Skip to main content

Duck, Duck, Goose! 3 Killer Decoy Spreads to Dupe Quackers and Honkers

Here is a three-pack of rigs that are effective throughout the waterfowl season.

Duck, Duck, Goose! 3 Killer Decoy Spreads to Dupe Quackers and Honkers

The later in the season it gets, the more readily a diverse or unusual decoy spread will get the attention of migrating ducks and geese. (Photo by M.D. Johnson)

Back in the day, I was a duck hunter, meaning I focused solely on ducks—duck loads, duck calls and, most significantly, duck decoys and duck-specific spreads. Then, as things often happen in waterfowling, I turned a page and became a goose hunter.

Now on the backside of 50, I'm neither a duck hunter nor a goose hunter, but rather an opportunist. That is, when the regulations and situation allow, I set for both and will happily take a half-limit of mallards and two fat Canadas home as opposed to a full limit of one or the other.

With this change in mindset came a change in the decoys I pack into the field. Enter the combination spread. Before we go any further, one note on combo spreads: Ducks will absolutely work to goose decoys, often finding the big fakes irresistible; however, geese will seldom work to duck-heavy spreads.

With that said, detailed here is a three-pack of combo rigs I run throughout the waterfowl season. Pack your decoy bags accordingly.

WHY THEY WORK

Nothing works all of the time, not even the most well thought out and arranged spread. However, combination rigs—big, small or otherwise—have several things going for them that single-species setups lack.

Realism

It's been said that birds of a feather flock together, but in the case of ducks and geese, there's an exception to the rule. In fact, it's quite typical to see dabblers and Canadas co-mingling, whether that's on a small tidal marsh or in a recently cut grainfield. Therefore, mixing duck and goose decoys presents a realistic and very natural picture to birds trying to decide whether to join their plastic brethren.

Visibility

Goose decoys are large and sit high on the water, making a mixed spread highly visible, especially from a distance. This can be a significant component in big-water situations, or where emergent vegetation—smartweed, buck brush, cattails or flooded grain—proves a challenge in terms of the birds being able to see the decoys.

Food and Security

With their long necks, geese can reach submerged food that the shorter-necked ducks can’t. Ducks, it seems, know this, and take advantage of the floating leftovers. Geese, too, thanks to their high-sitting eyes, are excellent watchdogs, providing an alarm service to all in the vicinity.

Variation

I feel confident in saying that, with the exception of dedicated diver or sea duck rigs, 9 out of every 10 spreads in the Atlantic Flyway consist of 24 mallards or, if it’s a field being hunted, two dozen Canada full-bodies or five dozen silhouettes. It’s the same spread time and again, and late-season birds, having seen this scenario since September or October, might be a bit reluctant to set down in it. A combo spread not only looks realistic, but it’s visually different than what the birds have been seeing.

ON THE WATER, Part I

map of duck pond
Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Most of the time, I walk into my hunting spot and pack my spread on my back. If not afoot, I run a small duck skiff, like an AquaPod or Old Town Discovery 119. Due to this minimalist mindset and the fact that my decoy storage capacity is at a premium, my first water-based combo rig consists of six to eight water-keel Canada floaters, 10 to 12 wigeons and two drake pintails or northern shovelers.

Why wigeons? Everybody and his brother runs the aforementioned all-mallard spreads, and there are times, especially during the late season, when something other than mallard blocks can be a bit more effective. Not partial to wigeons? A mix of gadwalls, teal and a mallard or two will keep things visually different. As for the drake sprigs or spoonbills, their white chests, like the larger Canada decoys, help attract attention from a distance.

To set this spread, I run the goose floaters slightly upwind and about 25 yards from my hide. A simple jerk cord attached to a pair of lightweight green-wing teal (Note: I’d rather forget my calls at home than my jerk cord) goes in the center, or “hole,” with the remainder of the duck decoys in front and slightly upwind of my position. Geese, not wanting the potential air traffic control issues of flying over ducks, will land wide and with their own kind, which still puts them well within range. Ducks will often key on the motion generated by the jerk cord that spills over into the main duck spread. This puts them point blank.

Recommended


ON THE WATER, Part II

map of duck pond for hunting
Illustration by Peter Sucheski

Hear me out on this one: A dozen Canada floaters with mixed head positions, set in a wide, random, relaxed arrangement upwind of the blind, plus a dozen coots set tight and to the downwind side of the blind. This group of coots is the one and only time I will tolerate my decoys touching one another, and there's no such thing as too tight in this situation. In fact, I've experimented with rigging four to six coots, each with its own no-tangle line but all on a single anchor, to achieve this "coot ball."

Scratching your head? How many times have you had a group of coots pull ducks away from your spread? Coots know where the food is, and the other ducks know this. Plus, very few waterfowlers set all-coot spreads, so you have the non-traditional aspect covered. Again, motion is a key component, so throw a jerk cord rig into the coot ball and you'll have all the surface action you'll need. It's worth a try, especially during the late season.

ON DRY GROUND

map for hunting duck and geese
Illustration by Peter Sucheski

When hunting dry ground—corn, beans or wheat stubble, for instance—where I’m able to drive my gear onto the ‘X,’ my go-to combo-rig consists of 18 to 36 full-body Canadas set in two rough teardrop formations on either side of the downwind-facing blinds, along with two dozen full-body mallards around and behind the blinds themselves. Two trios of "walker" or active Canada full bodies are set directly in front of the blind, simulating birds that have just landed and are hurrying into either feeding group. I stake a remote-controlled spinning-wing mallard behind the blinds, but shut it down at the first sight of geese.

Don’t have or care to invest in full-body decoys? Three to four dozen Dive Bomb V2 goose silhouettes mixed with two dozen M1 Mallard flats should do the trick. Plus, you can walk that entire spread into the field on your back.

It’s worth repeating that nothing—not even a puddle full of swimming and quacking ducks or a field of feeding Canadas—is going to work day in and day out. However, mixing it up and throwing out a combination spread often has a way of making those hard-luck mornings just a bit less challenging.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Gear

Trika Rods

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Gear

New Shimano Baitcasters

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Hunting

Incredible Turkey Audio: Tommy Allen Punches his Minnesota Tag IN THE SNOW

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Destinations

First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Froggin' Game Plan

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Taylor is a known turkey killer in her family, and this year is no different. After an enjoyable gobbling morning, a war...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now