December 15, 2021
By Ian Nance
The urge of novice waterfowlers is to discharge every decoy in the bag with little calculation as to why and when decoys are effective. What performs in November isn't necessary the bread-and-butter for January. This is especially true on large public lakes where ducks become wizards at identifying the best intentions of hunters. Beyond this, ducks' behaviors are ever-changing with varying weather conditions. This affects how they'll respond to decoy setups.
Indeed, the period of duck season should dictate decoying strategy, according to Mike Tussey, owner of Osceola Outdoors (www.osceolaoutdoors.com). After years of observing ducks on Lake Okeechobee and surrounding private ranches, Tussey and his guides have learned the best way to deploy their fakes depends on the calendar and what influences the birds at that time. Furthermore, when the conditions are right, he advises adding an extra ploy to the standard decoy spread which lures the birds into shotgun range.
“During early season, we like to use two to three dozen decoys as we try and match the spreads of ducks we have been seeing as we scout,” says Tussey. “We will use three or four Mojo spinner decoys to get the attention of ducks in the distance. If it's a low-ceiling, cloudy day, we'll reduce the number of spinners and change the wings out and use Mojo Cloudy Day Wings.”
At this time, ducks haven't been pressured too much. They tend to be in larger groups before hunters scatter them out or they naturally disperse into smaller flocks after arriving in the state. Once this happens, switch up the equipment.
“As the season progresses, we reduce the number of decoys in our spread and include motion on the water with the Mojo Butt Up Ripplers,” Tussey recommends. “I still like to use Mojo spinners but with a remote control so if the birds are flaring we have the option to turn a couple or all of them off as the birds begin to circle our spread.”
By January, hunters reflect wistfully upon the ignorant ducks of the prior two months as the birds become decoy-shy. In this instance, Tussey advises adding confidence decoys to the spread and eliminating spinning-wing decoys.
“Late season, we add lots of coot decoys to our spread, putting them on the outside edges with our decoys within 25 yards of boat, giving the ducks a good landing spot. The coots are there to add confidence to our spread. In the late season, you will see large numbers of coots and ducks rafting up together. The Mojo Butt Up Ripplers are still in our spread adding that motion we may need on still days.”
As the months advance and ducks start ID-ing brands of decoys, consider switching up tactics. The hunting gets tougher, so hunt smarter and don't be afraid to try something different than what was working earlier in the season. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2018