Ducks Can't Count
A pick-up truck loaded to the top with a load of decoys or a camouflaged boat piled high with sack after sack of fake ducks as waterfowlers head out to their favorite hunting spots isn’t an unusual sight at this time of year in places where ducks and duck hunters hang out.
Years ago, hunters learned for success, the more the merrier. It’s seemed to be common sense. When a duck finds a safe area where it can rest or feed and not be bothered by hunters, the first duck is sure to attract another duck, then another and another and soon the area is crowded with ducks and other waterfowl.
Then, when another duck, pair of ducks or even a small flock happens to fly by and spot all those ducks resting or feeding, the sight is sure to peak their interest. Often, they’ll give it a once over, fly over and then join the party below. If it’s good enough for dozens or even more of their brethren, it’s good enough for them.
Thus the piles and piles of decoys in the hunter’s truck or boat. What they hope is their decoys will do the same thing as in the scenario above. They hope the ducks they spot high in the sky give their assemblage of fake ducks a once over, fly over and then set their wings to join the party they’ve been duped into thinking is happening down where the hunters are waiting.
That explains the overstuffed pick-up trucks and top heavy boats. That explains why duck hunters are always trying to figure out how they can afford more decoys or a bigger truck or boat to haul them. The more decoys the better they will score each time they venture out. So it would seem. So they imagine. But one thing not understood by the proponents of the “more decoys equals better hunting” theory is this. Ducks can’t count.
When the flock of ducks flies by and spots the group of real ducks resting or feeding in a safe area or a hunter-set gang of decoys floating on a strategic location in a marsh or other wetland, do you think the ducks actually count the number of ducks or dekes they see below before deciding to fly closer? Do they think, “I only counted 24 down there, I’m not going closer. If there had been 36, I’m heading down, or even if there were 30 I’d think hard about it.”
Of course they don’t. Ducks can’t count and don’t count. So if you are a duck hunter and come away from a hunt thinking, “If only I had another dozen decoys, things would have been different today,” you are wrong.
Better to think, “What could I have done better with the decoys I have.”
The thing to consider, especially hunters with limited numbers of decoys, is most of the time, acreage trumps numbers. Certainly, every place where decoys are used is not the same, but in many situations the amount of space occupied by a spread of decoys is far more important than the actual number of decoys used to fill that space.
Think about the times you spot a group of resting or feeding ducks off in the distance. The first thing you notice is how much space the flock covers, not the actual number of ducks. Say there are 80 ducks scattered over four acres of water. You won’t know for sure just how many until you actually count them. Your first instinct is, “Wow, that’s a lot of ducks.” What if 20 of the ducks had flown away just before you arrived, leaving 60, but that 60 still covered the same space, you’d still think it was a large bunch of ducks.
Regardless of whether it’s 60, 80 or even 100 birds, it looks like a lot of ducks to you and it looks that way to passing ducks as well. So rather than spending money and effort to add additional numbers of decoys when you go hunting, try spreading the ones you already have to cover more area.
After all, ducks can’t count.