You’re ready to hit the trail, carry your gear to the marsh or pond of your choice, and ready yourself to hunt.
You’re just missing one thing: comprehensive knowledge on duck decoys.
If you’re not keen on what decoys you should be using, or even why they work in the first place, don’t leave for your waterfowl trip until you read this.
This is a primer hunting decoy list to let you know a little bit about everything decoys have to offer, but without being as long as a book.
I’m going to provide cohesive coverage of decoys and get you primed to head out as soon as possible so you can use your decoys the right way.
- 1 All About Duck Decoys
- 2 All About Turkey Decoys
- 3 All About Goose Decoys
- 4 All About Motion Decoys
- 5 All About Deer Decoys
- 6 All About Crow Decoys
- 7 All About Dove Decoys
- 8 All About Predator Decoys
- 9 Your One-Stop Spot for Decoys
All About Duck Decoys
Duck decoys are among the most sought-after.
Duck are some of the easiest prey to fool once you get your patterns right.
Much like other waterfowl, you need a good amount of decoys to really make an impression and lure ducks into your area.
Duck decoys are collectibles, and primarily American-made or Canadian-made.
Nearly all duck hunting culture came from the United States general area, though you might run into some UK-made decoys from time to time.
Duck decoys need to have decent detail to them if you want them to work properly.
You can find some duck decoys with impeccable detail by viewing some of the most expensive decoys ever sold, and finding out what they did right.
Even though you’re probably not going to carve your own decoy, you can use paint to emulate some of the same shapes as old-school decoys.
How to Use a Duck Decoy Effectively
It’s all about placing them evenly.
Diagrams can do most of the mental work for you, it’s just up to you to make general measurements and determine how far apart your decoys should be from each other in the water.
Following a diagram, you want to set up as many decoys as you can.
If a V of ducks are flying overhead and they see a large gathering, they’ll be inclined to descend and land on the water.
Duck decoys should be facing different directions.
You want some of them to be angled away from the sun so that the rays shine off the decoy finish.
This emulates when sunlight shines off of the oil on duck feathers, which happens naturally.
When to Use a Duck Decoy
You should use duck decoys as soon as possible.
Basically, from the minute you show up to a marsh or a pond, you want to put the duck decoys down.
That is, of course, unless you’re able to get a vantage point on a flock of ducks that have already landed and take your shot.
While it’s generally frowned upon to shoot ducks while they’re still in the water, you can stake out this spot until one of them is airborne, readying your shot while you wait for them to make a move.
Duck decoys are best used in the midmorning and mid-afternoon.
You really want to capitalize on that sunlight hitting the side of your decoy, so early morning times aren’t really the best option.
Sunrise can offer some good refracted light, but only for so long.
All About Turkey Decoys
Turkey decoys aren’t cheap. I’ll tell you that right now.
There’s a lot of colors and patterns that go into a full turkey decoy.
If a turkey sees on that’s just too small, they’re not going to be as interested.
Some turkey decoys come completely made out of foam, but a light wind will blow those away.
You want to go big with turkey decoys or go home.
The good thing is, they’re relatively dumb birds and as long as you’re patient, you’re bound to snag one even if it’s your first hunting trip.
How to Use a Turkey Decoy Effectively
If you have a few of them, you want them to all face in relatively the same direction.
Wherever turkeys are nearby, they’ll be interested to come over.
However, during mating season, you can place two turkey decoys so that they’re facing each other to make them appear as though they’re pecking.
It attracts turkeys to the area, even if it’s only briefly. Keep your eyes peeled and your gun ready.
For the most part, turkeys are analytical of their environment, but if they feel safe they’re going to just meander around like nothing’s wrong.
Keep yourself at a good vantage point, and you could be bringing home more than one.
When to Use a Turkey Decoy
Turkeys don’t travel around a lot.
They like to stay in the same general area (I had turkeys living in my backyard when I was a kid, they were never more than a mile from my backyard).
You can use a decoy at any time of day, but then be prepared to wait around a little while they get comfortable with the area again.
While you don’t need a tree stand or anything crazy to hunt turkeys, I would recommend getting a nice comfortable spot somewhere nearby and waiting for them to come back out.
Just be sure you’re camouflaged.
All About Goose Decoys
Geese aren’t necessarily smarter than other birds, but they’re a whole lot meaner and more active.
You can get a pack of water decoys that just sit there and do nothing, but some of the most effective are flapper decoys (which can run you a pretty penny).
Having a few water decoys, some flappers, and some stationary field decoys could do wonders for your game.
Goose decoys are primarily Canadian geese-themed, so you’re not going to find many other goose breeds out there.
That’s okay though since there are some goose breeds that are becoming protected, but Canadian geese still run wild.
How to Use a Goose Decoy Effectively
Ideally, you’re going to be in a large group so you can take down a lot of geese at one time.
You’ll want to have a camouflage net or something to that effect nearby so you can sit patiently and wait.
You should each have six to twelve decoys, meaning the more the merrier—more hunters mean more decoys.
Goose spreads are typically farther apart than duck spreads.
Most diagrams, like the ones from this app, include X-shaped spreads that help attract geese from multiple angles.
Depending on your positioning or how close the field is to the treeline, you might want to deploy a V-shaped spread.
It’s situational, so be sure to have a handy resource at-the-ready.
When to Use a Goose Decoy
If you find an entire flock of geese just hanging out in the field, then you’d might as well just take aim and fire.
However, most of us aren’t that lucky, so you’ll want to show up nice and early to plan some goose decoys all over the field.
Geese are very active during the early and midmorning, so if you show up late to the party, such as in the afternoon, you have a slightly lessened chance of actually bagging some game.
All About Motion Decoys
Motion decoys can be for just about any type of game, though they’re primarily for waterfowl.
Motion decoys use wind power to turn faux wings on waterfowl decoys, giving the appearance of them actually moving.
These were made to counteract the fact that you could no longer use live decoys.
Motion decoys can definitely be more entrancing than standard decoys, but they’re going to require more maintenance.
If you’re setting up a dozen or more decoys in a marsh or a field, you don’t want all of them to be motion decoys.
Stick with a 10:1 ratio. It will still make your spread look lively, but it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to maintain.
Motion decoys can frequently break.
While the wings are simple to put back on, it’s still a higher maintenance piece of hunting equipment that you need to be aware of.
Some decoys with UV reflecting paint may be marketed as motion decoys because of the animated view they give to some animals, such as deer, but true motion decoys actually have moving parts.
How to Use a Motion Decoy Effectively
It’s all about wind direction.
You need to make sure that this is pointed in a way that the wind is going to get underneath those faux wings and send them spinning.
This will also help diversify your spread since you can place stationary decoys in alternate patterns.
Include them in your diagram, but don’t put them too close to other moving decoys. A good 10:1 ratio is best.
If you have thirty decoys, three motion decoys will do just fine.
You want the field to look animated, but you don’t want so much motion that it looks startling to other ducks.
When to Use a Motion Decoy
You can use a motion decoy right when you use your others.
If you’re setting up crow or duck decoys in a field, just go ahead and place your moving decoys down right next to your stationary decoys.
If it’s a particularly windy day, I would recommend staying away from them.
Anything over 15 MPH winds could actually tip this over, or make the decoy look completely erratic and off-putting to incoming ducks.
There’s no lever to dictate how fast it spins; if your motion decoy wings are moving, they’re not going to stop until the momentum wears down.
All About Deer Decoys
Deer are one of the most sought-after prey in North America, and they’re also not that smart.
A full-sized deer decoy can trick them from up to about 300 feet away.
While deer don’t have the best eyesight, the silhouette and overall shadow cast by your decoy could be enough to lure them in.
Deer decoys are unique from bird and waterfowl decoy, in the sense that you really only need one.
You can get up to three if you want to make a show of it, but you only need one to lure another deer in and land your shot.
Because deer have poor vision and can only see two of the three spectrums of color, they’re going to stop and take a look at your decoy for a second.
Once they’re certain they don’t spot any predatory colors or signs of an impending attack, they will begin to close in.
Deer decoys can take a little while to work.
You’re not going to get a result right away, so be sure to sit tight and wait for the deer to start to move in.
How to Use a Deer Decoy Effectively
Deer decoy should be placed very strategically.
You want to ensure that they have plenty of space between the edges of a clearing (such as about ten feet or so), but you also want them to be visible from a distance for a deer.
Consider where deer might come out of after researching their den structure and where they tend to set up shop and position the deer 50-100 feet away from that area.
The farther away a deer is from your decoy, the more likely it is to be intrigued and wander in.
Doe and fawn aren’t aggressive towards each other the way rutting bucks are, so they get lured into this false sense of security.
When to Use a Deer Decoy
Preferably in the mid-morning.
Deer like to forage in the early morning, so your presence might startle them for the rest of the day if you aren’t careful.
Wait until after their standard foraging time, and place your decoy about 90-120 feet from where your tree stand is.
Make sure your stand is 10-12 feet up into the tree since the deer will be slightly alerted by the presence of one of their own (or so they think), they’re going to survey the area a bit before coming in.
You want to be hidden. I would argue that a camo net on the bottom of your tree stand would be fantastic here.
All About Crow Decoys
There are some decoys that you buy, and then there are some that you can make on your own.
I would wager that you could go out right now and get everything you need to make a crow decoy before one is going to show up on your doorstep from an online purchase.
You can get some black plastic trash bags, some bamboo sticks, and some zip ties to make these all on your own.
They’ll catch the wind and even make them look animated as well, and you could make a hundred without spending much money at all.
Crows might eventually figure it out (as they are surprisingly intelligent for birds), but this will work well for a while.
Crow decoys are needed in high quantities.
Have you ever seen these things just fluttering about?
They’re everywhere, and they come in huge flocks. I would say that you need upwards of 25 decoys to really make an impact.
Crow decoys are generally made with little detail since the general shape and pitch black color is enough to attract crows.
Even if you decide to buy them instead of making them on your own, you’ll see just how simple they really are.
How to Use a Crow Decoy Effectively
If you’re making DIY decoys, you’ll want to stick them so that the underside of the bag flaps that you’ll make will get some wind in them, just like a ship’s sail.
When the wind hits it, it looks animated and might even attract a whole flock at once.
Premade crow decoys should be put in different directions, but be somewhat close together.
If you can space them about three feet apart each, it’ll be plenty of room to make a bunch of them noticeable to flocks of crows flying overhead.
When to Use a Crow Decoy
Right from the start.
You should position these in the field before you even pick up your gun to take serious aim.
Crows will fly around more than most birds; they don’t stay stationary for too long.
Position your crow decoys once you find a good vantage point or a dugout spot (or even a place to lay a camouflage net down on the ground). Then you wait.
It’s important to have a good hunting app to tell you areas where other hunters have seen crows, or just generally get some info about where they usually are.
Crows can be fickle, so they might land for a brief amount of time and fly off before you take a shot.
Make sure your aim is set before you squeeze the trigger, but do be aware of when they start to take off.
All About Dove Decoys
They’re pretty cheap.
Dove decoys don’t require a ton of detail, because you’re dealing with a bird that’s nowhere near as vigilant as crows or even geese.
You can either get stationary decoys for the average cost of an hour’s minimum wage, or you can get 3D love decoys.
These simulate mating patterns and wing movements that doeve often make.
They’re very useful in the right season, but if you use them out of season, they’re not going to be any more effective than the stationary dove decoys that you’re already using.
Even if you don’t have a lot of skills with a paintbrush, you can maintain, repair, and repaint your own dove decoys without needing to send them out to a shop for service.
They’re not very expensive, meaning there’s not a ton of detail that goes into them.
Once you use them right out of the packaging, you’re going to say “Man, they really can’t tell the difference, can they?”
Even mediocre patch-up jobs to damaged decoys won’t be very difficult to do, or noticeable to your prey.
How to Use a Dove Decoy Effectively
Honestly, I don’t want to bore you guys here, but if you follow diagrams you’re basically guaranteed to get a dove to come your way.
For all the praise they get for being beautiful creatures, they’re quite dumb.
They have very little sense of when they’re going into a bad situation. I would use a diagramming app to tell you what you should use for doves.
While there are fewer diagrams that are specifically tailored towards doves, they do exist.
Their flight patterns and landing habits are slightly different from other birds, but as I said, they have very little situational awareness.
You could use other decoy diagrams and still end up with some great results.
When to Use a Dove Decoy
If you can’t get a vantage point on a flock of dove right away, I would use a decoy.
They’re not always necessary though, because dove like to gather in big crowds and they’re generally not very vigilant of their surroundings.
The first thing I would do is find a good spot to shoot from that’s within 100 yards of your target.
If you aren’t sure how far away the target is, you can use one of these apps to find the range, and ensure you won’t have any issues with your shot.
Decoys should be used if you go to a regular hunting ground for dove, and they’re currently nowhere to be seen.
It could bring them out of hiding, or just catch the attention of doves flying overhead.
All About Predator Decoys
Decoys improve your chances of capturing a predator by tremendous amounts.
You have to remember that while prey might have to take time to plan drinking and foraging, a predator is going to constantly be in the hunting mindset, or back in their dens.
That means that if they’re out, they want to hunt. They’re hungry.
Predator decoys are just what they sound like: decoys of predatory animals.
These could be used to either trick the predatory animal you’re hunting into a false sense of security in being with their own, or if they also hunt the decoy you’re using, then they could become utterly distracted and invested in the decoy.
It could give you the perfect chance to take your shot.
One important piece of information to remember is that if you’re placing a predator decoy, then you want a good friend behind you in the treeline, or wherever you’re going to be shooting from, with overwatch on the entire situation.
There’s still a chance that a predatory animal always sees you, and if you go into a clearing without any cover, it could spell disaster before too long.
Never hunt predators unless you’re in a pair or a hunting party.
How to Use a Predator Decoy Effectively
The difficulty in placing these is that you need them to be somewhere conspicuous, but not somewhere unbelievable.
You want the decoy to mimic the behavior of the predatory animal that you’re hunting.
For instance, coyotes are one of the most-hunted predators out there.
They stick to small clearings so that they can still remain anonymous to their prey.
You need to learn the habits of the predator that you’re hunting.
From there, you can determine the best place to stick to the decoy.
Learn about their specific hunting patterns, how many travels in a pack, and if you should position them in a direction that faces away from the animal you’re hunting (or where you expect them to emerge from).
Doing this can help you position them for a perfect, wide-open shot.
When to Use a Predator Decoy
Predator decoys should always be used in an open area that’s close to cover.
As a general rule, no more than 20 yards away from a treeline or area of coverage.
This gives you plenty of space to be nearby and enact a predator call if you have one.
The main reason for this is that most predatory animals aren’t just out prowling around with absolutely no cover.
It will look, to other predators, like the decoy is in mid-hunt.
That signals that there’s a food source, and depending on the type of predator, they might travel in packs.
It’s enough to pique the predator’s interest and get them to come closer.
Your One-Stop Spot for Decoys
From positioning to predator decoys, when to use them and how to use them, you’ve got a great primer for every type of decoy out there.
With your newfound knowledge, it’s time to put it to the test.
Get your gear ready, get your decoys, and use a better spread to rope in those ducks.
With enough patience and good practice, you’ll be a master hunter in no time.