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I'm gonna go with number of decoys. Where I hunt in the timber, I've got about a 4 acre hole and I've never seen more than 30-40 ducks on it at once. I always use no more than a dozen decoys here. Here's why, we hunted it for one of the first times and put out about 2 and half dozen decoys. The ducks didn't like it, would circle a few times and move on somewhere else. So we decided to go from 2 dozen to only 9 decoys. Now every bunch that came by would lock up and sail right into the dekes. They wouldn't work with all the decoys because it just didn't look natural on a small hole like that.
 

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number of dekes is my primary concern...I want to match the local flocks.....I do not "shape" or "pattern" my spread anyhow.....ever see a flock of blacks in a "j"????! NOT

seriously, there are some hunts, particularly in the afternoon, when I will only put out four blocks....other times I will have four dozen....depends on weather, wind, exact location and of course what amount of ducks are in the are

as for geese in a field....I set more of a pattern to get them to land on the 'x'.....again, number of decoys is important to me because if there are too many the geese may be suspect.....and I have done excellent with less than a dozen or even four if the local flock would indicate that as appropriate
 

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I thought about this and picked the shape but would have picked other if it had been there.

I hunt a lot of small lakes and ponds and most are pack ins so normally around a dozen goose or duck deks is all I take in. Being that they are small ponds I don't worry to much about the shape but think about the wind more than anything. If I can I'd rather have the wind to my back so that the birds are coming into me which makes for a better bust them head on type shots, normally that first bird shot is DEAD so then you can consentrate on the second one plus with the wind at my back I don't get as cold as quick. Other than the warmth of the sun on me I'd rather have it behind me but there again I go with the wind direction first. Most time I guess you could say I put them in a "J" or a "U" but mostly using small numbers of deks I really seem to end up with a clump. With the idea of having the birds more or less coming straight in I do kind of set the spread a little to one side or the other but that's about it. With a set up like this the placement of hens and drake to each other don't really come in to play a lot, number of drakes and hens might if hunting early season and using more hens to look like eciples birds and maybe more drakes late but there again I only have the dozen so for me the number of hens and drake don't change.
 
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