By Wade Bourne
When the wind is calm, statue-like decoys on slick water are dead giveaways to circling ducks that there is mischief below. But decoys that move and ripple the water's surface help put the birds' suspicions to rest. That's because live ducks on the water are in perpetual motion—swimming, tipping, stretching, and splashing.
Granted, this is old news to veteran hunters, who have been adding motion to their decoys for generations. However, recent technology and inventive imaginations have combined to conjure up a broad new menu of decoy movers and shakers. Today, there are full-body decoys on motion stakes, wobbler discs, remote-control swimming decoys, paddle-wheel decoys, spinners, tippers, and more.
These handy gadgets will help bring your spread to life:
The jerk string is the original decoy motion system, and it's still one of the best. A good number of commercial jerk-string rigs are now available, and some of these systems even come with spreaders that allow you to put up to a dozen decoys in motion at once. You can also make your own jerk string. Start by driving a stake into the mud at the edge of your spread to anchor the rig. Attach a bungee cord to the stake beneath the water's surface; then tie a stout decoy line to the other end of the bungee cord. Next run the line back to the blind or pit, take up any slack in the line, and tie a handle on the end of it. Finally, attach several decoys directly to the line at four-foot intervals. Work the string by pulling it aggressively when ducks are circling downwind and not looking directly at the spread.
Love them or not, there's no denying the attraction of spinning wings to ducks at long distances. Experiment with using one or more wing-spinners, and move them around in the spread to find the setups that work best. If the spinners seem to keep the ducks from finishing, relocate the devices 50 to 100 yards upwind from your spread. This will allow you to benefit from the long-range drawing power of wing-spinners without spooking close-working birds.
Fatal Flasher Wings
Made of thin plastic, these imitation mallard wings flutter in the breeze. The natural feather patterns printed on the top of the wing contrast with the white on the bottom, creating the impression of real ducks preening and flapping their wings on the water. Rig just a few decoys with Fatal Flashers and scatter them throughout your spread. The wings slip easily over the decoy's head, but a dab of hot glue placed at the back of the neck will help keep them in place.
These duck-butt decoys, which are marketed by both Higdon Decoys and Mojo Outdoors, look like birds that are tipping up to feed. They are rigged with battery-powered pumps to spurt water at adjustable intervals. The resulting sound and motion are designed to simulate actively feeding birds. A few of these motion decoys scattered throughout your spread can generate enough ripples to convince passing ducks that they need to get in on the feast.
Flock A Flickers
These motion decoys by Mojo Outdoors represent a new take on the spinning-wing concept. Flock A Flickers come with timers programmed to provide random flashes that mimic the movements of live ducks on the water. The gadgets work just as well on land, too. Scatter a half dozen Flock A Flickers among your dry-field decoys to bring an otherwise motionless spread to life.
This device is essentially a trolling motor with three arms radiating from its center. A decoy and line are fastened to each arm. The motor is powered by a 12-volt battery connected to 55 feet of heavy-duty cord, which allows you to operate the system from the duck blind. Flipping the switch creates considerable water movement, and turning the machine on and off at short intervals makes the three decoys bob with convincing realism.