Here’s how a noted waterfowl guide brings in flocks ducks, geese, and cranes with a spread of spinners
Habitat Flats guide Arliss Reed kills limits of ducks, geese, and cranes from Saskatchewan to Missouri, and New York to Arkansas. The secret is in the setup. When a mixed bag of birds is in the area, Reed runs a mega spread of spinning-wing puddle-duck decoys and full-body plastic geese. He keeps the spinners on until he hears geese or cranes, then he hits the kill switch and hand-flags and calls the big birds into gun range. “You can get a lot of birds in the landing zone with a half-dozen spinners and a goose spread,” he says. Here’s how he does it.
The downside of spinning-wing decoys is when they’re turned on, they repel geese and cranes. The solution is to hot-wire all of your spinners to a master control panel or to one remote switch. This way, the whole spread turns on and off at once. Reed does not use static duck decoys in his spread, because picky geese often don’t finish to them. Instead, he’ll set a traditional goose spread, then work spinners into and around the kill hole.
Stake Them Low
The height of the spinner doesn’t matter to ducks, but if you have a flock of motion decoys on poles 8 to 10 feet above the ground, geese may avoid them. Reed stakes his spinners about 2 feet off the ground and makes sure the stakes are solid so the dekes don’t wobble. “A tippy decoy doesn’t look good,” he says.
Find the Sun
Ducks will generally finish right near the spinners, so Reed concentrates them 20 yards out, to both sides of the kill hole. But what’s even more important, he says, is the direction the spinners are facing. Reed stakes the first decoy so it faces the rising sun on a morning hunt or the setting sun on an evening hunt, so the spinner reflects as much light as possible. The next spinner faces into the wind, just the way the real birds will finish. “I’ll run two other spinners 90 degrees to the wind and sun, so the birds can see the decoys flash from whatever direction they’re flying,” Reed explains. If Reed has more than four spinners going, he will set the rest into the wind. If he’s in a timber hole or a spot with plenty of shade, he makes sure most of them are in a patch of open sun. “That sun flash is most important,” he says. “Get the flash, get the ducks.”
Hot-wire a mega spread of four to 16 spinning-wing decoys and control them all with the flip of a switch. This project makes setting up all of those dekes as easy as plugging in a power cord.
What You’ll Need
• 4 to 16 spinning-wing decoys • 50- or 100-foot outdoor extension cord strands, one per decoy • Mojo 4-Channel Decoy Boss• 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery • 3⁄4-inch electrical conduit, 4 to 6 feet per decoy
How It’s Done
Remove the battery and power switch from a decoy, and cut the red and black wires that run to the switch.
Cut 8 inches off the female end of an extension cord, and wire it to the decoy’s cut power lines. You should now have a deke with an extension cord hanging from its rear end (shown bottom right).
Mount the Decoy Boss inside your blind or pit wall. Strip the cut end of the leftover extension cord, and wire the positive and negative wires to the corresponding posts on the Decoy Boss.
Set up your spinner, then connect the decoy’s female cord to the male connection you just wired into the Boss. Repeat with the rest of your spinners. Connect the deep-cycle battery to the Boss, and pull in ducks.
Written by Michael R. Shea for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many public-land hunters are used to setting up well before legal light to claim their spot. I used to motor out and set my decoys in the dark, allowing plenty of time for the marsh to settle down after I cut off my two-stroke outboard. Usually, I’d see a flurry of ducks that were gone before legal shooting light. A lot of ducks roost in the marsh areas I hunt, so even with a small motor, it was impossible to get set up without spooking birds.
Then a few seasons ago, I had some motor trouble and went hunting with my kayak instead. What a difference it made. Now I consistently kill more ducks at daybreak by sneaking in undetected via paddle power at the last minute. Kayaks are fantastic craft for accessing the shallow waters where puddle ducks spend most of their time, and they are just about silent if you don’t lean into the paddles too hard. The low profile of the vessel disappears against the bank if you trace the edges of channels or creeks too.
Paddle in just before shooting time and quietly get set up. As the stroke of the clock signals the start of another hunting day, gently slap the water with the blade of your paddle. The sound will put ducks in the air without sending them to the next county, and they will frequently trickle right in to your decoys.
To take advantage of this technique, practice paddling silently on some scouting runs before the season starts. When you can get in position without spooking any ducks, you’ll know you have it mastered. Just be prepared to have less time to drink your coffee in the marsh.
Written by The Editors for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Vanish from view with these layout blind concealment tips
Layout field blinds can help you disappear before the eyes of wary geese and ducks, or they can flare every bird that gets close enough to see the decoys. Whether you trudge back to the truck weighed down with your limit or an empty bird strap largely depends on how well you hide your blind. Here’s how to turn a hunter-size duffel bag into just another lump of innocent stubble.
1. Mud Bath
Yes, you shelled out a couple hundred bucks for a spanking-new layout, but your first task is to coat the entire thing with mud. New fabric has a sheen that flashes like a mirror, and you have to dull the shine. Don’t hold back. Mix thick mud in a bucket and slather it on with a mop or paintbrush. Once it dries, give the blind a light shake to dislodge large clods, but otherwise, keep as much dirt on the blind as possible.
2. Yard Work
Working natural cover like crop stubble, grasses, and stalks into your blind’s stubble straps is a crucial step in hiding effectively. Add pruning shears, hedge shears, and a lawn rake to your field gear list. As you’re setting up in the dark, a couple of hunters should be tasked with gathering loads of cover that match the surroundings. These hand tools cut the time required by half. Don’t spoil the look of your hunting area by gathering material near the blinds, though. Move a few dozen yards away.
3. Trench Warfare
Early-morning light on a field blind can cast a 20-foot shadow and spook birds from a hundred yards. Dig a 6-inch—or deeper—pit to fit the footprint of the blind. This will lower the profile and reduce the shadow. Place a couple of decoys to the west of the blind to soften up the harsh outlines of its shadow.
4. Sock Setup
Late-season birds are particularly wary of bumps in fields. Vanish by crawling into the blind without setting up the internal metal rail structure. Prop your head on your shell bag and stay still. Is it as comfortable as a blind that’s fully set up? Nope. But carrying a full game strap will make you feel better.
5. Ice It Up
On still, cold evenings, try to set up in the dark the night before a hunt. Frost-free blinds are darker than blinds skimmed in the white stuff, which makes a difference during that first half hour until body heat melts the frost.
6. Reapply Makeup
Once you’ve kicked the blind doors open several times, take a few minutes, maybe while the dogs are working, to freshen the cover in your stubble straps. You need to be just as covered up an hour after shooting time as you were in the dark.
Written by T. Edward Nickens for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.