Every year duck hunters begin to look over their decoys and see whether its time to retire some and find new ones. Either the color has faded, maybe they have started to scratch, or maybe they even have a few shot holes in them. Either way, finding the best duck decoys is the main concern. There was a time when making your own decoys or finding a close friend to make decoys was how you knew they were the best duck decoys.
However, fast forward and there are now hundreds of duck decoy manufactures, and selecting the best ones has become quite difficult. As a result, we had the same issue when we started looking at new duck decoys. Therefore, the decision was easy to start a contrast and comparison to find the best duck decoys on the market.
Best Duck Decoys For the Money –
Avian X – Top flight Fusion Mallards –
When you pick a set of Avian X Fusion Mallards you’ll notice an ultra-realistic paint scheme. The detail in the feathers and the color blend and fade looks very realistic. Not only is the paint perfectly matched for Mallard ducks, but the paint is very durable and quite scratch resistant. Now I’m someone that uses decoy bags to help protect my decoys when traveling with them. However, when I pick up and set decoys I grab a big group of them. I never had any issues with the paint chipping or wearing off.
Aside from the paint, the plastic material used is a thin flexible material. It’s stiff to the touch, but with a little bit of pressure, they do flex. I think this helps a bit if your tossing decoys and they bump into each other. The keel of the decoy provides plenty of holes for attaching texas style rigs. The keel also provides great natural movement as the wind pushes the decoys around. Lastly, the fusion decoys are a bit oversized making them appear great from various distances.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 6
Dakota Decoys – Fully Flocked Mallards –
With Dakota Decoys located right in the central flyway leave it to them to make one of the most realistic looking mallard decoys. I’ve never picked up another decoy that looked as like like as the Dakota Mallards. Dakota spends countless time perfecting the paint finish and durability for all of their decoys. It almost seems as though they are hand painted. Considering the drake decoys go through 24 steps of painting and the hens go through 16. It’s safe to say they nearly are hand painted with the time invested in that process. Upon further observation, you’ll notice 3 different head styles for every 6 pack of decoys. Plus if that isn’t enough the decoy heads can spin 360°.
Similar to Avian-X you will notice upon inspection that they are oversized measuring about 16″ in length. The outer plastic is comprised of a 60/40 blend of low and high-density polyethylene. This gives the decoys a really tough and durable finish. I noticed after extended use that the paint and details of the mold never cracked, chipped, or dented. They really have a tough and rugged feel. Lastly, upon tossing these in the water you’ll notice that they provide a very lifelike motion when the wind or water is moving the decoys.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 6
Cabela’s – Northern Flight Oversized Mallards –
Cabela’s has been known to make just about everything outdoors. Therefore, it didn’t take them long to come out with an oversized mallard decoy that can hold it’s own against the leading decoy manufactures. They are finished in a custom paint scheme that is realistic and made of automotive quality. Therefore, it won’t chip or peel when tossing the decoys around. After using these over the course of a few seasons they aren’t as durable as the Dakota’s or Avian-X decoys. However, for the price, you really can’t go wrong.
The one thing that is really impressive about the Northern Flights is that the keel is forward weighted giving realistic movement in the water. Plus the keels have plenty of large holes for attaching texas rig snaps to them. The plastic used on the Northern Flights are a mixture of plastic that allows them to be frozen, thrown, or dropped without cracking or breaking. In addition, the bodies are 16.5″ in length and resemble lifelike mallards.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 6
Hard Core Brands – Economy Mallard Floaters –
When you’re looking to get the job done by increasing your spread of mallards Hard Core makes the best duck decoys. As soon as you pick up a hen or mallard from this set you’ll notice that they are light-weight and durable. Making these decoys extremely easy to carry and pack. I’ve used these for the days when I know I have a walk back into my blind. Simply put, they are easy to transport and the Armor Coated Paint make these decoys perfect for those tough and rugged days.
The difference between these Hardcore decoys from Avian or Dakota is that they aren’t oversized. Some may think this is a downfall. However, this does give you the ability to carry two dozen in a conventional one dozen decoy bag. Whereas, the oversize decoys you can only carry a dozen in a bag at one time. Therefore, this is why the Hard Core Economy pack is extremely useful when you need to make large spreads. The other difference is that these come in a pack of 12 instead of 6, for the same price as Dakota decoys or Avian-x’s. As a result, it’s hard not to add these as one of the best duck decoys money can buy. Lastly, just because they are inexpensive, doesn’t mean they are cheaply made. There is a reason why Habitat Flats Hunting has partnered with Hardcore. It’s because they make such durable and realistic decoys, ones that can stand up to constant guided hunting.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 12
Final Approach – Livecraft Series Mallard Decoys –
Final Approach makes a couple different models of mallards similar to other manufacturers. With their Live Craft series, they approached 14-time World Champion Carver, Pat Godin, to help design their mallards. Pat has been known for his extensive studies on waterfowl giving him a very experienced touch for creating the most lifelike decoys available. With the help of Pat Godin’s carvings, Final Approach has been able to pair their unmatched paint scheme. The paint is designed to fool birds and bring them in close. In every pack of six decoys, you’ll find four drakes and two hens. All of them are perfectly painted.
In addition, to the great color is Final Approaches one-piece design. This gives their decoys a durable construction made to last many seasons without breaking or cracking. You’ll notice when you put this in water that they put off live motion in the water from their one-piece keel construction. Don’t worry about attaching texas-rig weights on to these decoys. There is plenty of room for hooks and snaps. Lastly, Final Approach has made it a priority to offer their products with quality and low prices. That is just what they’ve done with the Livecraft series.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 6
GHG Hot Buy Standard Mallard Decoy –
Greenhead Gear has taken their traditional mallard decoys and created their oversized version called the Hot Buy Standards. Giving their new decoys an ultrarealistic appearance from varying distances. We’ve found them to be similar in size to Cabelas Northern Flights. The paint used for GHG’s decoys is designed to not chip, scratch, or fade in the harsh conditions of waterfowl hunting. In addition, the paint scheme is really well painted to portray real mallard colors. Plus the posture and heads of the decoys give a very realistic look.
The construction of the decoys is of hard plastic. Therefore they are different than the Avian-X and Dakota’s. However, they do seem to hold up as they bump and bang into each other. Weighted keels modeled into the decoy give the correct weight for tossing into the water. This also helps give motion to the decoys while sitting in the water. Included in a box you’ll find six hens and six drakes. Therefore, this is a great buy when you are looking to start duck hunting or even fill in your spread late season. Simply because GHG has been able to make this pack very affordable for every hunter. As a result, this is why we had to add them as one of the best duck decoys.
|Decoys Per Pack||Pack of 12
Top Duck Decoy Manufactures –
First and foremost when starting research it’s always best to know what is available on the market. Therefore, giving the top manufacturers and a brief history of the company will help to find the best duck decoys available on the market. Of course, there are many more manufacturers. However, the list below are the top brands that provide distribution across the country and are readily available at most outdoor sporting goods stores.
Fred Zink more commonly known for Zink calls, Fred was among a group of hunters and guides and from an early age he was making his own gear. Fred went on to work with Avery and created the finisher. It was then when he was working full time for Avery that he started making Zink calls on the side. However, he quickly realized he wanted to make a family business out of his company. So he found a hole in the decoy market and started making Turkey decoys in the spring of 2010. He first went to Cabelas and they underestimated his potential sales. He ended up selling 2,500 decoys his first year. Which help him launch the first goose decoys under Avian-x and Cabelas took them on exclusively. The company has grown by the ten-fold since and they create a full line of duck and goose decoys of various breeds.
Avery GHG –
In 1993 Tom Matthews thought to himself that there has to be a blind that works for everyone’s boat. At the time there was nothing of that nature. So he teamed up with Allen Hughes, and Tate Wood and spent countless hours and material constructing the perfect universal blind. The three of them invested all in and quit their jobs, to focus on Avery Outdoors. They knew it would take more than one product to succeed. So they worked with custom carvers and manufactures to start one of the largest decoy companies to date. They even extend into Europe, New Zealand, and South America.
Banded Gear –
Banded gear has become a fast-growing waterfowl company thanks to a group of avid outdoorsmen and designers. They have been able to create some of the highest quality waders in the industry. They currently offer over 600 items with 19 different product categories. You can expect to see outerwear, boots, hunting bags, blinds, decoys, and even calls. One of the main reason Banded has been able to grow so quickly is with their 2015 acquisition of Avery Outdoors.
Cabela’s Northern Flight –
Cabela’s has become to be known across the nation as one of the leading outdoor brick and mortar stores. First starting as a direct-mail style company back in 1961 for hand-tied fishing flies. It had grown into such a large company that Bass Pro Shop acquired them in 2016. So it doesn’t come to a surprise that Cabela’s has been able to private label multiple products, duck decoys being one of them. Cabela’s Northern Flight entity offers, bags, blinds, and much more.
Dakota Decoys –
Located in the southeast corner of South Dakota along the Missouri River is where you’ll find Dakota Decoys. For Bill Willroth the company originated in 2007 in a very saturated decoy market. However, with a drive and experience with decoy icon Art Ladehoff home of Big Foot Decoys. Bill was able to grow Dakota Decoys into a decoy company that is known for their quality and realistic presentation. Bill was able to launch his company with the help of Cabela’s and Scheels where hunters were able to quickly become interested in Dakota Decoys. Even though they started with a Goose decoys, Dakota Decoys has been able to build out multiple duck decoys. Currently selling 11,000+ mallard decoys a year.
Final Approach –
For Final Approach, it wasn’t just your instant company startup. It took Ron Latschow almost 8 years from when he started making his own layout blind until he founded Final Approach in 1993. In 25 years Ron has been able to grow the company into waterfowl brand known for blinds, gear, and decoys. As of today, FA offers multiple goose decoy species and duck decoys all at a very inexpensive price.
Hardcore Decoys –
Hard Core Decoys was founded in 2004 with a goal to provide duck hunters with the best duck decoys on the market. As of today the company is run by Jim Schiefelbein and with his passion for the outdoors and experience for growing successful companies. Jim and his team have been able to grow Hardcore brands after they acquired it in 2012 to a well-known waterfowl brand we know today.
Lucky Duck Decoys –
Lucky duck is one of the companies that has been growing and rebranding itself to become a leader in the waterfowl industry. With a wide array of over 80 products, they have been able to move quickly since 1995. Currently, they are headquartered in the Mississippi Flyway. They currently have numerous entities they are involved with, one being the Grind TV show.
Mojo Decoys –
Mojo Decoys is one of the unique decoy makers in the industry. They didn’t start out making floating mallards or even full body goose decoys. Instead, they chose to make a motion and spinning wing decoys. As a result, they quickly found waterfowl hunters demanded the ultra-realistic presentation that it offered. Mojo has been able to expand over the years to not only offer products for waterfowl hunters. They have been able to create motion products for dove, crow, and even owl decoys. When you think about motion decoys Mojo and Terry Denmon are your first thoughts.
What to Look for When Finding The Best Duck Decoys –
Historically duck decoys were carved out of different species of wood, often cedar or cork. If you walk into maybe an old hardware store or sporting goods store you’ll probably see a few on display above the counter. Still today there are even a few people that hunt with wood decoys. However, due to the cost and availability plastic has become the staple for duck decoys. What hasn’t changed over time is that every manufacturer has a carved duck that is the model for the plastic models to copy from. Plastic of varying thicknesses and density has become the go-to for decoy manufactures. It offers a reliable and easy to produce in large numbers type of construction.
The main thing to consider when looking at decoys since all of them are made of the same material. Is to look for quality plastic. Therefore, the best way to do this is to feel these at your local sporting goods store by hand. Every plastic has a different feel and thickness. For example, some of the softer plastic decoys give more durability and better floating capacity than the harder plastic decoys. They also tend to be lighter making them easier to carry. The drawback is usually cost is higher for the better plastic materials used for duck decoys.
It seems as though your first thought on the size of duck decoys would be to imitate a realistic duck’s size. However, many manufacturers have started to increase their duck decoy sizes to an “oversized” duck. Meaning the decoys are actually larger than what a real live duck size would be. As a result, this makes them more visible to ducks as they are overhead or at longer distances. This doesn’t seem to deter mallards as they decoy. One could think of oversized decoys as being about 30-40% larger than originals. The drawback is that usually larger decoys equal more material. Therefore, they tend to be more expensive than smaller sized mallards.
A detailed and realistic paint is extremely important when looking for the best duck decoys. Every manufacturer uses some sort of different pattern or scheme to go about painting their decoys. I haven’t found a pattern that won’t decoy ducks. However, there is paint that lasts longer than others and doesn’t fade as much in the sun. Therefore, paying attention to the paint used and thickness of the paint will give you an idea if the paint will hold up to the harsh conditions of waterfowl hunting.
Lastly, durability is probably one of the most important things to consider when looking for the best duck decoys. However, this is hard to determine considering you can’t try a set of decoys out for a season and return them. Although, most manufacturers do have product warranty’s if you find a particular set has faded or fallen apart. One of the best tests that were done to see the durability of duck decoys was by Fowled Reality has shown in the video below.