By Bob McNally
Some of the smallest waters can offer some of the best duck hunting, especially before freeze-up, and particularly for puddle ducks. But decoy spreads in small waters sometimes are set without much forethought, and that’s a mistake.
It's important to spread decoys out in a small slough or pond, and be sure not to use too many dekes. Usually just a couple dozen or so dekes is ideal. More than that and ducks have difficulty landing, and won't pitch in as readily.
For some reason, ducks prefer to settle into a small body of water over decoys before landing. Therefore, set most dekes wide apart on the side of the pond or slough you expect ducks to wing into the set. Leave a large open landing area on the upwind, or opposite, side of the spread.
With a north wind, for example, most decoys should be placed on the south side of a pond, with a large open landing site on the north side. Set your blind in the shade, sun to your back and looking into the eyes of decoying ducks.
It's best to have the blind not facing directly at decoying ducks, so birds aren't looking right at hunters as they settle down to land. Have the blind angled just a bit to the side, so frontal or side shots at ducks are available.
Be certain decoys are clean, not caked with mud. Puddle ducks are smart, especially late in the season, and dirty decoys aren't natural. Take a few minutes to wash off mud and weeds caked on dekes during trips to and from hunting areas.
Be certain decoy lines sink and are unseen by approaching ducks. If you use monofilament decoy lines, make sure they are submerged, and don't "shine' in bright sun. Floating decoy lines are unnatural, and may be seen easily by sharp-eyed mallards, pintails, gadwalls and other wary dabblers.