Want to triple your floating decoy spread with the effort of setting one decoy? Want decoys that take up little room in the boat? Try V-boards. They are an old Eastern Shore standby, and other styles have evolved up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
I first encountered V-boards when I guided on Maryland’s Eastern Shore during the 1970s and 1980s. We used them exclusively on water, but there’s no reason they can’t be used on dry land. They’re actually shaped like a big letter Y when deployed, but history has called them V-boards since their inception. They carry three goose or duck decoys on the extended arms, yet fold into a compact bundle for transportation.
The bottom arm of the Y carries one decoy and the anchor attachment, and the trailing arms carry the two additional silhouette decoys. These trailing arms are hinged in what Eastern Shore watermen call the “gearbox.” It takes some time to build, but it works well.
Made of 2-inch-by-2-inch lumber, the arms are cut to pretty much the same length. Building the gearbox requires a spacer of 2-by-2s, 6 to 8 inches long, with the ends cut at a slight angle, although to speed construction they can be left square. The spacer separates the two trailing legs secured to the gearbox with galvanized or stainless-steel quarter-inch bolts. The top and bottom of the gearbox are 3/8-inch marine plywood and tapered toward the front leg to give the whole rig a finished appearance. Nail or screw the spacer to the bottom plate with marine nails or screws, and then sandwich the lower arms between the top and bottom plates.
Use care to ensure the lower arms will easily swivel, yet come to rest against the spacer. When the spacer is installed, the front arm is also nailed or screwed in place. Prior to installing the top plate and bolting the lower arms in place, paint the insides with two coats of dark gray, dark green or whatever color best matches the water you hunt. Once dry, install the top plate using a thin spacer. Marine washers work well, allowing rotation of the lower arms to swivel on quarter-inch marine bolts.
If you hunt saltwater or brackish water, marine brass or stainless-steel hardware is essential. Freshwater is more forgiving, but brass or stainless steel is often worth the added expense for longevity. It’s also a good idea to glue all the parts with marine glue.
Often, it is easier to attach the silhouette decoys after painting the arms and before assembling the gearbox.
Rig a length of cord and relatively heavy anchor, depending on the conditions in which you hunt, and attach it by a horizontal hole through the leading arm or screw eye in the front of the arm to hold the V-board in place.
Making V-boards is a lot of work, but once you have a pattern, it’s relatively easy to production-line manufacture.
Filling Out a Spread
Don’t want to go to the trouble of making them yourself? Sitting Ducks Ltd. offers ready-made V-boards. Formed from tough plastic, they come four to a package. Other than attaching three silhouette decoys plus an anchor and line, they are ready to go. The arms lock into the closed or open position by a locking pin thoughtfully attached to the V-board with a short length of cord. Once opened and pinned in the open position, the decoy mounting posts are rotated up and the decoys attached.
If you use commercially available silhouettes such as Real Geese, their stake punch-outs will match the supports molded into the plastic mounting posts. Even if the decoys seem securely held, it will save you trouble if you stabilize them with at least one of the supplied screws. With decoys in place, secure the anchor and line to the front attachment point — it is the arm with the manufacturer’s name. The trailing arms also have anchoring points used for pegs when the V-boards are employed for field hunting. To transport, pull the locking pin, fold the arms, replace the pin, wrap the anchor line around the three arms and put them in the boat.
The real beauty of V-boards is four of them hold a full-dozen silhouette decoys. In use on water, I like to set my V-boards first, outlining my rig and scattering them well throughout, and then fill in with floaters.
In a field situation, you can put them out just as you would regular silhouettes, only faster, as you’re placing three decoys at a pop. V-boards are light, so if it’s windy, secure them with a hook or U-shaped staple, or a hefty spike driven into the ground. For ease in transporting and use in the field, cut the feet off commercially made silhouettes evenly with the bottom of the Y members.
On the water, face all the silhouettes in the same direction. For field use, I face the occasional decoy backward to give the rig the variety seen in resting and feeding flocks. If you mix silhouettes in the field with full-bodied decoys, use them as you would on water, spaced throughout your rig to give it volume.
Why are silhouettes so good at fooling geese?
“The eyes on geese are far apart, and they don’t have binocular vision as we humans,” explained call maker Sean Mann. “Notice how they crane their necks to look down and around. Because they don’t see in three dimensions as we do, they don’t view a silhouette as being anything other than another goose.”
Therefore, using partial or complete spreads of silhouettes can consistently fool geese time after time.
Sea Duck Variation
Hunters along the Maine seacoast use a variation of V-boards that stack and deploy in a string. Like other diving ducks, eiders on the rocky islands that do
t the Maine coast like company, and will decoy readily to these silhouette rigs set in strings.
Two wooden silhouettes shaped and painted like eiders are paired and connected by a board at their bottoms. This board is made with the ends at an angle so that when viewed from the top, they are in a shallow-V configuration, with the heads at the apex. So placed, each pair appears from the duck’s eye level as one duck. They are rigged on heavy lines at intervals of about 6 to 8 feet, and when retrieved and stored, they nest in a compact bundle, taking little room in the boat. With a heavy weight at the front, all that is necessary to set them is to drop the weight, and then the decoys. The wind and current will extend them. Pickup involves pulling up the heavy anchor, then pulling in and stacking the pairs. Like V-boards, they take little room in the boat, yet provide good attracting power to passing ducks.
North Carolina sea-duck guide Teddy Gibbs makes heavy anchors by cutting black drainage pipe into 5-to-6-inch lengths, filling them with concrete, and then adding a long staple formed with the legs at the bottom, bent at right angles to hold them securely in the concrete.
Easy to Deploy
If silhouette decoys are part of your hunting equation, consider V-boards. They allow hunters to set larger spreads more quickly, while reducing the overall bulk of the rig during transport and storage.
John Taylor is a veteran waterfowler from Lorton, Va.