Friday, January 20, 2012

Decoys I'd like to hunt over, collect, and purposely shoot...

Duck Hunters without decoys aren't duck hunters. They're either mooches, cheap, or pass shooters, all of which are clammering for a space at the bottom of the totem pole. Every duck hunter should have atleast 1 decoy. Seriously. You can kill all the wood ducks you want, most of the time, with one wood duck decoy. A dozen mallards is probably the average hunter's personal stand. Not in North Carolina, but in places where mallards bless the waters, a dozen is all that's needed. I've got about 250 decoys in my stand. At any time, some are loaned out, some are in my "shop" for repair or repaint, some are in my boat for the next days hunt, and some are hanging out in the backyard, awaiting their turn in the boat. Needless to say, I've got plenty, but I could always use more. I typically have 5 or 6 different locations I like to hunt...backwater creeks get the same wood duck trio. Low country creeks get the same 2 dozen teal. Layout hunting gets either my scoter set or a combination of divers and scoters. Shallow water and tide water hunting get the pintails and redheads - 100 or so total - every time. And one special place gets the Model 72 Herters. I, like a duck, am a creature of habit.

Specifically, here's what I do for each:
Backwater creeks and river sloughs...this is the haunt of the wood duck in eastern North Carolina. Thebest way to miss out on opportunities for woodies is to throw out more than 4 decoys. Put anything out other than a wood duck, and you'll get to stare at an empty decoy spread. I like to get as real as possible for decoying wood ducks. So as much as I hate the brand, Greenhead Gear is the best for the money. Just buy a pair off of Ebay, though. You'll never need 6, unless you shoot you're decoys regularly. An upgrade would be the E Allen decoys with a professional paint job. Expect to pay $100 a piece, though. Still, they're beautiful and practically bomb-proof. They're two part urethane - not plastic.

Teal like open marshes and the creeks that feed them. Teal are so reckless in their decoying and flight that I have been able to determine that they really don't inspect the decoy spread as much as they attack it. Teal generally travel in flocks of 10-20 birds, so I replicate that. And since the tidal areas they hunt are often approached on foot, I prefer a light plastic decoy. Flambeau makes a nice water-keeled bird. The paint will wear off quickly, though. I rig them all with 5 feet of 2.0 mm clear monofilament with a three ounce egg sinker. No decoy bag needed and it's almost tangle-free! Almost. You can usually get a dozen for about $30 from a major retailer. Avoid paying monstrous prices for GHG decoys as they are just as effective as the knockoff.

Layout hunting requires lots of decoys. Open water has no reference points for ducks to key in on, so a large raft of decoys is used to draw their attention. Birds are much less weary that far out, too! Almost anything that is similar in color and size is good enough. For Scoters, I have spray painted all of my broken and patched decoys solid black. A touch of fluorescent orange on the bill is all that is needed. I also use filler decoys...they're just crab pot buoys I have found that are spray painted black. My layout diver duck decoys are old decoys that I purchased from ebay. All were mallards, but not any more! Cans of black and white spray paint were used to half-way mimic bluebills. Ruddy brown primer from a spray can completes a redhead. You can stop right there! But, I like a little more detail, so I put yellow acrylic paint on the old eye holes, and I spray paint each bill gray. A black tip and white stripe complete the redheads. I use about 140 decoys when layout hunting. I never buy the GHG anymore...they're too heavy to fool with when you're putting out 140 fakes. Flambeaus are perfect. The standard mallard Storm Front is what I like to re-paint, but I got about 40 old Carrylites on Ebay once for around $25 bucks. The ducks look great from 20 feet away, but within 5 feet, overspray is seen by the human eye. Ducks, on the other hand, have been fooled all the way to the gun barrel! Maintaining this rig is fun, too! And if you lose or shoot a decoy, which is common in layout hunting, you haven't lost a heavy, $10 decoy.

For the shallow and tidewater places I hunt, pintails and redheads predominate. I use approximately 40 pintails on 5 foot mono each, and I'll put out the longlines with redheads on them. I like the flambeau pintails because they have a good silhouette and they're lightweight. I do have some Final Approach and Greenhead Gear in the mix, too, but I like the Flambeaus.

If you've got a place that makes you nostalgic like I do, you want to offer it your best effort. I'm a novice decoy collector - which means I've got about 10 collectible birds, but most are collectible only to me. Still, I've got about 5 dozen Herter's Model 72 decoys...which are getting scarce! Most people are collecting them and I am hunting over them! Over the past 4 years, I've accrued them through retailers, trade shows and Ebay. I've burlapped them all (or at least restle coated them) to make them resistant to shot, fuel, and any other unsavories that could damage a high density styrofoam decoy. They even look vintage! I put large white flanks on the bluebills, gratuitous white noggins on the buffleheads, and shiny red heads on the redheads and cans! Herter's are the best everyday decoy you can buy for divers. Especially the magnum Model 72's. They ride high, are tough as nails, and have great form.

In the coming years, I have some resolutions I intend to keep concerning decoys:
1) Eliminate all plastic diver decoys
2) Double my Herter's collection
3) Procure 2 dozen famous make factory wooden decoys to hunt over (I really like the Tackeye Masons)
4) Destroy with a gun, all of my Greenhead Gear decoys in favor of lighter and just as realistic Flambeaus
5) And if I ever decide to frequently buy plastic puddle duck decoys, I'll also consider G&H...they look phenomenal on the water!
6) Carve about 3 dozen more bluebills to replace my Herter's.
7) And, finally, purchase 2 dozen teal from Down East Carteret County carvers.

I want history and durability. The history is for my heart. The durability is for my gun...

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your blog I layout shoot on Pamlico over my handmade Cork, wooden and stretched Canvas diver decoys
    bendog @ bell south . net