Setting up goose decoys in a field

Another article I had written years ago to a lost website, so I am republishing it her on my blog.

If you have been around goose hunting for any length of time you have heard all the letter shapes with guys talk about decoys. Set your decoys up in a C, V, J or an X and there are probably a few I missed. What they are trying to tell you and they are not getting across to some people is that you have to leave space for for the incoming birds to land. It’s really that simple and the shape does not matter as long as there is a downwind open spot.


Above is a decoy spread layout show a “C” shaped decoy layout. This should help you understand why guys and writers refer to as to how to layout your decoys. Now as I have shown you can put all you full bodies up front or you can scatter them and use Silhouettes all over the place to fill them in. It really does not matter as I hunt with all Silhouettes any more. Some guys feel more comfortable setting up their best decoys on the downwind side where the birds will land. Probably more because it gives them more confidence and that is fine. You are not going to have a good hunt if you are not confident with your decoy spread.

You just needed to be sure you are not showing educated birds “the warning signs”. If they notice the same setup (and I’m not sure they do), notice where the blinds are, some one moves or pie faces the in coming birds, you’re done! If you cover all this, you might kill a bunch of birds. Lots of new guys work their decoy spread just like above and then ask “why did the birds flare off?” One blind not covered properly, one guy moving his head, one guy looking up or one guy flagging at the wrong time. Who knows, but the geese sure did and someone did something wrong!

Here is one thing to look at and it is that four of us can hit a new field with grass, corn or what ever with clean blinds. Three of us will work on brushing the blinds and gathering corn, grass or what ever to cover the four blinds up and blend them into the surroundings. One guy will setup 5 or 6 dozen silhouettes while we do  the brushing. It takes that long and it is that important to be done correctly!

Now, never be static and set your decoys up, the same way, all the time. Geese never land and use the field in the pattern every time. A smart Gander may actually start to figure out those patterns and start sliding the flocks off to the side on approach. So start changing it up in how you layout your decoys.

Some times the change up requires you to move the location of the blinds. I know, everything you have read told you to put them in the center right in front of the “Kill hole”. That’s how they do it on videos and they kill birds, right. Yes, but you do not know all that went into that video and they surely do not show you their failures. No one wants to pay to watch birds slide of to the side of your spread.

The picture below shows the same C pattern setup, but the location of the blinds is moved off to the side. Geese are getting more educated all the time. When 25 geese fly into a a flock of “Decoys” and have guys pop up out of mounds in the decoys the geese that live get smarter. Say 4 guys kill 12, if they all shoot a triple. So 25 geese flew in, 12 just died, so that leaves 13 that saw the guys pop up out of the mounds. So now, 13 geese have been taught to look for mounds in the decoys as they could die if they fly near those mounds.

So, what do you do to hunt these educated birds? You move the mounds! Look at the picture below. The blinds are off to the side and out of the decoys. The blinds could be in front of the decoys and you can pound them as they fly over. We do this with milk farm that grow green crops for cutting to make Haylage for the cows over the summer, or a cover crop. Some times in the early season the birds want to eat these green crops. We can drop silos in the green crops and hide in the uncut corn or adjacent fields they will fly over as they come.


We hunt in Western Maryland in a resident goose zone. A few migratory geese come in but the resident stay all the time. We hunt the same birds every day when we are on the same farms. So they can learn your patterns of setting up decoys and how you place the blinds. We have rock break in many of the farm fields. They usually have some kind of grass growing around them as the farmers will break their equipment planting on the rocks. We use that 18″ or 24″ grass as cover. We back the blind up into on next to the grass and camo the blinds with old grass, corn waste stalks or what ever is available around there and looks natural. What happens is we are setup 10 to 15 yards from where the birds will come in. They circle several times and check over the decoys and do not see any bumps and head on in to it, only to get pounded again buy bumps they did not see and most times they did not know where they got pounded from, only that they did.

Do your scouting and try and set your decoys up where the birds are feeding. Set up like the birds below as you see these live birds in grass hay field.


So, where is the C or other shape? It’s not there as live birds do not form shapes in the field. Now you’re starting to understand. Look at the picture and imagine the center of the flock was farther away, then you would have a C shape. The reason for the C shape is to try and force a landing zone on the birds. There is the open area where we want them to land and we open that to have them land where it’s perfect for us to shoot them. We are trying to control where they land, if we don’t they could be out of range when they land and you will not be very happy with that. Believe me, been there, done that and threw away the tee shirt.

Another school of thought is how closely to place your decoys. Some guys pack them in tight together and force the C shape so the birds land in the opening, or kill zone. Other do not use real kill zone openings. They spread the decoys out so the birds have room to land right in the decoy spread. Sean Mann does this and has talked about it several times. He hunts with Silhouettes and talks about have decoys 10′ apart and not closer. He wants room for the geese to come right into the spread, right where his clients are!Geese will land right in the decoys sometimes if they are open. Silhouettes can have this happen if they come in right on top of them. They tend to disappear when they are right on top of one.

Sometimes this is no right or wrong, there is just the different ways of making the same goal happen. Many times adjusting from one way to another will keep the birds working for you. The one thing you have to take with you is never to remind static in how you setup the decoys, the blinds and how you handle the birds. Read them, work them and give them what they want and you will be rewarded.

Good hunting!


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