Being prepared for the coming waterfowl season means more time hunting and less time working. Summer is the best time for the maintenance of equipment. With supply chain shortages worldwide, it is also the best time to purchase a new blind or accessories.
Waterfowl decoys are expensive but valuable assets to hunters. To take care of their lifelike appearance and ensure you achieve optimal attraction qualities, you must keep them clean to look like the real McCoy. These maintenance tips will help you take care of your decoys so they always attract ducks and geese to their full potential.
- Baby wipes are a great item to keep in your decoy bag. When putting away decoys at the end of a hunt, blood, bird poop, and dirt are often on the surface. While the mess is still fresh, a quick wipe will take it off quickly and efficiently. Lysol disinfecting wipes have more cleaning power for dirt and grime. They can play a role in reducing the spread of avian influenza. The kitchen formulated wipes are mild and don’t damage the paint.
- A pair of cotton gloves should be packed with any decoys that use stakes. Dirt and mud collect on the stakes; if you store the decoys with the dirty stakes, it will transfer. When picking up decoys, quickly pull the dirt and mud off the stake with a hand outfitted with a cotton glove. Gardner’s gloves work well and are easy to clean before the next hunt. It is easier to clean a pair of gloves than dozens of decoys. Store the stakes in a pail or bucket so they aren’t in contact with the decoys after being picked up.
- Never let the decoys touch the ground. Nothing irritates a decoy owner more than having a buddy set the prized possessions on their side in the field. Having designated people picking up while others are packing decoys directly into bags correctly will ensure the fake birds stay as clean as when you set them out. Decoys touching the ground get wet and dirty fast and often require drying at home.
- Drying wet decoys after a hunt will ensure they don’t grow mold or mildew. Sock decoys are particularly susceptible to holding moisture. Snow goose socks used in the rain or snow, or even when they collect dew in the morning, must be aired out at home. It often means a yard packed with decoys to catch the wind and dry, making your neighbours think you are a bird brain. Shake, stake, air dry, and put away in bags when complete. If the weather isn’t cooperating, at least open the bags and set them in an area where they can breathe until you can set them up in a drying breeze.
- Many full-bodied decoys have chips and scratches in the paint. A quick fix is a flocking kit to spray the heads and tails of your honker deks. The fuzzy coating creates realistic looks and prolongs the life of your investment. The flocking will also help beat the frost and shine on bluebird days. Decoys that already have flocking can be touched up at the end of each season to keep them looking new.
- Spray paint can touch up decoys starting to show their age. Make sure to buy flat touch-up paint, as any shine will flare birds. Feather different coloured paint on the body to match the original colour. You will need black, grey, and brown for honkers. You can even convert some old dark decoys to snow goose colors. Specklebelly decoys can be made from old honker shells by changing the head and beak colours.
- Full-body decoys must be packed and transported in individual bags, so decoys don’t rub together. Several different bags are available, and the important thing is for the decoys to fit tight enough that they don’t move. The Final Approach has newly designed bags for honkers, floating ducks, and two options for silhouettes. The idea behind a bag is to keep the decoys from touching each other. Individual compartments ensure decoys never contact one another, keeping the decoys separated. Do not stack extra or loose decoys into the top of the bag even if there is room.
- Use mats or racks in your truck box or decoy trailer to place decoys on to reduce bounce and rubbing. A mat works like a shock absorber to safeguard the paint or flocking on your decoys. Racks keep the decoys off a solid surface where they can’t bounce around. A rail system can go inside trailers to hang decoys by their bases when assembled.
- A once-a-year cleaning is always a good idea. If your decoys see lots of action, they will show it, and good old soap and water are the best bets for seasonal cleaning. You can get away with using a soft scrub brush but don’t’ get carried away. Depending on the decoy, the paint can come off when you least expect it. A light scrubbing and some clean water go a long way, but don’t use a pressure washer.
- Frost-free decoys are hard to come by, but using windshield washer antifreeze can keep your decoys from holding frost or moisture. Put the blue alcohol-based liquid in a spray bottle and spritz it over the surface of the hard-plastic decoys. Get one person spraying the decoys while others towels to wipe any excess. The alcohol in the antifreeze allows it to dry, even under freezing conditions. Use windshield washer antifreeze on decoys on any morning with a forecast for heavy frost. When the sun rises, your decoys will not hold frost and will continue to look lifelike.
Avid waterfowlers love their decoys and share them with friends and family regularly. Educate your waterfowling team to help take care of the fake birds in hand and save your decoy fund money for more shotshells.
Ready to Roll
Preparing blinds before the season opens means you are ready to roll whenever you find birds or your phone rings. Cutting tall, durable grass and fastening it into 1 ½ inch bundles with zip ties make it easy to cover your blind and blend into the surroundings. Always cut extra grass and have at least 50 extra bundles ready to fix or replace spots on the blind that need new or more cover.
ALPS Alpha Blind
If you require an upgrade or a new blind for the coming season, look no further. The Alpha Waterfowl Blind is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and four large hunters, with gear. The Alpha is quick to assemble, provides full concealment, and is comfortable in any weather. The lightweight blind base is a square-tube aluminum frame powder-coated to stand up to the environment. This stand-up blind offers set-up options for overhead concealment. The side doors open wide for easy access. There is extra room for ammo bags, mesh pockets for shotshells, and your four-legged friends. Stakes provided ensure stability in the wind. The outer material is 600D polyester. Three mesh windows allow shooters to watch incoming birds under full concealment. Rows of brush pockets let moisture drain but hold bundles of grass, corn stalks, or brush to blend into the surroundings. There are two dog ports to collect birds without opening a door—the 39-pound blind and components roll up in a tight package held together by a convenient shoulder carry straps. MSRP: $399.99; alpsoutdoorz.com.
ALPS Stealth Hunter Blind Chair
The Stealth Hunter 360 Blind Chair from ALPS OutdoorZ favors waterfowl or any other hunts out of a blind. The four legs are individually adjustable for height. They are supported with a large pad to keep the chair from sinking into the ground. The chair can be adjusted to use on uneven ground. The chair comes apart for transport, folds up neatly, and comes with a shoulder strap. MSRP: $99; ALPSOutdoorZ.com.