hen to drake ratio

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hen to drake ratio

Postby quigby979 » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:24 pm

I am sure this has been asked but I missed it so asking now. Does it make a difference in the ratio of drake to hens with your decoy spread? I usually go heavier with the drakes but not sure if it matters.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby ScaupHunter » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:08 pm

Early season I lean heavily to hens. A lot of birds are still in eclipse plumage then. Late season I still tend to place 40 % drake to 60% hens. Since my buddies and I switched out drake to hen ratios we have had far greater success at getting birds to drop their feet and suck in close.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby mudpack » Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:14 pm

ScaupHunter wrote:Early season I lean heavily to hens. A lot of birds are still in eclipse plumage then. Late season I still tend to place 40 % drake to 60% hens. Since my buddies and I switched out drake to hen ratios we have had far greater success at getting birds to drop their feet and suck in close.


This ^.

Problem is, all the decoy manufactures sell a dozen decoys with 66% drakes, which means I have to leave a lot of drake decoys sitting in the shed when I go hunting if I'm going to keep my drake/hen ratio hen-heavy.
I don't buy into the "drakes are more visible, use mostly drakes". Actually, from any real distance, the hens just look black and are far more visible than light gray greenheads or bull sprigs. Or drake bluebills/canvasbacks.
Hey, I like to do things differently.....
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby BBK » Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:16 pm

I like a lot of hens, I think it looks more natural. The places where I like mostly drakes would be a marsh with a lot of brown vegetation. I feel the birds have a hard time seeing hens from a long ways off so I like to use a lot of colorful drakes.

Too many drakes in an open water spread can kill you with pressured birds.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby mudpack » Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:52 pm

BBK wrote:I The places where I like mostly drakes would be a marsh with a lot of brown vegetation. I feel the birds have a hard time seeing hens...


The trick, BBK, is to not put your decoys IN the vegetation.... :thumbsup: Hope this helps.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby BBK » Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:10 pm

I agree, but sometimes you just cant get around it. Only true open water is in the middle and you would be getting shot all day long sitting out there.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby woodduck31 » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:58 pm

We always go hen heavy now, especially with divers. Divers are often hen heavy and mature drake light. If you do counts of ducks like goldeneye and bufflehead, you'll see a lot more immature drakes and hens than you do bright white drakes. With mallards we run maybe 50/50 with the hens being in the darker range of hen color. It is difficult to get good ratios from commercial decoy companies, especially in bufflheads. My buffie spread is 3 drakes and 9 hens and the difference is decoying is night and day compared to when I had only drakes. We are doing the same thing with goldeneye, working in a dozen or so hens and immature drakes with the half dozen mature drakes. The observations we make from a human perspective is not always what the ducks seem to react to, so be open to other ideas and strategies. Mallard drakes have been finding those camouflaged hens pretty well since the beginning of time, don't underestimate their ability to see things in a defined way. We are always experimenting with decoys and decoying strategies and some things just amaze me at what the ducks react to as opposed to what I expect.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby mudpack » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:21 am

woodduck31 wrote: The observations we make from a human perspective is not always what the ducks seem to react to, so be open to other ideas and strategies.

This is something we tend to forget...or tend to ignore....but it is most certainly true.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby FSUDuck » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:04 pm

We always go hen heavy. I believe it looks most natural. just my 2 cents.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby quigby979 » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:30 pm

Great info and some things to consider. I have been reading that there are certain colors that ducks are attracted to.....the bright blue is one. I have alot more drake decoys than hens also. Thanks for the feedback.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby John Duck » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:08 pm

woodduck31 wrote:We always go hen heavy now, especially with divers. Divers are often hen heavy and mature drake light. If you do counts of ducks like goldeneye and bufflehead, you'll see a lot more immature drakes and hens than you do bright white drakes. With mallards we run maybe 50/50 with the hens being in the darker range of hen color. It is difficult to get good ratios from commercial decoy companies, especially in bufflheads. My buffie spread is 3 drakes and 9 hens and the difference is decoying is night and day compared to when I had only drakes. We are doing the same thing with goldeneye, working in a dozen or so hens and immature drakes with the half dozen mature drakes. The observations we make from a human perspective is not always what the ducks seem to react to, so be open to other ideas and strategies. Mallard drakes have been finding those camouflaged hens pretty well since the beginning of time, don't underestimate their ability to see things in a defined way. We are always experimenting with decoys and decoying strategies and some things just amaze me at what the ducks react to as opposed to what I expect.


With dumb Goldeneyes does it really matter. I have seen boats here in Alaska towing decoys and Goldeneyes fall into line tolling into the towed decoys like crazy.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby John Duck » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:10 pm

FSUDuck wrote:We always go hen heavy. I believe it looks most natural. just my 2 cents.


US Fish and Wildlife surveys from Airplanes agree and report ducks all look black from Above. DU mag has stated this a number of times.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby Weedwacker » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:57 am

All interesting and good comments.


Wonder why then, I bought 6 nice black ducks, put them out to side away from other birds, no one lands with them?
Realize they are a more shy bird but....

Put a couple in with mallards, still no takers?

Put a pair off, up wind or down wind, still no takers?

I put them on the shelf, much better :huh:

And they are good looking decoys.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby mudpack » Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:58 pm

John Duck wrote:US Fish and Wildlife surveys from Airplanes agree and report ducks all look black from Above. DU mag has stated this a number of times.

I've seen lots of photos taken by our State Waterfowl Biologist during the aerial surveys he conducts each year. From those photos, I can tell you that drake mallards, drake canvasback, and drake scaup appear anything but black. Most of the other drakes do look black. So, not everyone agrees that "ducks all look black from above".
Try this, john: place one of your drake pintails between your feet. Look down at it from "above". Does it look black to you?
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby greenster » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:30 pm

I would say I use about 50% hen's 10% drakes 40% some other secret fake birds.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby FSUDuck » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:00 pm

greenster wrote:I would say I use about 50% hen's 10% drakes 40% some other secret fake birds.


If i had some secret fake birds, I would use 100% of them.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby BBK » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:12 pm

Coots
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby woodduck31 » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:26 am

sometimes I think the best approach is to become a bird watcher. I've spent the better part of the last 43 years watching waterfowl, it's just part of being a wildlife artist. As hunters, I think we tend to pay more attention to advice we get from what other hunters tell us instead of just paying attention to what the ducks are doing in our neck of the woods. John Duck is right about goldeneye being dumb in Alaska, I lived in Fairbanks in the early 80's and over in Minto Flats where we hunted, all the ducks were dumb, that is at least until someone starts shooting at them. Every region is different when it comes to decoying birds, what works in my area may not work in yours, it's more important for you to duplicate what you see ducks doing in your hunting spot. Puddlers are a different thing when it comes to ratios than it is with divers, puddlers mature faster and generally by december the drakes are all colored up, that's not true with most divers. I took these photos in the late 70's near my home east of Emporia, Kansas. It was a couple of weeks after season had ended, so the birds were pretty comfortable sitting along the neosho river. The photos seem to be pretty drake heavy with the mallards and that would be what I'd try to duplicate if I was hunting in Kansas during the late season when several drakes are trying to cover one hen. That might not be the case during early season when you are seeing combinations of brood groups.

Image

Image

Take a pair of binoculars with you when you hunt and especially when you scout and see what ratios you are observing and take note that it will often change throughout the season as birds mature. In some regions of the country, apparently ducks are so easy to decoy you can get them to come in to just about anything, but that sure isn't the case in my stretch of river. I don't pay much attention to decoy spread formations, I don't do "J" hook spreads. On the river I see mallards tucked up against the bank, so that's how I put my decoys out.

Coot decoys are also a good idea if you have them working your area, wigeon love them as do several other species, but be smart about your set up. I went with a guy a few years ago and took my coot decoys along. Since it was his party I let him set up the decoys which was a huge mistake. I guess he didn't have confidence in the coot decoys, so he said he was going to put them up stream on the river channel about 75 yards as a blocker. We got to watch every bird that decoyed land with the coots for the next couple of hours. I don't know if he learned a lesson, but I sure payed attention to what the birds were doing.

Ducks will tell you what they want to see and also what they want to hear as far as calling. Learn to read the birds, see what they react to in a positive way. If something isn't working, stop doing it, if ducks don't seem to be responding to your decoy spread, change it. Every day is different when it comes to how ducks will work, being a good observer is the most important ingredient to success.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby BBK » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:40 pm

John Duck wrote:
FSUDuck wrote:We always go hen heavy. I believe it looks most natural. just my 2 cents.


US Fish and Wildlife surveys from Airplanes agree and report ducks all look black from Above. DU mag has stated this a number of times.


I doubt DU would say something like that.

Drake pintails, drake bluebills, drake goldeneyes, and various seaducks all look white/gray/black from above. Distinctly different than the hens in the same flock.
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Re: hen to drake ratio

Postby Weedwacker » Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:30 am

Very good post, thanks for taking the time to explain. Different birds are different in different areas at different times of the year :thumbsup:

woodduck31 wrote:sometimes I think the best approach is to become a bird watcher. I've spent the better part of the last 43 years watching waterfowl, it's just part of being a wildlife artist. As hunters, I think we tend to pay more attention to advice we get from what other hunters tell us instead of just paying attention to what the ducks are doing in our neck of the woods. John Duck is right about goldeneye being dumb in Alaska, I lived in Fairbanks in the early 80's and over in Minto Flats where we hunted, all the ducks were dumb, that is at least until someone starts shooting at them. Every region is different when it comes to decoying birds, what works in my area may not work in yours, it's more important for you to duplicate what you see ducks doing in your hunting spot. Puddlers are a different thing when it comes to ratios than it is with divers, puddlers mature faster and generally by december the drakes are all colored up, that's not true with most divers. I took these photos in the late 70's near my home east of Emporia, Kansas. It was a couple of weeks after season had ended, so the birds were pretty comfortable sitting along the neosho river. The photos seem to be pretty drake heavy with the mallards and that would be what I'd try to duplicate if I was hunting in Kansas during the late season when several drakes are trying to cover one hen. That might not be the case during early season when you are seeing combinations of brood

Take a pair of binoculars with you when you hunt and especially when you scout and see what ratios you are observing and take note that it will often change throughout the season as birds mature. In some regions of the country, apparently ducks are so easy to decoy you can get them to come in to just about anything, but that sure isn't the case in my stretch of river. I don't pay much attention to decoy spread formations, I don't do "J" hook spreads. On the river I see mallards tucked up against the bank, so that's how I put my decoys out.

Coot decoys are also a good idea if you have them working your area, wigeon love them as do several other species, but be smart about your set up. I went with a guy a few years ago and took my coot decoys along. Since it was his party I let him set up the decoys which was a huge mistake. I guess he didn't have confidence in the coot decoys, so he said he was going to put them up stream on the river channel about 75 yards as a blocker. We got to watch every bird that decoyed land with the coots for the next couple of hours. I don't know if he learned a lesson, but I sure payed attention to what the birds were doing.

Ducks will tell you what they want to see and also what they want to hear as far as calling. Learn to read the birds, see what they react to in a positive way. If something isn't working, stop doing it, if ducks don't seem to be responding to your decoy spread, change it. Every day is different when it comes to how ducks will work, being a good observer is the most important ingredient to success.
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