Rules of attraction
Alan Jarrett tells us why, sometimes, all you need to trick the ducks and return home with a full bag is a few small decoys, scattered in artful disarray
It was one of those days with little moving as the tide flooded. The bay to my front was choked with spartina grass, and it would be less than a couple of hours before high water made the decoys visible to passing ducks.
Three times, pairs of teal passed imperviously some 150 yards away. If only the tide would hurry there might be a chance of drawing some birds off that flight line; it would flood all around, and this would give the opportunity for creative use of the decoys. Eight of them were dropped into the spartina, while a pair were placed on the higher saltmarsh to my rear, and would not be fully afloat until almost high water.
Decoying ducks is not simply a matter of dumping a ‘flock’ in front of the hide and hoping for the best. The decoys have to look natural, and there is nothing more natural-looking than odds and ends of teal scattered around. This is a ruse I have often used, and it can have a deadly effect. On this day, it most certainly did; a trio of teal passed the main pattern before a single cock bird broke away and dived to the cunningly-placed pair. A few minutes later this was repeated. This time a single cock bird passed the decoys but fell for the pair on the salting top.
Much later, when the tide was almost out of the salting and only a pair of decoys remained visible on the edge of the spartina, another single cock teal came with complete confidence to become my final bird of the day.
While much of our wildfowling is carried out at dawn and dusk with flighting birds, the opportunity to add a different dimension to the sport, and to occasionally get a decent bag as well, should not be missed. That means getting the birds in close, which in turn means knowing your saltmarsh and the ways of the birds that are using it.
Decoying is by no means straightforward if the best results are to be achieved. There are many permutations, and flexibility and guile are an important part of the wildfowler’s repertoire. The time of the season is also a factor. What might work when the migrant birds have first arrived will not necessarily work against the wily end-of-season birds that may have seen a decoy pattern hundreds of times!
In most situations, less can be more. There is a
Late-season birds will be especially cautious, so you will need to adjust your pattern accordingly to lure
Decoys have to look natural and be carefully placed