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Decoy spread

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Decoy spread
Anyone hunt salt water marsh? Looking to see what I?m doing wrong with my spread. I usually only hunt over 8 decoys or so with no motion. ( the old timers never had motion decoys, right?) so i?ll have birds fly high above me checking it out but keep on going. What am I doing wrong? Where to start? I?m pretty well hidden in my sneakbox (pics attched)
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Hi Joe

I hunted the Tuckerton marshes for several years. You aren't doing anything wrong, you're boat is grassed great, and 8 decoys is plenty for puddle ducks in that area. What we have been experiencing for the last couple of weeks is heavy overcast weather, which are the worst conditions we can get around here. The ducks flying over you can see everything when it is like this. I have had very little luck decoying birds in the last couple of weeks as I have been out in the same conditions. Without some sun, there are no shadows to break your outline and cause a stark contrast from above. The birds are nervous in addition, because everything spooks them. I had a black flare on me the other day after I moved my hand about 6"s when it was still 40 yards out. I was pulled into some tall grass and hidden well. We have also had some warm weather which means they don't have to eat as much, they are not really moving around because they don't have to.
We have a good number of ducks around where my shack is on Delaware Bay. Nobody is killing hardly any. You see them when you motor out, you figure it's going to be OK because you are pushing birds, then you see next to nothing. I've been through 35 seasons around here, and we get some like this. Not much you can do about it if you are tryuing to bring birds in to your spread. Unless you want to shoot buffleheads on the bayfront. They will typically cooperate.
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Sun or clouds does not make a difference it seems. I listen to guys blasting all around me and theres times I don?t even shoot my gun. I enjoy just being out there but a bird here and there would be great.
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I also hunt 6-8 decoys in the salt marsh. I carry a field motion decoy and place on the marsh. If you have geese in the area, I put a field goose decoy on the marsh about 25 yds out. I( also use a face mask when they fly high.
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Looking at that picture, Try removing the tiller and grass the motor.
Phil
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Joe Teja wrote:
Sun or clouds does not make a difference it seems. I listen to guys blasting all around me and theres times I don?t even shoot my gun. I enjoy just being out there but a bird here and there would be great.


Just because guys are shooting, doesn't mean that there is anything reasonable to shoot at.
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For sure. I?m not wasting shells on buffleheads. I?m at that point where I want cool ducks. Not just shoot to shoot or kill
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Old burlap bag over motor and tiller. Little flotsam from beach, too clean...
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With Black Ducks and know real weather or ice it helps to be exactly where they want to go.
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Greg basically said it all. When it's mild like it's been you are going to have a tough time decoying birds unless you are doing everything perfect and are where they want to be. When it gets mild like this I go to my areas that the birds are always going to for food, water or rest. You need to be where they want to be.

Also my magic equalizer for these conditions are two 'shaker' decoys for making ripples. The birds lock right up on them.
________
Coastal NJ
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Lots of really good info above. You have plenty of decoys, and your concealment is good, Definitely grass the motor.

As for motion, the old timers didn't have electric motion decoys, but they sure had jerk strings. If you use a jerk string, make sure the motion of your arm is concealed.

I'd also avoid calling but if you do keep it really simple, a couple of quacks, or a drake call which a lot of people ignore. Without cold weather and storms to move birds into the area, you are hunting birds that have seen and heard it all. In the last few weeks I've watched lots of black ducks land 75-100 yards off the marsh in open water. They sit and look the spread over and decide to fly or swim in. This tells me the've been shot at and have learned the game.

Just about everyone uses 6-12 decoys. It doesn't hurt to be different. Try 3 black duck decoys and a couple of goose or brant decoys or a confidence decoy like a blue heron.

Don't trouble yourself with hearing shots in the distance. They may be blasting away at buffleheads, or sky busting black ducks at 60 yards out.

.........................................
Recovering Engineer, Standup Philosopher, Aspiring Pirate, Cooking Enthusiast
"Life is a garden.... Dig It!"
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as previously stated, grass the motor. also, you might try a couple of canvas back decoys for some "color". and I am a believer in big spreads. out here everyone runs 3 to 4 dozen duck blocks. I run 6 to 8 doz. if everyone out there is running 8 to 12 decoys either go to 4 or 20. also, later in the season I go to fully flocked decoys, especially the black duck decoys. they really "pop" and show up
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Your hunting Black ducks, lol, it's what they do...The've played this game before. All that "blasting" just confirms their fears.

7 or 11 decoys is what the old timers said, in the right spot, 3 is fine. Throw some grass over the tiller and motor, it won't help but will make you feel better. Wink
When the conditions are right you won't be able to keep them out wearing a pink Tutu.
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My great grand pop used live decoys he had two ducks he brought out long after it was against the law. He said he would let them go and they would fly home. He died over 20 years ago he would tell me stories like that often. He said if you hobbled one and put the one in the reeds they would quack back and forth.
South Jersey
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gcs wrote:
Your hunting Black ducks, lol, it's what they do...The've played this game before. All that "blasting" just confirms their fears.

7 or 11 decoys is what the old timers said, in the right spot, 3 is fine. Throw some grass over the tiller and motor, it won't help but will make you feel better. Wink
When the conditions are right you won't be able to keep them out wearing a pink Tutu.



BINGO!

Give that man the top prize.











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Great tips. I?m mainly targeting anything BUT buffleheads. I?d love a wood duck canvas back red hed black duck hen/drake mallards. Pretty much anything. I shot a pair of hooded mergs a few weeks back and i?d rather not shoot them again. I?m trying to decoy anything in I haven?t shot yet or in a while. I?ve since added to my spread 6 more mallards of different sizes, a couple of home made black ducks and a butt up feeder, and also a couple of cheap wood ducks. Hoping to get out saturday. I know where the birds like to hang out but can?t get the boat in usually cuz of the tides.

Appreciate the comments, i?m working on trying to grass the outboad now.
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Old nasty ,muddy burlap bag split up one side will work great as a motor cover for small outboard in marsh setting. The more weathered the better. You never mentioned whether you were calling to those Blk Ducks or not but most i,ve seen don,t really respond to high balling , feed calls etc. Unlike your standard mallard just a simple guttural quack seems to work best. And doing it mouth calling works for me if they,re looking on the corners.

Last edited by:

roy brewington: Jan 3, 2022, 4:41 PM
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I?m going to check at work tomorrow and see if there is any burlap around!

I call some but not alot. I get to a spot early and just listen to the birds quack to each other and try to mimic that
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Or within range, for that matter!
george@runamuckdecoys.com
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Some guys claim they can call black ducks, maybe they can, but I've never seen it work on a regular basis.
I usually give them a low quack by mouth, mostly because it "might" help?, lol, calling to just get them to see the decoys is counter intuitive in my opinion, trust me, they see the decoys, if they want in they will, if they don't, they won't.

Most important thing to remember is....DO NOT MOVE if ducks are working, period.
Good luck,
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Joe Teja wrote:
For sure. I?m not wasting shells on buffleheads. I?m at that point where I want cool ducks. Not just shoot to shoot or kill


Here in NC, I continue to see pictures of guides and hunters with a tailgate full of Buffleheads....
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We hunt the same area. Greg and Craig hit a lot of key points. I think one thing that needs to be understood: There is nothing harder in the world than to decoy a black duck in short spartina with no wind/ice/weather/etc. Pintails also fall into that category as well but are not as numerous. I do have a few tips that may help:

- Less decoys is good. At a minimum I run usually 10-12, no more than 14-16. Spreads of 2,3,4 dozen usually don't apply here. But...at the same time...you may need a little more to pull those high/shopping birds in. 6-8 decoys might not have that wow-factor to get birds around for another look. Try adding just a few more.

- This is my opinion, taught to me by more seasoned hunters: Super cold days you want to set the decoys together. Bluebird sunny/warm days, spread them out.

- Put out what you might see. I always put 3-4 black ducks, usually a 3 mallards (2 drake/1 hen), round out the spread with either pintail, gadwall, and sometimes a pair of wigeon for flash if they are around.

- Put your black ducks in a way that they don't have to land over different species. Black ducks don't seem to like to land over mallards, pintails, etc. They like to be left alone. Heck, two weeks ago I watched a couple singles shop a group of their own (live) kind, didn't like what they saw, and never landed. If that doesn't give you what the dictionary version of a black duck is, I don't know.

- Let the wind dictate how you set but if you can find a way that your back is to the sun, it helps a lot. Being back to the sun as the birds come in they aren't looking at the boat (or might not even be able to see it) but they are looking down at the decoys.

Other than that, there's nothing you can do sometimes. This is especially the case in areas with high pressure. One thing I will say is that if you have birds looking like they are going to commit and flaring last second, yes, there is a good chance they see you or your boat. If you sort of watch them shop your rig and land in-sight like 100 yards away, its likely just a pressured bird. Good luck.
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My how times have changed than when this was published.... Could be the less Mallards in the Atlantic Flyway, the better for the Black Duck.


Here's to the Black Duck. All that care deeply for the duck, and those that hunt for it with passion. A boarder line addiction, with many rewards.















"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Thank you for posting. I have become more observant of duck and goose behavior around me since joining this group.

Rick