Diver Spread Help!

Duck hunting for diver species like Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ringnecks, Eiders, Goldeneye and other diver ducks.

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Diver Spread Help!

Postby Fowlplay13 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:24 pm

I'm a new member of the forum but have been lurking around doing a lot of reading and learning before joining but I have a couple of questions about diver spreads. I have been ducking hunting for about 2 years now but use to duck hunt in S FL with a couple of friends but now I am up in Tallahassee and have been doing it a lot more on my own but not having a lot of luck.

Before I get told to use the search or go read another thread I will just say that I have been and learned a lot of good things, I am more so looking for some advice and critique for my spread. Between myself and 2 friends we have about 60 dekes consisting of 3 dozen ringnecks, 6 pintails, a dozen mixed BWT/GWT, and some woodies. The last couple times we have been out we have been using only the ringnecks and pintails. I made a long line of about 2 dozen ringneck which I set to one side of our spread and this led up to a small circle of ringers of about 5 to 8. Then about 10-15 yards away I set the rest of the ringnecks in a circle with the pintails mixed in and off to the side.

The problem is we have had flocks fly by just out of range and not decoy in, and also had a flock of reds land at the edge of the long line (which is about 40 yards long). We can't figure out how to get them to decoy in or atleast come into range. we debated buying some redhead decoys (probably a dozen) and adding them into the mix, will this help out?

Also, is there a better way to set up our decoys? I guess it's a J shape of sorts currently.

Currently only using 1 long line of 24 dekes, would 2 long lines of 12 next to each other be better?

If I buy the red decoys should I set them in a long line next to the ringnecks?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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Diver Spread Help!

Postby Nelliboy2 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:05 pm

What type of water are you hunting? Also how are the birds flying? Low on the water or high? What type of divers are you seeing that are skirting you?

If I had to guess I would say the birds are being pressured pretty hard in this area, correct? I would first of all recommend sitting wherever the birds are naturally sitting on the lake. I usually will push them off, set up quickly and usually about 40 mins or so they will start to come back.

J's are usually pretty productive. However if goldeneyes are around they are very racist. It will be tough to kill many without atleast a dozen set off to the side.

If you are in wade able water I would try and make a ball of decoys. Try and make it look similar to how the birds naturally sit on the lake. For example on inland lakes around me they will sit in 20 or so birds to each pod.

I will make a 20 or so decoy pod then have some pairs and singles spread out around it. Some time I like running that spread as it gives the birds the ability to sit wherever they want in the spread. After all I really don't care where they try to land as long as they are around 20-30 when I sit up!


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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby koonce727 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:20 pm

Keep trying different ideas. Sometimes they like one thing one day and the other they wont even look at the same spread.

Have you tried spinners? and if you have have you tried with out spinners?

First first set up of diver deeks usually consists of a tight blob to imitate a raft of birds either feeding or resting. I then set a few long longs off the the blob. I usually leave maybe 10 yards in-between the blob and long lines just to give the birds a place to land if they feel the need. Most birds, that I shoot atleast, swing in-between the blob and long longs or fly over the blob.

Be sure to set yourself up at the upwind side or Top of the deeks as most divers will favor to swing towards the top of the spread vs the bottom or atleast around here they do.

Make sure you are hide very well. If they are seeing your face or movement this may be one of the reason they are landing short or swinging wide.

Are you calling at these birds? If not, give it a try. I have very good success calling at divers. If you are already calling then put the call down and try that for a change.


I wish I could be out chasing some divers but our season is closed. Good luck
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby Fowlplay13 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 4:10 pm

Sorry guess I should of given a little more info, I am in north FL so mainly what I have seen for divers is rings, reds, and some buffleheads. Where I am hunting has a lot of timber along the banks with very little pockets for ducks. After having no luck Sat morning I just watched the birds, what I saw is they were sticking closer to the middle of the lake off of two points of trees. We set up off one of the points Sunday which is the situation I described above where they wouldn't decoy or come into range.

We tried a single spinner earlier in the year but not since as I didn't seem to be working then.

I don't call unless it is to woodies or teal as those are the only calls I am decent with.

As too how the birds are flying, most times they fly low to the lake and if we push them up or another boat does ( mostly people fishing) they will circle around and land on another part of the lake.We noticed that the ducks didn't want to leave the lake and go to another lake they just chose to move to a different spot on the same lake.

The place went hunt doesn't have a lot of pressure but many of the lakes around are like Duck Dynasty conventions. ( hence why I chose this lake to hunt).

Hope this clears some things up, but thank you for the advice you have already given. I would post a pic of the spread but it is a dead give away as to which lake I am on.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby Nelliboy2 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:52 pm

Are the birds skirting right off of the end of your lines? I usually don't have a problem with divers skirting me but mallard tend to short stop me. I would try pulling you spread in so maybe your furthest decoy is 30 so you can still have a decent shot at the birds.


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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby zippyduck » Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:36 am

I would use two lines of 12 ringies and slide one out to 30 yards and slide the other one about 5 yards shorter with the singles set in a group at the close end. Make sure the longlines goes straight into the wind and spread the other deeks into small groups blocking the end of the longlines so birds don't try to do a fly by.
I hope this helps.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby ScaupHunter » Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:14 am

First off stop with the patterned J! :thumbsup: Have you ever seen a real flock of birds in a J? Nope! That is a man made idea that frankly has not stood up to the test of time for me.

Shorten your longlines. If you cannot shoot the to the furthest end, your longline is way to long! I run more short lines to get tighter formations and groupings of decoys. Toss in a few singles to break it up and the lines look like a flock of birds resting.

I would keep your puddlers and divers completely seperate. Don't mix them unless they naturally mix in your area to feed.

Get your layouts set inside the top of the lines of decoys. No need to put them above the spread. Use singles around the layouts to help keep the birds eyes on decoys instead of you. Use decoys that match what you see most of in your area.

Also match what you see on the lake as best you can. If the birds are in small groupings then match that with your spread. If they are in huge flocks then you need to make it a numbers game and have more decoys as you can afford to buy them.

I normally run 4 longlines with no more than 8 or 9 decoys per line. With the decoys spread 6 feet apart that gives me a 54 foot longlines with 6 foot end runs to a clip that hooks up to the anchor line. I can clip two extra decoys on the lines at the anchor line clips if I want more birds. You want to stagger a few of the lines just enough to put the layouts right in the top of the spread. Then toss singles upwind of your layouts to make a grouping. Leave the lanes where the layouts are set large enough the boat can run in and out safely.

My trick for this is to run 4 foot droppers and use sinking mainline so the boat can run right through the decoys to the layouts. If you use dogs they can swim through droppers of 2 feet or longer and not get tangled as well.

You are moving the right direction and setting up where they want to be. Now watch your buddies. Somebody is a lookee loo. Only one of you should be watching the birds and calling the shots. The other guy or guys should be heads down, no movement, and only pick up their guns when they are told to shoot. The ducks when decoyed properly will be shot at point blank range. No need for the guys to be wiggling, looking, or getting ready. I had to actually smack a kid on the back of the head twice this year. He just couldn't help peeking to see the birds coming and was flaring everything. The second cuff to the head got the message through to him. Suddenly we all started killing birds. Lookee Loos will flare the birds every time!
Last edited by ScaupHunter on Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby Fowlplay13 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:30 pm

Good news and bad news from today...Good news I went out duck hunting (more like watching...again) and I think I may have figured out part of our problem. Bad part is we didn't kill any ducks and I think my buddy may need a new blind.

After we set up we had a lot of the same thing going on with the birds just flying by and looking at us.

ScaupHunter,

I think you are right about my buddies being lookee loos, 2 of them had their heads spinning constantly and they wouldn't stop moving. Also, I got out of the boat and walked a couple hundred yards away and realized that the boat stuck out pretty badly. Another good thing is we have the right numbers as the birds were flying in groups of 15 up to about 30.

Today we didn't run so much of a J as it was more of just a blob in front of us with long lines coming in a two different points. We ran two lines of 12 and one of 6 on the opposite side at shorter lengths and it did look a lot better. There is another spot on the lake that I have noticed the birds are piling into every time we hunt so we have decided to try out a diferent spot and a slightly different plan.

Instead of using the boat/blind combo we are just going to park the boat in some trees and have the decoys about 10-15 yards in front of us in small pods to look like birds resting and feeding. We will be posted up in the trees/brush nearby in waders to make it easier to conceal ourselves. I will report how it went after our next hunt which won't be for a week more than likely.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby ScaupHunter » Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:22 pm

You are doing the right things. Keep fiddling and working with it until you start shooting birds. Then refine what you can to get them to decoy better. Once you have it down, apply it to a variety of areas and conditions so you have a lot of good places to hunt in varying conditions.

You have to stop the lookee loo's. My group freezes in place once the first guy to see the birds coming out way calls them out quietly to the group. Only when that hunter gives the word does everyone settle in and get ready. If the birds are coming in fast and hard no one moves a muscle until the shot is called. Then everyone grabs their gun and fires.

Brian and I have been standing up talking and spotted birds coming in fast. We just stood in place without moving at all and had the divers land in the decoys. Once they were in the water we just very slowly grabbed out guns and on his "Take Em" we shot them coming off the water. We have done this a lot more than once. Guys moving and flashing their faces and hands is far more likely to flare birds than the wrong spread or even location.

Don't forget to be willing to get out and move the decoys around if you need to. If the birds are flaring and you actually have no lookee loos then look at your spread, wind direction, etc... and make adjustments. I frequently get out in the decoys and make changes when the birds behavior dictates. No reason to sit there not shooting birds if you can spend 5 minutes fixing it and spend the rest of the day shooting.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby woodduck31 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:19 pm

how many hen diver decoys are you using?
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby Fowlplay13 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 6:17 am

It is probably 3 drakes to every 1 hen. so a 3rd of our spread would be hens, I don't know an exact number right now.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby woodduck31 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:08 am

there are a lot of things that come into play, lots of variables, so there will be no single solution most of the time. Things to consider, some have already been mentioned, such as your blind and movement in the blind. I never hunt from a blind, I would think by the time ducks get to florida, they would have seen it all. Having something that doesn't look like the typical 3 to 5 dozen mixed decoys might be a real help. Considering where I hunt, the ducks that we see have already flown by a half dozen decoy spreads and I'm reasonably sure they can start to associate that look with danger. I typically target species rather than try to just go buffet style with a mixed approach, but that might not be the best in your area. The best advice is to pay attention to what you see other ducks doing and pay attention to how birds are reacting to your decoy set up. If ducks are present, you've accomplished half the battle, if ducks are skirting your spread, something's wrong. If ducks are flaring they are seeing something they really don't like, maybe movement in the blind or the dog of something isn't camouflaged up properly. We had that problem once and finally about an hour into shooting time we found an orange highway cone in the river just above our decoys. If you are getting swing passes, it might be something as minor as they don't want to fly over another species. We had that problem last week with goldeneye, they wouldn't fly over our goose decoys, so we moved them and problem solved. Our divers on my stretch of the river don't like to have to fly over the bank and somethings that is a problem if the wind direction is wrong. Make adjustments as the ducks tell you by their behavior, they send a message loud and clear most of the time, it's just not many people are listening. I rarely use more than a dozen of any one species and never have decoys placed beyond 20 yards. I've shot lots of limits of divers over 3 decoys. On the river here, the ducks will nearly always land on the edge of the decoys, not crossing over them, so having decoys at 30 yards or more puts ducks at a shaky range, especially for divers. I always have at least a 50/50 mix on drakes and hens/dirty drakes. Diver groups due to their extended maturing time over puddlers often appear hen heavy, so I want to reflect that in my decoy spread. I think as hunting pressure on goldeneye has increased here they are very well aware that all drake spreads are unnatural. I do not hunt on the "X" or roost, I hunt in a spot where birds are never there, but they trade back and forth on the river from big rafts up and down stream. Learning how to decoy a bird to where they didn't intend to go is the art of decoying. You can always scout and hunt the "X", then you wouldn't need decoys at all. Hunting pressure will move the 'X" and at some point drive the birds out to other parts, maybe out of your hunting area. Learn to decoy, it's a lost art, get yourself a jerk rig and toss the spinner back in the garage, listen to what the birds are telling you.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby Fowlplay13 » Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:43 pm

Well we hunted Wednesday and had more success... Well at least my buddy did as my gun broke in the middle of the hunt... Not my season!

Alright so what we did different was no one was in a boat. We all sat in the trees or in small clumps of brush with groups of 6 to 12 decoys in front. I actually had birds decoy in but that is when my gun decided to fail... We will be going back out tomorrow and hopefully have similar success, yes I fixed the gun issue before anyone ask. Will report back in after next hunt.

By the way I don't use a spinner and have already built 3 Jerk rigs this year.

Oh and we didn't hunt the X, so I apparently I did something right or the ducks just knew my gun wasn't going to work.
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby woodduck31 » Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:37 pm

gun malfunctions are always frustrating. My son and I had to trade my gun back and forth when his decided not to fire a couple weeks ago. We still were able to limit, the ducks were flying good. We used 10 GE decoys on that hunt and a jerk string with 5 coots.

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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby fowlplayx » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:38 am

To bag divers.. numbers are key.. alwyas leave room for the birds to land in range.. make it look like theirs a party... use pods or mass to center them up into range. . Yes we have decoys way out of range
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby fowlplayx » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:48 am

Works for me !
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Works for me -!
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Re: Diver Spread Help!

Postby kyle_1187 » Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:48 am

I hunt the Chesapeake Bay and find that smaller gang rigs of 5-10 ducks are the best way. Anchor out off shore and put 2-3 gang rigs off each side. Works for cans, reds, blue bills, squaw, and scoters.
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