Hunting Q & A

What is a good decoy setup for wary late-season birds?

What is a good decoy setup for wary late-season birds?

Q: In Ohio it is getting late in the duck season, and my question is what are good decoy setups for late season wary birds. Also are there any decoys species you would recommend using, and if so how many decoys? - David Grunert

A: I Getting those late season, gun shy birds consistently is a difficult task and while I can’t give one simple answer, I will offer a couple of suggestions.

1) Try to simulate local conditions - When you are scouting try to closely observe the species of the birds and also how they are relating to their habitat. If the birds are loosely spread out, simulate that with your decoys. If they favor a certain loafing site on shore, attempt to mimic that with full body decoys. If the birds prefer a certain patch, recreate that with your spread and blind site.

2) Go small. I have found heavily hunted birds get conditioned to large decoy spreads (I mean this as a general statement-some folks have great gunning late season over huge spreads) and a very effective tactic is use a small number of high quality decoys and be sure you are well concealed and in the right place. This is counter intuitive to a lot of hunters, but I have used it with great effect across a number of areas and species and sometimes it just plain does the trick.

3) Stay hid. Sometimes ducks aren’t working not because of decoys or calling but rather because of a lack of effective concealment. I have always believed that this element is the one that causes most hunters to struggle day in and day out. Focus on being hidden from the prying eyes of those wary late season ducks and your success will increase.

Best of luck!

—John Devney