The PSR Duck Raft Rack

Cheap, durable, really effective
"How do you keep that raft of decoys out there without getting all tangled up?" was the question from a PSR hunter this fall.

Here at Prairie Smoke Ranch we have struggled for years keeping decoys in place during the course of the season. We own all the sloughs and lakes we hunt and so leave our decoy sets out from mid-September to mid-November (or freeze-up, whichever comes first).  We will have anywhere from 8-12 different sets out on different sloughs, depending on water conditions -- anywhere from a foot deep to 15'. 

The problem is, during the fall we are on the receiving end of a wind storm about once a week on average.  We are talking a wind STORM, with sustained winds of 35-45 mph and gusts into the 50s for a day or more.  Two to three foot roller waves on our bigger water.  Keeping decoys in place is a challenge.  In the past I would need to retrieve individual decoys blown to Winnipeg and back after each storm and reset them properly in front of our shore blinds (which do NOT move).  Pain in the rear. And lost hunting time.

Finished rack on our decoy trailer
We anchor our long-lines (which we string on cheap yellow 300 lb test poly rope) with 10 lb boat anchors so they don't move but it was nearly impossible to keep individual decoys in place using the usual 8-12 ounce decoy anchors.  I tried tying several blocks to sunken metal fence posts but the line would fray and break after a week or two, and I didn't want to go to wire. Plus I lost a lot of fence posts.

One commercial outfit recently came out with a mesh net snap-on system for decoys rafts.  Looked like it would work AND stay in place with a heavy anchor. Problem was the price tags on these was about $250 each, pushing the price of a roast duck dinner beyond our PSR sensibilities.

As usual, some time in the workshop solved the problem.  And now, with the 2017 season behind us and field testing done, we can say we have found the solution.  Cost: $15-20.

Schedule 80 PVC and glue (this is the thicker gray PVC).  We used 1" diameter size.  
4 90 degree corner joints
2 "T" joints (if using cross member)
Small eye screws
Stainless screws for joints (optional)

Tools:  Saw for PVC cutting, drill and bits for holes

We made four of these racks -- a couple 4'X8' and a couple half that size.  If you get two 12' lengths of PVC you will have enough for one larger rack.  We added cross pieces in our large racks for stability and to allow for a few more blocks.  You can make the rack any size you wish but remember you will need to haul it to and from the water, so something that fits in your boat or on your truck is best.  We leave ours out all season and then on shore on-site during the off season so it's not a problem for us.

Putting it Together:
Cut your long and short pieces, piece it all together and then glue your joints and let them harden. It's best to do this on the floor so all the joints and pieces lay flat when the joints set up.  This is really the only tricky part of the process.

Next, drill small holes -- about 1/4" in size on top and bottom of the pipe, every three feet or so. This will allow the rack to sink, otherwise it will float.  Then take a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of your eye screws and drill as many holes as you wish on the top of the rack, put them about 18" apart.  Now screw your eye screws into these, stainless if you got 'em, otherwise whatever you have available.  I put 16 eyes on the large racks, eight on the smaller.  You will clip your blocks on here.

As a final step I put one regular pan-head screw in each part of the corner joints, where the pipe and joint met -- I wasn't sure if the glue would hold after being under water for 6-8 weeks and didn't want my joints to pop apart.  Turns out it wasn't a problem, but better safe than sorry.

Rack in the water -- will hold up to 14 blocks
That's it. You are done.  Tie a small anchor to one corner of the rack with poly rope and you are ready for deployment.


Tie short dropper lines to the blocks you will use on the rack and put snaps or carbiners on the end.  Twelve to 16" is enough. Make all the dropper lengths the same size to keep the rack floating level. The decoys keep the rack afloat, so it will work in two feet of water or 100', just vary the length of your anchor rope.

Space your screw eyes far enough apart (and make your dropper lines short enough) so that it is impossible for the blocks/lines to tangle around each other when on the rack.

The gray color of the pipe pretty much makes it invisible to the birds when in the water.  Shiny eye screws didn't seem to be a problem either.

You WILL eventually shoot the decoys on the rack as ducks, especially divers, zip over while working your blocks. For this reason we use solid decoys rather than hollow -- Herters, Higdons, or Blackwaters are the best bet, especially if you are going to leave the raft out for several days (or weeks, in our case.)

This raft of birds looks great and will draw birds from a distance for a looksee. And the price is right. Put it on your winter project list.

Shoot straight -- and often, any questions or comments shoot me an e-mail - 

The author is a former US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Department of Agriculture manager. In retirement he owns and operates Prairie Smoke Ranch, located in central North Dakota, the duck hunting hub of the northern plains. All rights reserved.


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