Choosing the right duck decoys for your spread this season can be confusing. With so many options available, what’s the right choice? There are many fantastic duck decoy options on the market today, including painted, fully flocked, partially flocked, foam filled, magnum sizes, hard plastics, soft plastics, and variety of keel designs. It can be difficult to even know where to start. For the duck hunter on the lookout for an all-around quality mallard decoy that is feature rich, but priced with value in mind, be sure to check out the Dakota Decoy X-Treme packable mallard decoys with flocked heads for your upcoming season.
I stumbled onto these amazingly realistic and durable decoys by accident. When a December wind changes from the south to the north, dropping the temperature more than 20 degrees in a day, duck hunters take notice. The weatherman had called for a northern front with wind and weather to push in on a Tuesday afternoon. I made my plans to take in the migration that followed the cold front, at the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas.
Decoys Make a Difference, Real World Experience
The sunset is early in December, so I pulled into a parking spot around noon at the marsh, planning to hunt the afternoon and evening. Surprisingly, I was the only truck there. Walking in on public hunting land will help you evaluate the items that you “need” for a hunt. Going in light keeps you mobile, and more likely to find the spot where the ducks truly want to be. Decoys and shotguns provide the weight and bulk of most walk-in hunts, making decoy choices that much more critical. Squinting into a frigid 30 MPH northern wind, I could see ducks in the air, and after 15 or 20 minutes it was obvious where the mallards wanted to be. Packing six water keel Carry Light decoys that I’ve hunted over since the 1990s and my Browning shotgun, I waded across knee deep water and flooded millet for a half a mile or so. I stopped at a pool with a rising knob on its north side that provided a natural windbreak for the ducks and a natural hide for me.
Quickly, I set out my half-dozen decoys and brushed in a rudimentary blind. Within a matter of minutes, I began to work ducks into my spread. A pair of drake mallards practically walked in, low on the water, and started my hunt on the right foot! Walking out to retrieve my ducks I noticed another hunter in a kayak, with a layout style blind attached, setting up three to four hundred yards off to the east, perfectly legal and ethical. The change in my hunt as a result of my new neighbor, however, was uncanny. For the next several hours I watched ducks work over my decoy spread, react to my calling, and cup up to commit, only to split off and work into the other hunter’s decoys. He was picking out mallard drake singles and doubles and working towards a limit. After being repeatedly beat at my own game, I decided it was time to pack it up and pack it out.
The walk out to the truck took me close to my hunting neighbor, and as I began to close the distance to his spread, his decoys came fully into view. Gorgeous flocked emerald green heads zipped back and forth on the water, pushed by the Kansas wind. The hunter popped his head out from his kayak blind with a big smile and waved me over. After quick introductions and small talk niceties, our discussion quickly turned to his decoys. Lifting a Texas rigged, flocked head, mallard drake decoy from the water, the hunter began to share with me his love for his Dakota X-Treme packable decoys. Being primarily a public land solo hunter in shallow water he had been looking for a lightweight, durable, and realistic decoy for his days at the marsh, and this decoy checked all the boxes!
That evening I logged onto the Rogers Sporting Goods website and placed my order for one dozen Dakota X-Treme packable mallard decoys with flocked headed drakes. The next twenty plus hunts to close out my season were over my new decoys clipped up with a heavy surf swivel and four ounce weights, rigged Texas style, and they did not disappoint.
Here are my real-world takeaways from using these decoys in the field.
Dakota Decoy X-Treme Packable Decoy Details
The packable line from Dakota Decoys is a fantastic all-around mallard decoy with a lot to offer. Whether you plan on getting out on only three or four hunts this season, or plan on grinding out dozens of hunts in every kind of weather, the Dakota Decoy X-Treme Packable decoys are worth a look.
Decoy Carve and Build
Attention to detail is evident when you pull these decoys out of the box. The feather carving is true to life, with wing folds, tail detail, breast feathers, and body-to-neck transitions that are incredibly realistic. The decoy backs lift high off the keel, creating a body profile that is highly visible on any type of water.
Dakota includes six different head styles in each dozen, giving your spread a more lifelike appearance. Due to the one-piece decoy design, there is no risk of decoy heads or keels coming apart with these decoys.
Decoy Size and Material
The decoys are slightly oversized at 16” overall length, making them both highly visible from the air and still a convenient size for carrying in, storing in a bag, carrying in a boat, or hanging up in the off season.
Manufactured from a durable yet flexible EVA rubber blend, the packable duck decoys are just soft enough, even when cold. I hunted my decoys on a couple ice-eater hunts during late season, and I had no concern with them cracking in the extreme cold. My impression of the decoy material is that it is tough!
Duck Decoy Paint and Finish
Dakota guarantees the paint on their decoys from chipping, peeling, or flaking. I have had zero issues with the paint bonding to my decoys. The color scheme is both beautiful and true to life. The drake flocking has proven to be extremely durable for me; however, I have been careful when setting out and picking up these decoys, and have kept them in a single slot bag. The green flocking on the mallard drake heads is a rich emerald green that is accented beautifully by the bright white neck ring.
The Dakota X-Treme Packables are painted with a fully plumed, mid- to late-season color pattern with deep, bright green mallard heads, and iridescent blues and aqua on the wing speculum. Therefore, these decoys won’t “match the hatch,” so to speak, if you are hunting early seasons in the northern reaches of North American flyways, but for the majority of hunters and seasons, the plumage is perfect.
Duck Decoy Weight and Keel Design
Weighing in at just over 1 pound each, these decoys are the ideal solution for any hunter looking to save weight on their pack, paddle, or motor-in. Hunting with lighter weight decoys not only helps save your back, but provides more decoy action on the water.
The slightest breeze pushes these decoys around like a flock of swimming and feeding ducks on the water. On extra calm days, add a motion rippler or swimmer of some kind and the Dakota X-Treme Packables are light enough to bounce around in the motion decoy’s wake.
A weighted (sand filled) keel is molded into the one piece design of these Dakota X-Treme Packables. The keel attachment is provided by the same durable rubberized material the decoy is made from. There is a single attachment point for your decoy line, or surf swivel and Texas rig, making them easy to rig.
The term “packable” may seem confusing to the new hunter, as all decoys must be “packed” to your hunting location. In the waterfowling community, a packable decoy is generally a decoy that is collapsible or fold-able in some way, so that it takes up less space during transport and storage.
The Dakota X-Treme Packables are considered an inflatable decoy with an air valve on the rear of the decoy. The valve comes with a small attached, captive valve cap. The benefit here is the ability to squeeze air out of your duck decoys after a hunt and put two dozen decoys into a one dozen bag. When you arrive at your hunt location, a little massaging and maybe a puff or two into the air valve will bring your decoy back to its intended form.
Honestly, I found myself not packing my decoys down very often. Staying mobile, and hunting smaller bodies of water, I generally don’t use more than eighteen decoys. Although I don’t use the packable feature that often, it is a nice option, and much of the weight savings is generated by the packable design.
Dakota Decoy X-Treme Packable Duck Decoy Takeaways
After putting these decoys through their paces over a number of hunts and under varying conditions including ponds, lakes, wind, calm, waves, ice, sunshine, and mud, I can report the following:
The Good: These are great decoys at a great value-to-price ratio. For anyone looking to either add a lightweight decoy spread to their existing decoy arsenal, or to make the shift away from heavier decoys and go all-in on these simply for weight savings alone, I don’t think you can go wrong.
The carve, paint, and durability on these decoys is exceptional and, if cared for in at least a reasonable manner, I think they will stay bright and shiny for a number of seasons.
These decoys are both tough and lightweight, making them extremely versatile for any duck hunter and hunting style including big water lakes, marshes, ponds, creeks, and rivers.
The Bad: If there is anything bad to note about my experience with these decoys, it’s the air valve caps. The caps are small and slippery when wet. Trying to fasten the cap while standing waist deep in 35 degree water in the dark with a headlamp is a little challenging. That being said, I quickly found that I didn’t need to remove the caps for my style of hunting.
When I reached out to Dakota specifically about the air valve cap issue, they told me that new packs going out will include a few extra caps. In fact, the caps aren’t even needed, the decoys should hold their shape without the caps attached, according to the Dakota Decoy Company.
If you’re ready to put some of the Dakota Decoy X-Treme packable decoys to work this season, they can be purchased at Mac’s Prairie Wings, Rogers Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and many other independent sporting goods stores.
Duck Hunters and Their Decoys
The pursuit of ducks during the winter migration is a simple thing: ducks move south for feed and open water as the north freezes over, and duck hunters pursue them. The art, fellowship, and passion of duck hunting, however, is anything but simple. Duck hunters throughout history have developed dedication and devotion to duck decoys. Whatever decoy you choose to hunt over this season, I wish you good luck, and good hunting!
Dakota Decoy X-Treme Packable Decoys
Last modified: August 24, 2020