Ducks are social animals that often travel in flocks, as do other waterfowl, and so when baiting them for the hunt it’s best to have a few decoys at hand. Using decoys can attract curious ducks over to the area since they see it as safe if other ducks have chosen to swim there. You’d be surprised how variable these decoy products can get, however, with whole body, butt-only, and moving, wing-flapping fake ducks available.
We’ve picked out five examples of these decoys and displayed them below along with their pros and cons so that you can see what we liked about them at a glance. We also have a buyers’ guide below so you can see what goes into making these decoys, and which features are better to have.
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Got some cautious ducks to take care of? Bag them as soon as possible by considering our favorite option right here. This way you can save time and get to the fun part sooner. We chose the Avian-X Top Flight Duck Open Water Decoys since they were what many would think of when looking for duck decoys. They’re full-body float decoys exquisitely designed to mimic male and female mallards. See why we like them below:
As said, the design of these mallard drake and hen decoys are very lifelike and bound to fool even the most perceptive of ducks. That design also includes non-flake paint that’s durable and keeps the ducks safe from most element damage.
The decoys move more naturally thanks to their forward weight keel designs that interact with gusts of wind. You can also manipulate them yourself by attaching a line to them.
A bundle set of high-quality decoys in different head positions for a reasonable price, and from a manufacturer with proven credentials in this market.
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Our first and favorite example of duck decoys are quintessential full-body floats that are made to a high quality. These are the Avian-X Top Flight Duck Open Water Decoys, though you can also find their very similar Back Water Decoys here if you’re hunting in calmer waters. The price may seem a bit much at first but remember that you get six of these great decoys per purchase.
If you’ve also baited turkeys in the past, then it’s likely you’ve seen Avian-X’s work before since they have a track record for delivering high quality, almost lifelike turkey decoys.
But the real question here is how their duck decoys fare, and we think they work pretty well. The first thing you notice about these decoys are their unmatched attention to detail, with two decoys designed after the brown-plumage mallard hen and the rest strikingly painted to resemble mallard drakes. Crafting decoys that bear a likeness to the prey is an artform, and one that Avian-X are certainly adept at.
As for some of its more measurable qualities, you’ll be happy to know that the paint used for these ultra-detailed decoys is as durable as it needs to be, able to withstand repeated use through most of the seasons, and all of the ones you’ll want to be duck hunting in. Be careful in water with lots of debris, however, as the paint can still get scratched.
The no-flake paint finish makes sure that the detailed craftsmanship on these decoys isn’t wasted when they come into contact with the outside world, and the decoys themselves have a variety of head positions to make them look more varied and, well, natural.
They also move naturally, or as natural as hunks of material can be, thanks to their keel designs. They use an innovative weight-forward swim keel that’s helpful at giving great movement on the water when rocked by a breeze. For a more hands-on approach you can also manipulate these decoys subtly via a swim clip that you attach line to. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best choke for duck hunting
Now that we suggested our first and more conventional decoy option, here’s something else with the MOJO Outdoors Elite Series Motion Decoy. The folks at MOJO Outdoors are also an established brand when it comes to duck hunting accessories, so it’s not surprising that their offering in the world of duck decoys would rank so highly in our list.
Before we get to what sets these decoys apart from the rest, it should be said that the most important part of the decoys are how much they actually resemble your prey, and these ones do that well. The casing for these decoys features authentic feather patterning and coloring based off of the real coat of ducks.
The main feature of these decoys is the fact that they’re motion decoys, meaning that the wings rotate on this decoy to better simulate duck movement. When planted in the water, it makes it look as if the duck is splashing which can be better than relatively motionless decoys.
The wings themselves are designed to wobble less during action, meaning that they move faster and quieter to sound as natural as it possibly can. The solid housing also minimizes rattling for this purpose too and is made with surviving damaging weather in mind.
That housing is also removable, allowing it to be cleaned easily after repeated uses. It also comes with some additional features like a cam lock support pole and a drop-in battery holder, making these decoys convenient and more technologically capable than their solid full-body decoy cousins.
As is the case with any mechanical parts, the wings on these will deteriorate faster than would the solid decoys featured above. This means the movement may become less stable over a few years.
At the midpoint on our list are another set of solid full-body decoys that are perfect for those on a budget. It’s a pair set of the Avery Greenhead Gear Pro-Grade Duck Decoys.
These are realistic carvings painted into authentic male and female mallard color schemes that are great for floating and waiting for your prey to join them in the water. They’re also carved into a realistic body posture that mimics sleeping ducks, but each mallard only has that one pose due to the limitations of this bundle. Larger bundle packs seem to be harder to get a hold of.
Once you’ve bagged your prey, these decoys are also easy to pick up and store thanks to the thumb loops built into them. As the listing name suggests, these duck decoys are made from pro-grade materials that are durable against water, weather, and knock exposure so that you can worry about other aspects of your hunt and not the maintenance of the decoys you use.
Our next decoys are also a bit different from the rest, being the Over-Size Mallard Butt-Up Decoys from, once again, Avery’s Greenhead Gear range. These are a different type of decoy yet again, instead choosing to bait ducks by faking one diving beneath the water.
As any decent decoy needs to be, these duck butt carvings are designed to be realistic to what mallard derrieres look like. In fact, they aren’t only made to look realistic, but are even made to be larger than natural ducks since that makes them more visible and so more likely to attract other ducks.
On the more technical side they’re made from durable pro-grade material as the rest of the Greenhead Gear series are and have fixed weighted keels that make setup less of a hassle. They’re perfect for use either by themselves or alongside the decoys above for if you want to craft the perfect illusion of a safe, duck-friendly body of water.
Our last duck decoys are the Higdon Outdoors Standard Ringneck Decoys, some realistic decoys that sport the coloring and patterning based on the appearance of ring-necked ducks. This makes them a good option if you’re on the hunt for ducks that aren’t mallards, for once.
These may be our most durable on this list thanks to the fact they’re foam filled and bulletproof, so if you’re shopping for decoys that can take a fair amount of punishment then these could be the ones for you. They’re also great for operating in shallower waters since they come with short-stringing clips attached.
The weighted keels on these make setup quick, but we also think they’re poorly structured and prone to breakage when subjected to too much stress which can cancel out that quick setup time if you’re treading on eggshells every time you set these decoys up.
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How to choose the best duck decoys
Despite being a simple product in terms of features, needing only to be a suitable enough duck facsimile to be useful at duck hunting, you’d be surprised which other features duck decoys can come with.
Thankfully, you have this buyers’ guide to walk you through the types of duck decoys you’ll encounter on the market and above. We’ll also be going through these features, such as their authenticity, durability, keel quality, and ease of use/maintenance.
Types of Duck Decoy
Duck decoys come in three main forms, all of which are featured above. At numbers one, three, and five you’ll what is perhaps imagined when you think of duck decoys. These are relatively simple, though expertly designed, solid carvings that resemble the duck in various states of water interaction, usually either low head, high head, or sleeping.
You can’t go wrong with these, they’re the quintessential duck decoys as they present a whole-bodied duck in great detail and, with a little wind movement, will trick living ducks quite easily.
The next kind are the more technologically advanced kinds like that of our number two option above, spinning-wing decoys, who splash in the water to attract other ducks. These are a controversial type of duck decoy, even being banned in certain areas for giving hunters unfair advantage over others.
This advantage is disputed, however, since it can depend on how pressured that area is. That is to say, the more hunters in the area, and the more hunters also using spinning-wing decoys, the higher the chance your local ducks have caught onto the gimmick. We don’t mean to use that word to imply negativity, however, as these can be very effective tools in areas where the ducks are less used to being hunted.
Lastly, we have feeder, or the humorously named butt-up, decoys. These are the carvings of the duck’s hindquarters vertically positioned, as they do when diving beneath the surface of the water to feed. These are a direct signal to overhead ducks that the area is safe to land, because it’s not only safe enough to swim in but also to stop for a snack, and so they’ll swoop down for a piece of the action.
With all of the above types, the most important part of decoy construction is how much they look like a duck. It’s no good having a technological masterpiece of a decoy if it doesn’t pass the duck test so yes, they need to look like a duck.
This doesn’t just include whether that mallard decoy’s head is the right shade of green, however. Duck decoys go above and beyond in their depiction of your average duck, painstakingly recreating the feather patterning and coloring of the entire duck body, or at least the back end if you’re using butt-up decoys.
This isn’t a feature that we can cite some ratings chart or other measurement system for to prove the superiority of one product over the other, you’ll just have to use your own eyes. Pick the one that you think looks the best and most detailed. If you think it looks like a duck, then the ducks will most likely be fooled too.
Coming off of authenticity, let’s talk about durability since there’s some crossover here. You must consider not only the durability of the product itself, but also how resilient the decoy’s paint job is.
A duck decoy that’d outlive you is all well and good, but it’s useless if all of the paint flakes off of it, so look for resilient paint that boasts of its water and flake-proof qualities. Coloration is a big signaler between species in the animal kingdom, so you’ll want your mallard drake decoys to keep their green masks on for as long as possible.
As for the actual design, a lot of decoys are just hunks of material fashioned into duck shapes, and so are made of wood or more dense plastic mold. Go with what you want here, but the best option for durability would be foam-packed decoys. These decoys are, well, packed with foam, but this foam solid foam can make decoys bulletproof.
By keel quality we mainly mean the weight of the keel and how it fares in the water. Duck decoys work best with a little motion, unless mimicking a very specific signaling interaction like the spinning-wing decoys, that is. With other decoys you want them to move, but not move so much as to give themselves away as fake floats.
Keels help duck decoys ride the waters smoothly, and when they’re weighted that means they’re better for rougher waters. They won’t take off downstream or capsize, which is something ducks don’t tend to do that often. The center of gravity that these weighted keels support are also an important part of the equation, since that factors into the mimicry too.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
There are general features that make these decoys a bit easier to use and handle, such as thumb loops or easily removable casings.
Thumb loops are primarily found on full-body duck decoys which, if they are foam-packed or made to be durable, can actually get to be quite heavy. Thumb loops allow you to easily carry them but also store them too if you have any hooks or hanging implements you can use.
On the other hand, removable casings are important for spinning-wing decoys. These are because these casings house some tech and mechanical wizardry that keep those wings spinning, and so you’ll need to get under there now and then to replace parts and clean any muck or water damage out of there.
Having removable casings allow you to care for your teched out decoys, which will hopefully allow you to keep it functional for longer.