are better, as they are more visible to ducks flying by at a distance. Weighted duck decoys will be less likely to tip over, but they can be heavy to carry to your hunting site. A larger number of duck decoys, at least several dozen, are perfect for larger bodies of water such as lakes, wide rivers or reservoirs. A smaller number of decoys is better for creeks, streams and smaller rivers.
Once you have scouted the area and set up your hunting blind, you can concentrate on setting up your duck decoys. Make sure to position them close to your blind in small groups facing in slightly different directions so that they appear more natural. Real ducks rarely travel alone. Be sure not to place your duck decoy groups too closely together so that approaching ducks will have a place to land.
Placing your duck decoys upwind of your hunting blind will ensure that passing ducks will see your decoys before they see you. A couple of confidence decoys of other types of waterfowl added nearby will make your setup even more believable. Coots, herons and geese scare easily, and their assumed presence will make ducks more confident about approaching.
Another important factor to take into consideration is the motion of the duck decoys, or lack thereof. Passing ducks will become suspicious if they see groups of ducks sitting perfectly still on the water and will be less likely to come near. Rigging lines attached to the decoys will allow you control their movements, like puppets. These lines will also make it easier to retrieve your duck decoys later on. The rigging lines should be made of dark or clear tangle-free plastic for optimal results and hassle-free hunting. Remote control duck decoys with naturally moving heads and wings are even better, though a bit more costly.
When duck hunting season is over, remember to clean and store your duck decoys properly. Rinse off any mud or dirt, using a cloth or soft brush if necessary. Allow the decoys to dry for a couple of days before putting them away. To prevent them from becoming moldy, melted or crushed, duck decoys are best stored on dark shelves away from heat and moisture in stacks of two or three,. Duck decoys are not cheap and you don’t want to replace them unless you absolutely have to. With proper care and maintenance, your duck decoys will last much longer and you will be ready for the next duck hunting season.