Best Duck Decoys

Updated December 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
26 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
206 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Updated December 2020
Written by Bronwyn Llewellyn Authors 's image

Buying guide for Best duck decoys

Like many other animals, ducks rely on the principle of “safety in numbers” to help them find food and stay alert to predators. Duck hunters can take advantage of this instinct by positioning realistic wood, cork, foam, or plastic duck decoys to attract real ducks to a lake or pond.

Duck decoys float on the surface of the water, where they can be easily seen by ducks flying overhead. While all duck decoys fill the same basic function of luring wary prey to a hunter nearby, different models vary in durability, realism, and motion on the water. In your hunt for the ideal decoy, you should also weigh important features like weight, keel type, flock size, whether your decoys are drakes or hens, and whether your decoys appear to be asleep or awake.

Whether you’re an avid duck hunter or plan on getting your hunting license for the first time, the right duck decoys can help you improve your odds of a successful hunt. Keep reading to learn what sets different decoys apart, tips for success in using decoys to hunt ducks, and answers to common questions about decoys. Check out our favorites, too.

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Hunters frequently pair decoys with a duck call to combine visuals with auditory signals.

Key considerations

The main considerations as you narrow down your search for the right duck decoys should be materials and durability and whether the decoys appear to be awake, asleep, or feeding.

Materials

You’ll find duck decoys in a wide variety of materials including wood, foam, cork, and plastic. These materials differ in durability and utility.

Wood: Many wood decoys are extremely attractive and long-lasting, and they sit realistically on the water. However, they’re heavier (a big problem if you’re trying to use a large flock) and expensive. Wood decoys usually need to be repainted periodically.

Foam: Cheaper foam decoys can be just the thing if you’re trying to amass a large flock. They’re lightweight, easy to carry in sacks, and inexpensive. However, cheap foam is quite vulnerable to damage, corrosion, and scratches. More durable, pricier foam decoys are covered with plastic or resin and are a favorite of many hunters.

Resin: Thermoplastic resin is durable and lightweight. It holds detail and color extremely well and floats on the water nicely. It is expensive, however, and will leak and sink if pierced by a bullet.

Plastic: Plastic decoys are cheaper than resin and are lightweight and attractive. However, plastic decoys tend to lose detail and dent more quickly and will sink if hit by a bullet.

Cork: Cork decoys are attractive and more durable than foam, and they float nicely on the water, but they’re heavy and pricey. Like wood, cork decoys will fade and need to be repainted periodically.

Positions

A set of decoys that includes ducks in various different positions can significantly boost the “all clear” signal you’re trying to send to real ducks. Duck decoys that are all facing forward uniformly can appear alert to danger, while a varied flock appears more natural and relaxed. You’ll find four main positions to choose from: sleeping, preening, feeding, and waking.

Sleeping: Sleeping duck decoys have their head turned backward and partially tucked under one wing. These send a powerful signal to real ducks that the lake or body of water is peaceful and safe enough to sleep.

Feeding: Feeding decoys, also known as “tippers,” are essentially just the bottom half of the duck, which tips out of the water to mimic a feeding duck with its head underwater. Tippers can be a particularly compelling safety signal to live ducks, since ducks won’t feed if preparing to flee danger.

Preening: Preening duck decoys have their heads bent toward the feathers, to mimic a duck smoothing and preening its feathers. Ducks preen when they feel safe and relaxed, which can encourage interlopers to land in an area that seems safe.

Waking: You’ll want to include at least a few waking, upright duck decoys in your hunting setup, since real ducks take turns keeping an eye out for predators while other flock members sleep, preen, and feed.

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Did You Know?
Duck decoys are kept in place by lines and anchor weights directly underneath them.
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Features

Realism

Realism and fine details are ideal. Decoys that are convincing replicas will draw the most ducks. However, realism can be a double-edged sword. Be sure you know where your decoys are before the real ducks fly in, or you might be tempted to take a shot at your own decoys!

Weight

Consider the combined weight of the decoys you’ll be transporting to your hunting location. Foam and plastic decoys are the lightest, while wood and cork decoys are the heaviest. While lightweight foam and plastic decoys can be carried in the same bag with little damage, wood decoys cannot.

Keel

Solid-keel decoys have a weight sealed inside the decoy and will automatically right themselves when thrown into the water. Water-keel decoys use water to balance themselves, so they’re lighter than solid-keel decoys but must be drained after use. They’re also vulnerable to tipping over.

Spread

Your ideal flock size, called a spread, depends on your hunting location and strategy. Early in the season on bodies of water, some hunters will position up to 300 decoys to signal a thriving duck population. Later in the season or in a smaller area, just a few mated pairs will do the trick. You’ll likely want to start your flock with four to six decoys if you’re just getting started.

Drakes and hens

Typically, hunters like to have a mix of drakes and hens to use in different hunting situations and with different tactics. Some sportsmen find that a cluster of hens successfully and consistently attracts bachelors early in the season. Later in the season, scattered clusters of mated pairs can signal safety to other mated pairs.

Size

You’ll find standard, magnum, and super magnum sizes to choose from. Larger decoys can be seen more easily from the air and may be more likely to attract waterfowl to your lake or pond. Duck decoys that are too small can be hard to see and may be less recognizable from a distance to your targets. However, if you’re hunting in a more intimate setting or with shy ducks, large magnum decoys can make shy ducks wary. Balance visibility with realism, and consider the size of the body of water as you choose your decoy size.

Movement

A decoy’s motion on the water can mean the difference between a decoy that looks like a bathtub toy and a decoy that appears to be a real animal. Motion is determined by a combination of materials, weight, and the shape of the decoy. Less expensive decoys may be too light, causing them to bob atop the water instead of settling into it like a real floating duck.

Some more expensive decoys can be operated by remote control or a string from shore to create realistic movement as the decoys bob and “swim” in the water. This extra movement can be especially helpful on smooth water when there’s very little wind. Lifeless decoys on still water may trigger warning signals to wary ducks.

Consider adding several pintail drakes to your spread. The flashy white markings will improve visibility to ducks in the air.

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Duck decoy prices

Inexpensive: Budget decoys start at about $8 for a single drake or hen. You can find sets of budget decoys that drive the price down to $3 to $5 per decoy if you want to buy in bulk. These value decoys are usually made from foam or hollow plastic and are great for building a larger flock. Cheaper options aren’t usually as realistic. They often use a water keel instead of a solid keel for balance and can crack or wear out over time. Budget decoys aren’t usually in different positions; most are facing forward.

Mid-range: These duck decoys are usually made of foam or plastic and cost a little more, $15 to $20 for single hens or drakes or around $10 to $13 in larger sets. These decoys usually have more realistic detail and higher-quality plastic. Some are foam with an outer plastic coating for excellent floats that won’t sink if cracked or pierced by a stray bullet. In mid-range decoys, you’ll usually find a better variety of positions, with sleepers, tippers, and preening ducks in the mix.

Expensive: The sky's the limit on decoy prices. High-end decoys made of resin, wood, or cork are highly realistic with excellent craftsmanship, but they will set you back $30 to $100 or more for a single hen or drake or around $15 to $25 each in larger sets. In this price range, you’ll find motorized options, lots of positions, weighted keels, and superior durability. Handcrafted wood decoys are considered an art form, so expect to pay accordingly!

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Did You Know?
Standing decoys can be nailed to a small log for an easy setup and retrieval that mimics duck behavior.
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BestReviews

Tips

  • Position your decoys for the best results. You might be tempted to put decoys out in the open where they’re most visible, but this allows savvy ducks to spot imposters more easily. Try placing decoys in partially visible but shaded or brushy edges of the water. Also consider adding some sleeping or standing decoys to the shoreline near your blind. And don’t forget to leave a nice pocket of open water for the real ducks to land in. Otherwise, ducks may pass by since all the “good” spots are taken.
  • Add other species. While birds of a feather flock together, ducks take safety signals from many different species. Consider adding geese, cormorants, seagulls, and other confidence-inspiring birds to your spread.
  • Try a smaller spread. For decoy-shy ducks, especially late in the season when ducks may be wary after close calls with hunters, try using just a few strategically placed decoys. A huge spread may alert savvy ducks that associate such setups with gunfire.
  • Adjust your spread to the season. If you’re hunting early in the season, groups of drakes, hens, or larger congregations of mixed ducks are common. However, later in the season (December and January), ducks have pair bonded and tend to separate more from larger groups. Mimic this behavior in your spread.
  • Limit yourself to 15 to 18 decoys unless you have a boat. Any more quickly becomes overwhelming when you factor in the bulk and weight of your gear.
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When hunting ducks in tall grasses that hide most decoys, use goose decoys instead.

FAQ

Q. What is the easiest way to clean duck decoys?

A. Cleaning debris and mud off duck decoys is important to help them last and keep them looking their best, but cleaning decoys can be a painstaking process. For a quick, effective cleaning method, prop the decoys up along a fence and spray them with a mix of tire cleaner and water, then let them dry overnight.

Q. What are some options for carrying decoys without a boat?

A. For hunters without a boat, carrying decoys to the water can be a challenge. For larger amounts of decoys, many hunters use a mesh sack. A garbage can on wheels is another creative solution for hauling decoys. If you’ll be toting a smaller number of decoys, you can use a bucket (which also doubles as a seat).

Q. Can I patch a leaky decoy?

A. The majority of leaky decoys can be patched up with some silicone from the hardware store. If the crack or hole is too big to patch, consider using the decoy on shore instead of in the water when you create your spread.

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