What is layout hunting?
Layout hunting is a form of concealment in order to persuade ducks to get closer to the hunter. This closeness provides a better opportunity for well placed shots, as well as better identification of species. This form of hunting consists of a low profile stationary boat that blends with the surrounding waters. By laying down in the boat, you provide an almost "disappearing act" by dropping your body below the waterline. When ducks and geese approach from the sky, they cannot see the boat due to the low profile and similar coloration. The hunter then has the advantage of viewing waterfowl from a close proximity. We call it "ducks in your face!"
Layout hunting is typically performed in areas away from the waters edge. This can be miles or yards, depending upon the conditions. This method is most effective for diver type ducks that do not frequent shorelines and tend to "raft" in deeper water feeding and resting areas. It is effective for puddle ducks as well. I had a wood duck land in the decoy spread when I was 3 miles out on the lake. The combination of stealth on the water, and being away from the shore adds confidence to the birds. It is not uncommon to have ducks fly within 10-20 yards and never notice the hunter.
Layout boats are generally about 10-12 feet in length. They can be towed or placed upon the tender boat for transport. The typical shape is that of a "pumpkinseed" being a long rounded boat. Traditional styles do not have a means of propelling the hunter and must be placed with another boat. The tender boat is a "taxi" of sorts transporting the hunters, decoys, and the layout boat. The tender also serves as the workhorse by hauling the hunters to and from the layout during hunting opportunities, as well as retrieving the ducks that get harvested. The decoys are placed from the tender providing a more stable and seaworthy craft for that task. Radio communication is essential in layout hunting for safety, and the tender is the boat which carries all the necessary equipment for a successful day on the water.
Decoys are an integral part of waterfowl hunting. For layout type hunting, the decoy spreads are typically larger than those of hunting from shore. The number of decoys depends largely on the type of ducks you are trying to persuade to decoy, and the area in which you are hunting. We hunt the Great Lakes area of Michigan and it is not untypical to set out 600+ decoys for Bluebills, Canvasbacks, Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Redheads. In order to deploy this many decoys and look natural, the preferred method is to use motherlines. This simple process takes all the guess work out of distances, spacing, and positioning.
If you ever are presented with an opportunity to join in a hunt from a layout, I would recommend you give it a try. It is a very effective and addictive form of hunting waterfowl. Try something new and get off the beaten path. The competition is minimal when you have a large body of water to choose from, and the ducks will always be fooled if you are still and concealed.
Good luck with all of your pursuits, and have a safe hunt.
Questions? Email me!