Muck, dust, snow and more can make the best decoys look fake. Here's how to freshen them up when you're already out hunting
Modern duck and goose decoys look incredibly realistic when new and pristine, but they can get dirty or marred with use, reducing their effectiveness. You can’t clean them in the marsh or pit with a garden hose and soapy water, so you must resort to quick fixes to make your fakes look real again.
Here’s a look at some common causes of dirty dekes and thoughts on what to do.
Muck and Vegetation
Puddle duck decoys often get smeared with muck and coated with vegetation, whether it’s duckweed accumulating on their chests and sides or floating wild celery clogging their chests and necks.
I try to avoid this problem by placing decoys keel down instead of tossing them. That way, they won’t land on their backs or heads and root up mud or plant matter. Still, many days, blocks get dirty, so I always observe my decoys, note any fouling and simply shake them in the water to reduce the crud. Also, I set aside dirty blocks after pickup and hose them off thoroughly so they’re not filthy the next morning.
I never faced this issue until I hunted the prairies during dry years. Decoys kept in mesh bags or on Texas rigs in the open bed of a truck can get coated with dust and appear dull or even unrecognizable.
As with muck or weeds, I watch for this and simply give blocks a quick shake in clean water when setting up to somewhat restore their luster. And again, I’ll hose them off and let them dry at night.
During dry-field hunts, plastic decoys — whether shells, silhouettes or full-bodies — can collect condensation and begin to frost. Circumvent this by spraying decoys with windshield-wiper fluid before sunup to reduce glare. Then, wipe off excess fluid so your fakes don’t shine unnaturally.
Ice and Snow
Frozen decoys become a real problem during late-season water hunts. In harsh conditions, some might collect rings of ice where their bodies meet the water, making them look fake. Also, the increased weight of ice increases the chances that they’ll drift and tangle.
When possible, try to wash or break skim ice off decoys before they get too coated. If blocks accumulate too much ice, consider pulling them and thawing ice with an in-blind heater.
Snow can be tough to counter, and enough white stuff atop decoys really reduces their effectiveness. During water hunts, take periodic breaks to dip the tops and heads of decoys in water to melt the snow. In fields, use a leaf blower to remove at least some snow from your blocks.
Some folks might argue that ducks and geese close enough to notice fouling on decoys are in range anyway. That’s true in certain situations. But in today’s high-pressure waterfowling world, it’s never a bad idea to keep your blocks looking as real as possible. A little attention to small details might make the difference between finishing birds or flaring flocks.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.