How much do the best duck decoys add to your chances of bringing dinner home?
Duck Hunting is a form of hunting steeped in tradition. It is something that gets passed down from elders to children, along with the secrets and tactics each hunter has found to be of particular success. Some of these are time tested things, like how to spread your decoys, or which shotgun will take down the most birds. One thing that has surely changed is the technology available to the hunter in this era.
Top rated duck decoys are no different. From the fancy “in flight” decoys, to the armor coated paint used, there are numerous advances for the modern hunter’s arsenal that can wield big days out hunting. For this article, I chose to pick hard-molded duck decoys, simply because they stand the test of time, and they are a significant part of any decoy spread. You can always add to these decoys I have picked, but rarely will you ever see a spread without any of these particular decoys in it.
Choosing The Best Duck Decoys
As with any decoy, the three main components that need to be considered are; durability, realism, and “portability.” Durability refers to what they are made of, what kind of painting process is used, how they are put together, etc. Realism is just how it looks. How realistic are they to the real thing. Not only to your eyes, but to other duck’s eyes as well. Last is “portability,” or how easy they are to set up, take down, and move around with. Here I will break these down, so you can find the best duck decoy for your purpose.
Daily use of decoys takes its toll. From being tossed in the back of the truck, to sitting in water and sunlight day after day, finding one that can live up to the abuse season after season is important. Molded plastic is the best choice for durability, even though they are the bulkiest and heaviest, they will outlast any other type of decoy.
The paint process is another aspect of this. Some brands have come a long way in this department. From armor covered paint, to using paint in the molding process, there are a few options to choose from. You want to look for paint jobs that will stand up to the daily use of mallard decoys. If you can see a scratch in the paint, then a duck can see it before it even flies overhead. Some decoys have UV protection to add to the years you can get out of them and even when you hunt during the winter, don’t underestimate how quickly the colors of an often used decoy can fade out.
Some things to look for are if they are molded in one piece of polyethylene. These tend to be much more durable than two piece molds. Removable heads help with storage, and keeps them from getting banged up. The paint is always important to look at. If it is painted over the mold, then chances are it will chip and crack. For the best mallard decoys painting is part of the molding process, assuring colors will last as long as the decoys themselves.
Waterfowl have eyesight ten times that of ours, so if you can detect a flaw chances are that the ducks you are trying to lure in will too. Many decoys are painted by professional painters and decoy artists. This is always a good thing to look for, as it will give you the realism of a custom made decoy with a much lower price.
The best duck decoys should not only look realistic to your eye, but the birds eye, too. The molding process has a lot to do with the feather presentation. Finding a decoy that hides transition lines, and brings all these components together is what I look for. A balance between all of these aspects is what is needed.
Having a decoy spread with different flock positions is another aspect of realism. If you buy a six pack of decoys all in the same position, and that is all you have to use, chances are you will not have many ducks fly over. Remember, waterfowl are smart, and with the flock mentality, they need a little coaxing to fly over, especially late in the season.
Decoys need to be able to be set up and taken down relatively quick. This is due to changes in patterns. Where you were successful one day, might not be the next day. This is where mobility comes in. Molded plastic is usually the heaviest and bulkiest of all the types of decoys, but that does not necessarily mean that they cannot be set up or taken down in a short amount of time.
I usually recommend having a couple different types of decoys, this gives your decoy spread resemblance of a real flock, and makes moving around a little less tough. Still, I believe the plastic hard molded decoys to be of true resilience when it comes to duck hunting.
A successful spread will have a variety of decoys, and set ups. As stated before, what works today may not work tomorrow. If a hunter keeps this in mind, and learns to adapt to any given situation, the tide will work in his or her favor.
The 4 Best Duck Decoys On The Market
Going by the guide above, and personal experience, I have found four different duck decoys that are sure to be a great addition to any spread and in my opinion the best duck decoys for the money. Keep in mind these are all hard plastic models, as I believe this is where any hunter should start when buying decoys, and then add on with other types and styles.
Final Approach Mallard Floating Duck Decoy- 12Pack
This pack is a great starter for anyone, or a great addition to any spread. They have life-like detail and enhanced realism that I look for in a decoy. Durable hard-molded plastic, and one piece design hold these decoys together through the rough banging in the back of trucks or on the floor of the boat.
The pack comes with seven drakes and five hens to really round out your spread. The anatomy is a little small, but nearly flawless. The paint job is near custom quality with intricate sculptured detail. One downside is that they are all the same style.
This set is sure to last through the long hunting season year after year. They do not come with weights or cords so this is something I would add on if I were to purchase these. For the price, this is one of the best mallard decoy pack out there, by a long shot. Usually you only get six for what they are asking for twelve. Great good deal you can’t really go wrong with.
- Custom quality paint
- Very durable
- Resist cracking and chipping
- One piece design
- World class anatomy and detail
- Intricate feathering
- Twelve decoys/seven drakes, five hens
- Size is a bit smaller than real life
- All are same stance
- No weights or cords
Flambeau Premium Magnum Mallard Duck Decoy- 6 Pack
This pack of six comes with a variety of positioned decoys. With one resting drake, one skimmer drake, one resting hen, one active hen, and two active drakes, it is sure to get even those wary flocks to swoop in. This could be used as a starter pack, or a great addition to your spread.
Flambeau uses Uvision paint technology that enhances features and treats the outside. This technology resists chipping and cracking from daily use and abuse. They are sixteen and a half inches long which mimics the anatomy of real life mallards.
Uvision technology also mimics the way that other ducks see them. Remember: Birds not only have far better eyesight, they also see more colors.
This gives the hunter an edge, and gives these realistic decoys another notch on the realism meter. Combine this with their intricate feather patterns and natural paint schemes, and what you have is a great set of decoys.
- Uvision paint technology
- Natural paint schemes
- Resists scuffing and chipping
- Intricate feather detail
- Five positions
- Fade resistant
- Less durable than comparable styles
- No anchors or cords
Hard Core Pro Series Wood Duck Decoys- 6 Pack
The Best Wood Duck Decoys
This set of six has three drakes and three hens. True to life paint schemes will make the day of hunting worth it. Their whaletail keel for realistic movement in water, high definition feather detailing, and anatomically correct postures will provide the necessary realism to bring in the flocks.
These six decoys come with a 36 inch Texas rig which makes them easy to deploy as soon as you have them. They have Hard Core’s armor coated paint to keep them from chipping and cracking. The Duramold construction ensures that they will last through the toughest abuse.
These decoys are realistic, withstand the everyday challenges of a duck hunt, and come Texas rigged. That makes them a good choice for anyone who wants to hunt right out of the box. They also come with four ounce weights to keep them in place on the water. Definitely my choice for the best wood duck decoys.
- True to life anatomy
- Realistic paint schemes
- Whaletail keel for realistic movement
- Includes six-36 inch Texas rigs w/4oz weights
- Duramold construction
- High definition feather detail
- Armor coated paint
- Slightly smaller in size comparison
- Clips are known to break every so often
Avian X Top Flight Open Water Mallard- 6 Pack
These open water decoys imitate resting mallards on the open water. They have a rubberized molding that prevents cracks and chips. They undergo a sixteen step painting process that gives real life detail that the most wary of flocks will not detect.
The front weighted keel helps them to look at rest in the open water. They are highly realistic and are should work great on early season birds, as well as on the picky ones that survive till late in the season. Rugged and durable, they will work well on lakes or wide, slow river sections where open water is the primary hunting ground.
With rubberized molding, a sixteen step painting process, and highly sculptured detail in the feathers, these decoys will surely hold up season after season. This six pack comes with four drakes and two hens.
- Perfect for open water hunting
- Rubberized molding
- Resists cracks and chips
- Sixteen step painting process
- Highly realistic detail
- The weighted system fails at times
- Slightly over sized
- Paint can wear off over time
Which Duck Decoy Stands Up?
Going over the decoys, it comes down to which decoy will provide the most, and best, shots at prey. When out hunting, different spreads will work better or worse depending on the day, the place, and even the flock.
After careful review, I had to go with Hard Core’s Pro Series. They have great durability, realistic movement, and highly defined detail within the sculpting process. They come with Texas rigs and are ready to go out of the box. Add on the armor coated paint and you get plenty of bang for your buck or in other words: the best duck decoys for the money.