LATE SEASON DUCK SPREADS by Joseph Albanese
Mario grew up in Pennsylvania, but now lives on the Left Coast where he serves as Vice President of Brand Innovation for Final Approach Waterfowl and owner of Columbia River Decoys, Inc. While there are things he misses about the East, 107 days of duck season sure helps ease the pain of skipping Faschnaut Day. Hunting the equivalent of two seasons every year gives him plenty of time in the blind, but it also gives the birds twice the education. To consistently score, Mario puts all of his faith in his decoys.
“My decoy spread follows a bell curve,” explains Friendy. “In the early season, I set a smaller spread of a dozen or so decoys. I tend to use the more beat up ones, so they look like ducks that aren’t in full plumage yet. During the heart of the season, I’ll use a few dozen decoys. But by the end, I may only set a pair.”
With all of the water in Oregon, Mario finds that the birds are really spread out by January. After being shot every time they try to dump in a hole with a couple dozen counterfeits, ducks grow leery of large gatherings. To imitate what he sees the ducks doing naturally, he really downsizes his spread.
“I might go in with just a pair of mallards on a jerk cord, but I’ll usually throw in a pintail or widgeon to mimic what I’m seeing around here,” says Friendy. Mario takes great care to ensure these are the nicest decoys he has, washing them off after each hunt. He wants them to imitate the super prime ducks of late January, and he’s letting them do all the heavy lifting. “I set them really far apart from each other. Even with live ducks, they tend to land really wide.”
Friendy warns to not fall into patterns and spend time scouting. In the Northwest, just about every puddle has a duck in it. You’d better make yours look as natural as possible if you want any feathered visitors.
“You’ve got to pivot with the birds. Around here, the mallards are often gone by January. We’ll use pintails, widgeon, spoonies, or even teal if that’s what’s around,” Mario offers. “That goes for calling, too. We’ll abandon mallard calls and go to whistles. The ducks aren’t as used to hearing pintail or widgeon calls from hunters, so they don’t associate it with danger. Plus, it’s what you would hear out there anyway.”
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