John's Journal...

Short-Stopping Ducks

Why Use the Train-Wreck-Type Decoy Spread

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Missouri has become one of the top duck states in the nation. Many waterfowl hunters wonder why so many ducks stop in Missouri and Illinois and not come further south. To learn the answer to this question, we went to Missouri and hunted with Avery Pro Staff Team member, Tony Vandemore of Kirksville, Missouri. We also wanted to know how Vandemore takes a limit of ducks almost every day of the season.

Question: Tony, when you, Ira McCauley and Bill Cooksey set out the decoys, you didn’t put them in a J, a fish hook or a V-type pattern. What pattern were you using?
Vandemore: We set our decoys really-close together in no set pattern because as we came into the field, we saw that the ducks feeding on the ground were close together feeding in one spot. So, we usedClick to enlarge what we call our train-wreck-decoy pattern. This means, we put our decoys out so they looked like a train wreck that happened all in one spot. One of the key ingredients to setting out decoys in a dry field is to find a group of ducks feeding in a dry field and notice the pattern in which they’re sitting or feeding. Are they spaced wide apart? Are they feeding close together? Are they in small groups? Look at the formation the ducks on the ground are feeding in, and that will tell you how you should set out your decoys. We do still leave an open pocket where we want the ducks to land. Remember, by the time these ducks fly from Canada to Missouri, they’ve read the book on duck hunting. They’ve seen plenty of J-shapes, C-shapes, V-shapes and fish-hook type decoy spreads that have been written about and shown on TV for many years. By the time the ducks reach Missouri, they know that if they see a decoy spread that resembles the way a decoy spread is supposed to look, more than likely, there will be a hunter somewhere in that spread. Any time you see ducks in a field, rarely will you ever see them in aClick to enlarge fish hook pattern, a U pattern or a V pattern. So, we’ve learned that the most-effective decoy spread is the one that closely resembles the way the ducks arrange themselves in the area we’re hunting, during the week we’re hunting. If you’ll watch and read the ducks, they’ll show you the most-effective decoy spread you can use.

Question: Now that we know the type of decoy spread you use, how do you select the individual decoys you put out?
Vandemore: Before we put out our decoys the end of November, we also observed that there were more ducks feeding than there were walking around on the ground. So, we decided to use more feeding duck decoys than active duck decoys. Therefore, we put out 75% more feeding duck decoys than we did active duck decoys. The feeding duck decoy had its head down looking for food. The active duck decoy had its head up looking for predators and other ducks. Click to enlarge

Question: You were able to set up decoys and pick up decoys really quickly using big bags with individual compartments for each decoy. Why were you using those bags?
Vandemore: We use the Avery 12-Slot Decoy Bags because these bags have a stake pouch with each bag. You can set out a dozen decoys without having to go back and forth to your decoy bag to get more decoys or stakes. More-importantly, we use this bag because each decoy can fit in one pocket of the bag, and it keeps the decoys from rubbing against each other and knocking off the paint or dinging up the decoys. I know that there are hunters hunting over decoys that are 30-years old that really look bad, and these hunters are probably taking ducks. But I’ve learned that the better your decoys look and the more realistic your decoys look, the better chance you have of decoying waterfowl.

To learn more about Avery Outdoors’ waterfowling products, go to

Tomorrow: Why Only Greenheads

Check back each day this week for more about "Short-Stopping Ducks"

Day 1: Why So Many Ducks Stop in Missouri
Day 2: A Weird Hunt
Day 3: Why Use the Train-Wreck-Type Decoy Spread
Day 4: Why Only Greenheads
Day 5: How Weather Affects Ducks



Entry 384, Day 3