Diver Decoy Spread

Diver Duck Hunting:

Consider putting the mallard decoys in the garage and tossing the diver decoy spread this weekend! I enjoy field hunting, river hunting, pond hunting but one of the most challenging hunts is big water diver duck hunting. big water hunting has to be one of the more dangerous duck hunting experiences. Considering the weather can change in a minute and having 30mph winds kick up with 2-foot rolling waves is not for the faint heart. Diver duck hunting requires some big gear and more importantly gear that can withstand the elements. However, done correctly diver duck hunting can offer such a different type of hunting compared to puddle ducks. It just may become your next duck addiction.

Diver Decoy Spread

To explain diver duck hunting in one post would do no just for the diver hunting. Therefore I’ll focus on the diver decoy spread and decoys required to steer ducks towards your smoking barrel.

Diver Decoy Spread Tips:

  • Wind and Sun direction are important

    • If you can put the sun on your back it will help with making sure the larger flights of divers will be impaired when they are looking at your decoys and blind. Duck’s have great eyesight so if you can set up with the sun in the duck’s eyes, you can begin to eliminate birds flaring.
    • Similar to puddle ducks putting the wind on your back is going to give you the ducks landing in your shooting direction. However, if you can’t get the wind on your back, giving yourself a crosswind will provide you with side swinging shots.
  • Long Line Spreads

    • Using gang rigs to toss diver decoys having multiple benefits. Being able to toss decoys in a quick fashion and also being divers in closer to your blind. If you haven’t seen a gang rig before it’s similar to a jerk rig without the cable stretch and single weight. With a gang rig, you have a 3-4 lb claw weight with a line running 20-30ft with 10-15 decoys tethered to the line and a second weight attached to the opposite end. This provides a line of diver decoys similar to what you would see in a raft of birds.
  • Landing Pockets

    • Similar to puddle ducks you want to ensure you have a landing zone in your diver decoy spread. Now diver ducks don’t always decoy and land very easily. More often than not you will have to be on high alert as you will get buzzed by what seems like fighter jets in your spread. However, creating a landing pocket will give you the optimum range for the birds to fly over and shot.
  • Decoy Placement

    • If you scout for divers you will tend to see rafts of birds in open water. It’s not rocket science to try and mimic your spread to look similar. One issue with a giant oval of decoys is that divers tend to like flying overhead and landing just outside the birds and swimming in. Therefore having a couple long lines as a runway for the birds or a J-hook will give the birds the exact route you want them to follow in.


What Decoys to Use in your Diver Decoy Spread:

When throwing a spread try and match your scouted ducks and flyway. However, one difference between diver and puddle duck hunting is instead of just throwing out those trusty Mallard Decoys. Diver ducks require some variety. To give you an idea of what I typically use for my diver decoys I thought I would share my decoy bag with you.


I run a group of 6-10 buffleheads in a pack close to my landing zone. If you are on a budget, buffleheads will still decoy to a larger diver decoy spread without their kind. However, bufflehead decoys add a lot of visibility to your spread with the bright white and black contrast.

Canvasback Decoys:

Diver Decoy Spread

Known as “The King” of ducks using canvasback decoys in my spread is a must. For one Canvasbacks and Redhead, Ducks are known to sit together so I try and use them combined. I run my canvasback decoys in long lines to stretch my spread out and give the birds a runway to my landing zone.

Redhead Decoys:

Redheads tend to decoy a little better than most diver ducks. Redheads also tend to sit among canvasbacks and bluebills. Be careful to not add too many redheads on a sunny day they can offer a lot of white. So from a distance, too much white can look like a pool of seagulls. I also tend to run my redheads in long lines. Including a group of redheads near my landing zone.


Diver Decoy Spread

Bluebills add that darker contrast to the white of Redheads and Canvasbacks. I tend to use about 12-18 scattered throughout my spread in a group. Sometimes running these on long lines instead of the redheads is a good idea to change up your spread a little.


Yes, I know coots, but my goal is not to shoot coots. Rather if you scout divers you will notice coots congregate with divers. Therefore I use a good amount of coots as confident birds to my diver spread. Plus it gives my spread the difference it needs to compete against other hunters. Especially since most hunters won’t spend the money on decoys for a bird they careless to shoot.


HUNTING TIP: Once you’ve selected your diver decoys and are able to bag a limit it’s time to get cooking. Contrary to most opinions on divers not being great to eat. Cooking redheads and canvasbacks before they hit the freezer can help with the gamey taste. If you are thinking of making jerky check out our recipe here that works great for ducks.

SHOOTERS TIP: If you routinely shoot ducks on coastal waters and large bodies of water. Make sure you are cleaning your gun after each use. The moisture created near these waters can easily destroy your $1,000 dollar duck gun. If you are unsure as to what cleaners work the best check out a great gun cleaner review here.

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