Much like the way that different calls send different messages to birds, decoys and decoy placement also tell a story. There are a lot of different types of decoys: sleepers, feeders, resters, actives, sentries and more, and each of them convey a different message to approaching birds. John says that 5 to 10 percent of his spread is made up of sentry decoys and the rest are feeders.
He explains that as the season progresses, geese come to the field for one thing only, to feed. Beyond that, they just want to get back to water, and that is especially true in colder temperatures. John says they find the warmest part of the day, so they know the water will stay open and they feed then. In addition, they want to get back to water because the more birds that are on the water, the easier it is to keep it open. Since their move to the fields is strictly business and all about feeding, John says that spreads usings a lot of uprights aren’t very convincing. Having their heads up in an alert position just isn’t a natural thing to do for ducks and geese in this situation. John stresses the importance of understanding what your spread and various decoys are saying and making sure that they are consistent with what is happening in real life.
When it comes to physically setting your spread, John says there is no real science or exact pattern. His personal preference is a half-moon or “U” shaped spread. Within that spread he keeps the majority of his sleeper shells to the upwind side and takes three to five dozen sleepers and strategically places them downwind by the pocket to appear like they just came in. John notes that the temperature is a big factor in determining setup, but if it’s a really cold morning where birds are coming out heavily to feed, then those three to five dozen sleepers in the pocket tend to lure the birds in, where they drop down in that spot to warm up from the flight over. As the spread tails off, John says they mix in full bodies throughout for a realistic and effective spread. Wind and sun are big factors that should be considered when putting out your spread, too. Think about where the sun comes up and where the sun is going to be when the birds fly. Consider wind direction as it directly affects the direction in which birds will land. Harnessing the wind and sun to your advantage in your spread, when possible, is important.
On high wind days, John says you have to be careful when finishing geese. With the higher winds, the birds hover and are able to better pick apart the scene below them. Because of that, on high wind days John highlights the importance of having good concealment. If you are hunting in those high wind conditions, use it to your advantage and try to get it to your back. Some hunters will shoot with a side wind coming in off the left or right, but John says in that scenario you really want to get the birds as low as you can. You don’t want birds up high, coming in over you with the possibility of busting you. Listen closely on those windy days to what the birds saying. Are they talking to you? If so, talk back. If they are just clucking here and there, then mimic that vocalization. Use your call to your benefit, says John, your call can dictate where they are going to land. While he doesn’t like to call a whole lot to big birds, John says if you see them beginning to sit down somewhere you don’t want them to, then don’t be afraid to get back on the call and pick them back up and coach them right where you want them. The ability to be able to read the birds is a priceless skill to have in the field.
Tune in for loads of great waterfowl tips from John Gechter of Rainin’ Skies Waterfowl on decoys, spreads, working the wind to your advantage and much more!
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