When it comes to late season decoy spreads in January, most ducks have seen everything but the kitchen sink by the time they get to Texomaland.
If you want to lure in waterfowl during the season’s final few weeks, you’ll need to do something that is both different and natural looking at the same time.
My longtime duck hunting friend Jim Lillis of Sherman told me once that he likes adding a splash of color and confidence to his spreads. In late season, that can mean things like a few pintail blocks, some green-winged teal, or maybe a few wigeon and gadwalls tossed in with the regular mallard dekes.
You can also consider adding a few Canada goose floaters or even a few full bodied goose decoys, something that my sons Zach and Will have found success with in the last year or two.
Regardless of what the final makeup of your late season spread happens to be, adjusting the size of your decoy rig is another key to success.
In simple terms, if you’re hunting smaller waters later in the year, you’ll probably want to consider reducing your spread size. If you’re hunting bigger waters, the opposite approach might be in order as you’ll want to avoid the cookie-cutter approach of 3-5 dozen decoys that many hunters are typically tossing out on big reservoirs.
Yet another key for late season decoy success is to ensure that your landing zone is attractive and within shooting range of your hiding position.
“I’m a firm believer in leaving a definite hole out in front of your blind,” said Lillis. “I like to do a horseshoe or a J-hook upwind of the blind, leaving a definite hole for the ducks to land into.
“I like to spice (that hole) up with a half-dozen teal decoys or maybe a little group of mallards that look like they just came in and landed in that hole. That tends to draw in birds.”
Finally, avoid the practice of “lining” ducks, a process where ducks flare by flying directly over a spread and seeing dark decoy lines jutting out to the side. A similar thing can even happen from a series of wader boot prints tracking up an otherwise clean bottom that the decoys are “swimming” over.
To combat that in clear water, use clear, heavy monofilament lines on Texas-rigged decoys that have weighted keels. By using weighted keels and carefully tossing the decoys out, they should flip upright in the pre-dawn moments, allowing a hunter to leave boot prints behind only at pick-up time at the end of the day.
And with any luck, that will be picking up a bag full of decoys that have brought a well earned limit of late season quackers to hand.
The duck hunting game can be tougher now in the season’s final weeks, but even wise-guy ducks can be duped by hardworking hunters who pay attention to the little details of the sport, especially those that have to do with a late season decoy spread.