by Naomi K. Shapiro
One of the key tools for hunting ducks is proper decoy placement. Proper blind placement is necessary. Proper DECOY placement is imperative!
The very first thing that an experienced duck hunter considers is wind direction. Like an airplane, ducks land or take off into the wind. You will want to set up your decoys in a pattern that is conducive to forcing the ducks to land into the wind towards where you are in your blind; and that it is set up so that they're coming directly towards you into shooting range. This type of set-up, when executed properly, will provide the very best shot possibility you can have.
There are several different tried and tested "patterns" that duck hunters use when setting out decoys. There's a J-Hook pattern, a V pattern, several different types of flock patterns, and a pocket pattern. The hoped-for result when using any decoy pattern is to insure that the ducks, when landing, will do so in the open pockets or slots between your decoys. And, typically, the ducks are gong to land like on a runway on an airfield. You want to set up the decoys far enough away so that ducks come over them and land in the slots between them. That also means you want to make sure that when the ducks are landing they're within optimum shooting range from your blind. All decoys are set up to insure that the ducks will land where you want them to -- near enough to your blind for a perfect shot, if possible.
One of guide Phil Schweik's favorite decoys (he says it works unfailingly) is called a Mojo Duck (no one is specifically endorsing any brand here -- there are a number of similar decoys to the Mojo Duck and it is cited as just one example, as it is well known). Unlike decoys that float in the water, the Mojo Duck is elevated on a stake, and is battery operated. It's wings spin around and around, and look like a duck landing, or like a duck fluttering its wings as they often do on the surface of water. Elevated decoys like the Mojo Duck are very lifelike and really do increase the percentage of a successful hunt. They are very visually attractive to ducks. And while floating decoys may blend in to the water because of lighting conditions, Mojo Duck type decoys stand out, because there's movement, and this is also good because it takes the ducks' focus off of your blind and you, and directs it to the decoy. And yes, Mojo Duck decoys can be somewhat expensive. What some hunting buddies or clubs do is pool resources and "group buy." That's good for everyone and no one is hurt by a big expense.
Now, if this all sounds complex, don't be frightened away by it. Duck hunting is a wonderful, fun sport. And don't worry about seeing all of those "fancy Dans" with their custom-made shotguns and their expensive boots and clothing, talking about their next country club get-together. You can do just as well -- even better -- just by using good, basic equipment, and "listening to your elders" -- in this case experienced duck hunters. Go out. Learn. Miss a few, and go from there. Sooner than later, YOU'LL be the one that will be the "elder" others are listening to.