Duck spreads for river hunting

a32stein

New Member
Oct 27, 2017
3
0
Colorado
Looking for tips regarding setting up duck spreads on moving rivers! I have hunted the same stretch of the same river in Colorado (public land, but pretty unknown spot) for years, and every year we are quite successful without any sort of decoys - but now we're wanting to add decoys just for fun, to see if we get more birds. In our area we primarily get Goldeneyes, Mallards, and Gadwalls. We also have to hike in so we can't have anything TOO bulky.

I have worked with decoys in the past, but never in moving water. I'm wondering what kinds of decoys to use and how to rig it so we don't lose decoys down the river?

Thanks!
 

Hilltop

Veteran member
Feb 25, 2014
2,802
6
Eastern Nebraska
Try to find a slack water spot... think where would a duck actually be able to stay put without a ton of effort. In these areas, typical anchors usually work well on a weighted keel decoy. I like to use 5 or 6 decoys instead of a huge spread. The downstream side of an island sandbar has been a go to for me... Good luck and post pics!
 

Daubs

Active Member
Aug 5, 2016
398
0
Nebraska
I've hunted the Platte River here in Nebraska for many years. Hilltop's recommendations are spot-on! Find slack water.

If you are packing in your decoys, don't be afraid of water keel. Don't ride the water as nice, but much lighter.

Some swear at the spinning wing decoys, others swear-by them. Check local laws to make sure you are not in violation.

We have had good luck using 18-24 duck decoys split in to two groups. Leave the opening right in front of your blind / hide. Ducks don't mind approach / landing over the top of Canada decoys...but I've found Canadas don't like approaching over duck decoys (not sure if you have Canadas in the area).

I would for sure mix in some Canada decoys to your spread, even if just two floaters. Bigger bodies, white tails = highly visible. Consider getting some RealGeese silhouettes. I made longer stakes and put them right in the river. Made it look like the water was shallow enough for a Canada to stand in...ducks loved it!

Some guys love to blow on their duck call, and some are quite good. Others should leave the call in the truck. You really have to play it by ear and see what the ducks are responding to that day. I've spent days on the river where we didn't even blow the call...and the ducks would pile right in. Other days nothing we did seemed to work.

And don't be afraid to hunt late in to the season...if you have, or can make open water, that's a great thing! Years ago we hunted a public marsh in south central Nebraska in December. Ice was thick enough for us to stand on it. We managed to break open an area probably 20 years around, threw a few decoys in, placed the rest on the ice. Killed a limit in no time. Open water sucked them right in!

Good luck. Post some pictures if you can. But don't give away your honey-hole. Daubs
 

Fink

Veteran member
Apr 7, 2011
1,815
4
West Side, MoMo
Every time I’ve hunted rivers, I’ve never used big spreads, usually less than a dozen. If you don’t have decoys, I’d buy a dozen quality mallard deeks, and rig them with longer lines and heavier weights. If you’re hunting 3’ deep water, I’d use at least 6-7 foot lines, and 8 ounce bank sinker style weights, your decoys will hold better and move better if the lines aren’t straight down, with the anchors barely touching bottom. I’ve switched to Texas rigged 400 pound mono, and love it.
 

480/277

Very Active Member
Feb 23, 2013
629
0
Daubs I also have not had luck with the mojo spinners. They seem to flair ducks rather than attract.
I have had luck with the mojo rippler though.
And an ole school jerk string.
 

THelms

Administrator
Staff member
Jerk rigs are still a go to. Mojo's? Well, lets just say that it depends on the day and what location I'm hunting. I let the birds decide when on the water. If they are diving on it I leave it out, if not then I take it down. As for dry land hunts, spinners are a must for ducks!
 

mallardsx2

Veteran member
Jul 8, 2015
1,627
13
I used to hunt a pocket on the river. I would simply take my boat into it and smash as much ice as possible and blow it out into the current. Then put out my decoys in that pocket with bricks holding them in place. I killed unreal amounts of birds over this setup. It looks rough but I assure you a large sum of birds died at extremely close ranges.

Some states ducks like to be with the geese (PA FOR EXAMPLE) . Other states ducks dont want anything to do with the geese.(Up-state NY for example)

I hunted ducks over goose decoys 90% of the time with 6-12 ducks mixed in.

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Sure do miss laying a whooping on those late season birds while everyone else was in the house sitting next to the woodburner....
 
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Fink

Veteran member
Apr 7, 2011
1,815
4
West Side, MoMo
Sweet Gatortrax! It sure is fun running around in a surface drive! Almost as fun as pounding late season duckies on the river!
 

mallardsx2

Veteran member
Jul 8, 2015
1,627
13
There is no better/safer engine for running in ICY water. Its easy to do my own maintenance on the engine too. Which saves a ton of money in the long run. I took out a loan back in 2009 to buy my GTR-35 Which I would never do again, but it was worth it because a lot of guys in the northeast didn't have them and it separated me from a lot of the hunters. In NY we would get further into shallower water with huge spreads of decoys 20 dozen ducks 4 dozen goose floaters and dominate the area with numbers. I miss it but it was REALLY hard to find guys willing to put in the hard work to hunt like that.

Now everyone has a mudmotor in New York and the hunting is just Meh.

Back to duck spreads for rivers:

Always hunt the backside slackwater of bends in the river to keep your decoys from getting washed down.
Always hunt out of a layout blind when possible
Always keep your decoys tight to the shoreline to prevent decoys from getting drug into the current.
Always take a cinder block and tie off 3 decoys to it and put them right were you want ducks to land out in the current. This creates some nice V-Ripples and birds think that three birds have landed and are swimming in and 9/10 of the time they will try to land right next to them. Block keeps them in place...
Numbers for Rivers are not nearly as important as location and hiding well IMHO.
 
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THelms

Administrator
Staff member
The post above is solid advice... I'll reiterate something that was said earlier about slack water... it's a must have! If you spend time watching ducks on rivers you'll see how and where to set your decoys. Out here it's gotta be side channels, inside of bends, back ends of islands, etc. If there's food (Russian Olives) then all the better.

As for numbers of decoys, man that depends... for us more is better on main river channel sets. Small side channels? A half-dozen works just fine. It seems like on the main channel trafficking birds are much more apt to swing into a large spread. One of the spots I hunt a lot is a loafing area for birds returning from dry land all night feeds and they are definitely looking for company when they come back to water. When I started setting three dozen dekes in the slackwater around an island on an inside bend we couldn't keep the birds off of us.

Like I said, it's all situational though... watching your local birds is by far your best best for where to set up.