I'll be out on Friday - upper end of a brackish river - about 40 yards wide where I will be at full tide - I will have five blacks out on the downstream side with six or seven mallards upstream a bit.
Last Sunday we set up in another spot on an open bay - had five mallards in front of us while we stacked up the Canadas with a couple of mallars about 20 yards up wind. We hammered!!!
In the late part of the season, with cold winter winds, I find a small set-up is key - even when there are large numbers of birds in the area. I have had my most successful day on Little Bay with small sets. Only in the beginning of the year do we rig a set of up to 50 dekes, because we need to 'pull' ducvks to us and not another set. Now there is little competition and the birds don't need the same incentive.
It's also nice not to have a huge set to pick up in tha weather!!!
On open water, I like to keep a large spread(8-18) across the water, and one or two smaller groups either in front of the blind, or on either side of it. In these groups I put no more than 4 decoys. I've found that while ducks are comforted by large flocks they don't like to be crowded, so they'll tend to land next to other groups, bringing them up close and personal.
Another trick- I like to keep a blue heron decoy right next to blind, at least 30 ft from any duck decoy.
This all works great in New Mexico- Hope it works in your area
Later in the season I use as few as possible. Usually 10-12. Three of
the decoys are on a jerk string. Two decoys are put out at my 30yd.
limit (no crips allowed) spaced about 10ft. apart. The rest are put out
so there are good sized pockets for the birds to land in between. I prefer
to have the wind blowing over my back. No mojo. If the wind dies a bit
the jerk string takes over. I hunt public land. Small cypress breaks and
sloughs off the Miss. River here in Memphis. We shoot mostly mallard,
grey ducks and woodies.
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