Duck Decoy Spreads: What
Works Best for You?

Duck Decoy Spreads: What Works Best for You?

There is no one “right” way to set up your decoys when it comes to duck hunting. In fact, the best spread for you may vary depending on the time of year, the type of water you are hunting, and even the weather conditions. However, a few basic types of spreads will work well in most situations.

The classic “V” pattern is still a popular choice among hunters. This spread features several rows of decoys pointing towards the open water, with the lead row angled slightly towards the shore. It can be effective in shallow and deep water and is especially useful for hunting migratory birds like mallards and Canada geese.

Another common spread is the “W” pattern. This setup features two rows of decoys, one in front of the other, with the open water between them. It is ideal for hunting ducks and geese feeding on shorelines or fields.

If you target diving ducks, a spread of floating decoys may be more effective. Try setting up your decoys in a semicircle around your blind, with the lead row facing out towards the open water. You can also use this type of spread for hunting coots and moorhens.

No matter what type of spread you choose, make sure to adjust it as needed depending on the conditions. Experiment until you find a configuration that works best for you!

Advice for New Duck Hunters on Decoy Spreads

When you get waterfowlers to talk about the best decoy spreads for a certain situation, they will answer differently. But this makes sense because there are so many factors involved in duck hunting, and any of them can affect the best way to set up your decoys is.

You can work smarter, not harder, with things like a Texas rig. This is especially helpful for new duck hunters. It can be confusing to figure out which and how many waterfowl decoys to buy, and you also need to figure out how to arrange them while hunting. But don’t worry – here are some common duck decoy strategies that work for puddle ducks and diving ducks, as well as some other tips to make the most of your next hunting season.

Duck Decoy Options

When you start buying duck decoys, you can make many choices. You will see that there are different species for the ducks, different sexes, and different degrees of realism. There are also many styles of duck decoys which might include floating, standing, laying, or flying positions. Sometimes they have a feeding position or spin in some way.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the best scenarios for each type:


You should always try to use decoys that match your hunting species. But this is not always possible. For example, you can attract most puddle ducks by using mallard decoys. But for the best of luck, you may try using a mixed-species spread to attract more ducks.


Drake decoys are for hunting ducks. They can attract them from far away. Hens are in the decoy spread because you might need to catch male and female ducks.


There are different sizes of duck decoys. The standard size is lifelike in proportions. However, there are also magnum and super magnum size duck decoys much larger than the standard. The benefit of using a larger-sized duck decoy is that it can be seen farther away by other ducks. The downside is that they are more cumbersome to carry around, and you can’t fit as many in a decoy bag.


The best duck decoy style depends on where you are hunting. For example, floating decoys are good for hunting ducks in the water because they float. A full-body standing or field decoy will work better if you want to hunt ducks on dry land.


To catch ducks, you can make decoys that move. For example, you could make spinning wing decoys. But make sure to follow the rules about the use of motorized decoys in your state. You can also use feeding style or tipped up (rear end only) decoys floating on water.


The bottom of a floating decoy has a ridge called a keel. This is what keeps the decoy from flipping over in the water. Solid keels are heavier than water keels, but they can be more convenient to use.

Decoy Spreads for Puddle Ducks

In most countries, you have a good chance to hunt puddle ducks or dabbling ducks. This type of duck includes species such as mallards, teal, pintails, wigeons, wood ducks, and black ducks. As a new hunter interested in hunting puddle ducks, you’re in luck.

Many of these species will usually approach a set of mallard decoys alone, so you don’t need to invest a ton of money right off the bat. But it definitely won’t hurt to mix a few other puddle duck decoys into your spread. This will help make your spread visible and give it good pulling power.

Using between 12 and 24 puddle duck decoys is a good range for most people. If you are hunting by yourself, using fewer than 18 decoys may be better. For permanent blinds on private land or areas you can access with a hunting partner, using more and larger (magnum) decoys is often better.

If you want to sneak into public land, it is best to carry fewer decoys. But you can also use larger decoys in more open environments. The decoy should be large, so it can be seen far away. Standard-size decoys are often better for smaller marshes or ponds because they are easy to carry and don’t need as much space on the ground.

Ducks like to land in the wind. Ducks will fly by and see a place they want to land. You can make a place for them to land by building a barricade of ducks upwind of the landing zone. Build small groups or pairs near your hunting blind.

An alternative way to catch ducks is to use a lot of decoys. Put them upwind from the landing zone, and put some on the edge of the spread as they will group together. You can also put in some other types of decoys like Canada geese or puddle ducks if you want. This will make it so that they fly right at you or head for your side when birds come, depending on the wind.

Decoy Spreads for Diving Ducks

Diving ducks are a type of duck that dives underwater to feed. This includes the canvasback, bluebill, redhead, goldeneye, and bufflehead ducks. Hunters often use more canvasback decoys because of their bright white bodies, easily spotted from a distance. Bluebill and redhead decoys are used to fill in most of the spread, while some hunters also use other diving duck or mallard decoys on the outskirts.

When hunting diving ducks, it is said that you should put out a lot of decoys. People often use more than 100 at a time. This makes sense because you will usually find these ducks on very large bodies of water. To get the attention of a flock, you will need much bigger decoys and spreads. You can use fewer decoys in smaller areas in some cases, but this is not common.

Just like with the puddle ducks, you’ll want to keep your larger decoys clustered around your blind or boat. But you can also use some different techniques when hunting diving ducks. One example is to use a long line of decoys on one side of your spread. This will help guide the ducks in as they fly over.

When you lay the long line out somewhat offset to the wind. This J-hook or fish hook design becomes visible and more effective during particularly rough conditions (like high winds choppy water). Use heavier weights to keep your decoys anchored and closer to shore, imitating birds trying to avoid the bad weather.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on decoys at the start. Decoys are best bought over time because you’ll learn what is best and can change your approach. You might find that you are happy with just 12 puddle duck decoys, or you might want more every year. That customization is part of the fun of duck hunting.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Duck Decoy Spreads

How Many Decoys Do You Need for Ducks?

If you want to hunt ducks seriously, you’ll need at least 24 decoys. And more is better since waterfowl feel safe in numbers. Unless you put your decoys in a boat and carry them around, you’ll need a good decoy bag or two for carrying them.

How Far Apart Should Duck Decoys Be?

One of the common mistakes people make when laying out long lines is that they put their decoys too close together. They should be about 10 yards apart. If you put them closer, the ducks might land between the decoys, not where you want them to go.

Where Do You Put Goose Decoys on a Duck Spread?

Waterfowlers use these life-sized decoys to make their spread more visible from a distance. It is best to place them in pairs on the upwind side of your decoy spread, typically on the shore or in the water.

What Kind of Duck Decoys Do I Need?

Using a mix of mallards, black ducks, and pintails can help your visibility and give you good pulling power. As for how many decoys to use, 12-24 puddle duck decoys are a good range for most people. 18 or less might be better if you’re hunting by yourself.

Is It OK to Leave Duck Decoys Out?

The more often you use the decoys, the more the birds get used to them, becoming less effective. Furthermore, if you leave the decoys out for too long, they start to look less realistic, attracting other birds instead.

Can You Bait Ducks?

Waterfowl and other birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Waterfowl baiting regulations apply to ducks, geese, swans, coots, and cranes. Hunting regulations for waterfowl are more strict than hunting doves or other migratory game birds.

How Many Decoys Do I Need for Specks?

Hunting snow geese is different than hunting other types of geese. You need to use a lot of decoys and make a lot of noise to attract them. They can be hunted successfully with 6-12 decoys and a single skilled caller. If you are well hidden, they will also approach duck decoys or a setup with both types of decoys.

How Do You Get Ducks to Land in Your Decoys?

Put the spinning wing decoys where they will blow in the direction of your other decoys. This will make it look like a duck is about to land and make ducks feel comfortable.