Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:13 am

Frank Lopez wrote:
Rick Hall wrote: But I'm not too full of what I think I know to try to learn the answers to such riddles.


That's debateable, as you seem narrow minded about this and bent on one train of thought. There's a whole bunch of hard science that points in another direction. Science that is founded in eliminating variables that might cloud the outcome.

Frank


I somehow missed that gem last evening. And while I've posted a link to a University of Michigan study speaking to the birds' preference for good decoys, I think it fair to share the "Science that is founded in eliminating variables that might cloud the outcome." behind my "narrow minded...train of thought".

Never mind how long I might claim to have duck hunted (by some on these boards' reckoning my 13yr-old grandson has 9 years "experience") or, perhaps, even that I've been charged with filling pay hunter straps virtually every open season day since 1984. I know plenty of old waterfowlers, some of whom have guided much longer than I, who've failed to turn experience into much knowledge. Experience is wasted on those who don't pay attention, experiment accordingly and continue to grow from those practices.

In our part of the country, specklebelly geese present what I believe the toughest litmus test for decoys. No, they're not ducks, but they are equipped with similar vision limitations and advantages. And much of my current decoying beliefs with regard to most waterfowl comes from what the specks have taught us.

Having been an Ohio Valley Canada hunter who'd enjoyed great success over a mix of shell decoy makes and homemade silhouettes, I was surprised to discover a great many Louisiana specks turned up their noses at such mixes. And, through experimentation, I learned that any mix of differing speck shell makes was apt to be less successful than just using even the worst looking of those alone. My conclusion being that a mix gave birds that were looking for trouble opportunities for troubling comparison.

When Big Foot made their first run of specklebelly decoys, several years before they became a permanent offering, I thought they'd blow the socks off the G&H standard speck shells that had been our decoy gold standard and ponied up the then princely sum of $36 each for a spread of them that proved disappointing, no matter how badly I wanted that serious investment to pay off. Specks simply wouldn't finish as well to the BFs as they did to standard G&H shells, something also independently confirmed by a professional carver friend with a permit to keep live specks who'd repainted BFs to match them as well as humanly possible and the widely considered specklebelly guru who bought up most of the early BF specks to be found in our area. I couldn't help but conclude, after giving them much more chance to pay off than a less stubborn soul might, that the BF's greater size made it easier for wary specks to conclude they were trouble.

When better and smaller fullbodies became available, experimentation made it clear that the early Hardcore FBs more readily finished specks than than much easier to transport G&H shells. And when Dave Smith Decoys introduced what most today consider the gold standard of fullbodies, experimentation with both they and '04/05 Hardcores in the same field but widely separated showed the specks favored the Hardcores, likely because the HCs of that period included several more body postures than DSDs, or perhaps because the HCs were a bit closer to the specks' true color, or both. (The bummer being that those HCs didn't hold paint worth a flip.) Along similar lines, the "speck guru" friend mentioned above experimented for a couple seasons with a large five dozen DSD and five dozen fully flocked GHG fullbody spread, before concluding he could finish far more birds by ditching the GHGs. Whether because of the differences between those makes and/or simply fewer chances to spot the manikin being something we still enjoy knocking around.

The speck's susceptibility to calling and scrutiny of decoys has led many of us to frequently hunt over very small spreads or none at, particularly in the late season. If ground conditions are such that it's difficult for specks to see that there are not birds down there, they'll often come low trying to find the source of a well concealed hunter's circumspect calling when they'd likely have circled high studying his decoys in the same location. While decoyless hunting is not an uncommon ploy among veteran speck hunters, I know just one guide bold enough to take advantage of that phenomenon when hunting paying guns who don't know and trust him. And I'm not that guide.

When I'm guiding for late season birds and not needing decoys to bolster our concealment, I stick with small spreads, even when we might well be ahead with none. But I try to "hide" those decoys on rough ground or near small weed clumps or such to make them difficult for the birds to see well. And the most challenging late season speck hunts are over open water where the decoys stand out plain as day. In that situation it's quite common to see specks bump hard off even a single decoy, sometimes crossing the guns in doing so.

All of which being a long-winded way of saying I believe it behooves me to play to the most worried birds out there and not settle for what's good enough for others. And I try to do so by experimenting and paying attention.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby mandrakeduck » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:34 pm

believe flocked decoys look a lot better to us than they do to the ducks. LIfe-like shapes and body/head positions are more important to their appeal. Placement of the blocks themselves is at least as important as the appearance of the individual decoys. That's my opinion, based on over 50 years of hunting waterfowl.


Well, based on my 2 and 1/2 years of waterfowling :wink: I agree with you that flcoked heads don't seem to be very important. I do think the way the Dakotas sit and and activate in the water is a distinct advantage- especially when hunting small holes, public refuges, and late season birds, but that's why I bought them. :smile:

Actually, I bought a Marsh Rat and I am going to try and do smaller spreads. So I thought the Dakotas might give me an edge with the Marsh Rat.

I apreciate your thoughtful feedback here... and I do accept your previous apology.

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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby mudpack » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:00 am

Rick Hall wrote:But I did encounter this account of an experiment on the subject by the University of Michigan's School of Natural Reseources:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19510308&id=GS0aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4yMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4524,3630811


I just looked at that article, it was from 1951. Not sure of the validity of that "experiment", since we don't know any details. Also, not sure the "good" and "bad" decoys back then are comparable to flocked head and non-flocked decoys of today.

Still, given a choice of ultra-realistic decoys and something like flocked-head Dakotas, I'd have to go with the UR's. I have flocked-head goose decoys and can't say I've noticed them magically pulling in birds that the painted head decoys wouldn't.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Frank Lopez » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:39 am

bloodnguts wrote:To Frank Lopez, I'm actually in the market to buy decoys right now, and I'm curious, based on your beliefs, what kind of decoys make up the bulk of your spread right now? I'm also curious, if you're hunting a small waterhole where you will only use a handful of your decoys, do you even take the time to pick the best looking decoys you have, or the cleanest, or the ones with the least chipped paint, or do you just randomly grab a handful of decoys from the bulk of your spread. When I throw a handful of decoys out, I always try to pick the ones in the best condition, but maybe even that is a waste of time.


We hunt some pretty heavily gunned salt marshs. We are pretty much on the northern end of the wintering area, so by the time our seasons open and we start getting birds, they're pretty well conditioned to decoys and hunters. My decoy bag contains severall different brands and models of decoys, about half dozen of each. CarryLite, Hotbuys, Flambeau, G&H and a couple or three others. I/we make no effort to select any particular blocks for our spread. The key, we think is that by using so many different brands, you get so many different poses. Makes it look more natural.

On my boat, my decoys are all hand carved. (Gives me something to do in the off season). Again, there's a lot of different poses.

What we've found is that making the spread as natural as possible is more important than detail on individual decoys. Depending on which way the sind is blowing, we'll hunt one side of the marsh or the other. Over the years, we've noticed that the birds tend to flock up differently in different areas. Corrispondingly, we adjust our spreads according to what is natural. Tides make a difference, too. For example, about three hours or so before dead low tide, the birds will be more bunched up in certain areas, usually where the water is shallow enough for them to tip up and reach food. But, as the tide goes out, more area is exposed and the birds spread out.

Frank
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:50 am

mudpack wrote:
Rick Hall wrote:But I did encounter this account of an experiment on the subject by the University of Michigan's School of Natural Reseources:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19510308&id=GS0aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4yMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4524,3630811


I just looked at that article, it was from 1951. Not sure of the validity of that "experiment", since we don't know any details. Also, not sure the "good" and "bad" decoys back then are comparable to flocked head and non-flocked decoys of today.


Being as how scientific method has been around a few hundred years, I'd guess the folks running things at the University of Michigan were aware of it prior to 1951. But I posted the article largely because I was tickle by the irony of it being the only relevant result of my Google search for Frank's striped decoy experiment - which, if not waterfowling's equivalent of urban legend, was likely conducted with less control than a university's.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby mudpack » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:16 am

Rick Hall wrote:Being as how scientific method has been around a few hundred years, I'd guess the folks running things at the University of Michigan were aware of it prior to 1951.


Which is why I mentioned that we don't know the details of this experiment. We don't know if scientific method was used. What little detail given suggests it was not. For instance:
What was the "control"? Over how many days was this carried out....one? Two? Thirty? ( The numbers given suggest one day.)
What were the variables, and how were they accounted for? Who set up the parameters of the experiment? The article says it was conducted by "students"....does this mean two kids, who happened to attend the same school, said "let's see what happens tomorrow with different decoys"?
Was it one spread, with one group of "good" decoys to the NW, one group of painted oil cans to the SE, and a group of old decoys between them and then count the birds that landed in each group? Did they move the decoys every 30 minutes to compensate for wind and food conditions in the area? Did they hunt with one group of different decoys each day? Too many unknowns, too many variables, for it to actually "prove" something.
I'd have to file it under anecdotal evidence, as would you or Frank. Still, it was interesting, if for the author if nothing else. Gordon's conclusion is the same as mine, and yours, and Frank's; looks like we all chose to hunt over the most realistic decoys we can put out.
At least, there aren't any of us shooting over painted 2 liter soda bottles.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Frank Lopez » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:00 pm

Gentlemen, the scientific testing I was referring to had to do with biological disection and examination of the avian eye. A subject that is well researched. Any expirement that involves trying to determine which, or what type of decoys birds perfer is likely to be futile, regardless of the the outcome. Nobody is willing to pour the necessary research dollars into such an expirement. At least no one with any desire for a valid scientific answer or an interest in using the data as part of an marketing campaign.

To this day, no one has offered any proof that UV paints are the way to go. They do know that birds do see in the UV spectrum. But there is no conclusive evidance that UV paint on a decoy makes any kind of difference. And, that's an easy one to prove or disprove.

About the wariest waterfowl are snow geese. These birds are hunted about 8 months out of the year. That's an awful lot of time under the gun. Seems to me that most people kill a good number of these birds without any flocking!

Frank
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:56 pm

Even without considering UV influences, the "certified smart folks," as Ronquest would say, tell us waterfowl can discern fine detail two or three times as far away as humans, so the real question seems to be "What do they do with that information?"

At risk of being accused of anthropomorphism again, I'd posit that like us they ignore most everything except what their concern of the moment leads them to focus on. We hammered snows and blues over rags for years, because the birds either saw them where they expected to see feeding geese or saw enough of them in a spot to convince them of a safe and easy meal and drop on in without paying attention to what their eyes were telling them until it was too late. But even in rag spreading's hay day, most would catch on well out and something like a distant airplane that would make geese nervous and "turn on their thinking caps" negated any chance of decoying them to what they then recognized as danger. Today, with guns to worry about in every other field, even electronic calls won't entice many light geese to buy into a South Louisiana decoy spread unless it happens to be in exactly the right place, ie: where they've become accustomed to finding safety. And even then, relatively few will commit.

Few folks fight them here now unless there's a real, not just ground, fog to hold them down and impair their vision. And the last time I targeted them was telling. Ours was the third consecutive morning of real fog, and a crew from our camp had short-stopped a flight headed to nearby refuge with big windsock spreads, killing thirty-some the first day and twenty-some the next. On the morning we went, we changed things up by using just a dozen or so snow shells placed down-flight where they could barely be seen from the levee we hid along, and we killed fifty-three geese that pretty much stalled overhead to study those few shells from what they thought safe distance.

Basically, I think you can baffle most waterfowl with the bull of great numbers of most anything bird-like, hopefully blinding them with greed and tolling so many that enough won't be looking hard to provide good gunning, or you can dazzle them with the brilliance of a smaller, more perfect spread that may not pull as many birds but reveals itself as trouble to fewer of them.

Or you can hide well and kill them where they were coming anyway.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:31 am

Rick Hall wrote:...the last time I targeted them was telling...


My mind has gelled, as that wasn't my last blue hunt. Was digging for something else in the photo files and reminded that two seasons ago, a buddy and I took advantage of a fog to put some in the freezer:
Image

This is he with half of our decoy spread:
Image

Point again being, though, that even with super gregarious blues, less can be more by virtue of giving decoy shy birds less to study.

As an aside: last season was my first in Louisiana without shooting a single light goose. Things sure change.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Mean Gene » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:15 pm

Perhaps in your eyes.


Nope. I base that train of thought on what I witness first hand in the field. :thumbsup:
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Frank Lopez » Wed May 01, 2013 8:54 am

Mean Gene wrote:
Perhaps in your eyes.


Nope. I base that train of thought on what I witness first hand in the field. :thumbsup:


And exactly what methods did you use to eliminate any and all variables to prove that it was the flocking?

Frank
I feel slightly sorry for a man who has never patterned his gun, who has no idea how far his chosen load will retain killing penetration. But I'm extremely sorry for the ducks he shoots at beyond the killing range of his gun and load - Bob Brister
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Mean Gene » Wed May 01, 2013 10:33 pm

Frank Lopez wrote:
Mean Gene wrote:
Perhaps in your eyes.


Nope. I base that train of thought on what I witness first hand in the field. :thumbsup:


And exactly what methods did you use to eliminate any and all variables to prove that it was the flocking?

Frank


I'm of the impression that it's a complete waste of time talking with you. You hate flocking, obviously. No problem, you don't have to use it. I watch birds consistently land near the flocked as opposed to the non-flocked birds. I like it, so I'm going to use it. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Ringneck » Mon May 06, 2013 6:07 pm

Just for fun.....we finished several limits of mallards right on top of this bird for the last 3 seasons....but I'm not gonna change my spread to look like this.

The birds landed by it not because of what it looked like....but because of it's location in the spread. We put it in the landing zone just for kicks every hunt. They land beside...we kill em'. Can't imagine how many we would kill if the whole spread looked this way :rolleyes:

Guess there is still a little of this dead horse left to beat :no: WE sometimes forget....what works for you may not work for others. Do your thing and let it ride. :thumbsup:

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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Tue May 07, 2013 4:30 am

Sounds about like that ringneck swatting Moultrie bunch.

Real duck hunters kill mallards over rubber duckies in mud puddles:
Image
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Ringneck » Tue May 07, 2013 9:02 am

Rick Hall wrote:Sounds about like that ringneck swatting Moultrie bunch.

Real duck hunters kill mallards over rubber duckies in mud puddles:
Image



Kinda disproves the point that ducks care doesn't it?

I don't hunt GA by the way.

Oh yeah...you win the argument...Congrats :thumbsup:
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Tue May 07, 2013 9:58 am

Not at all sure you took that in joshing spirit it was offered. I've two groups of long time clients and friends from your area.

But in all seriousness: landing some birds by goofy decoys doesn't prove much more than landing some birds while you're in the decoys taking a whiz.

Don't suppose you're part of the Lake Ammonia Moultrie gang?
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Ringneck » Tue May 07, 2013 10:30 am

Not part of that group. In all honesty I took that in a way that you might not have meant it...assuming it was jokingly. Hard to tell when it's written word sometimes. All that junk was not looked upon favorably around here....they were thugs at best.

I agree that landing birds in funny looking decoys doesn't prove much.....no more than landing birds beside decoys that are detailed out. It's an old argument that can never be disproven. Guess I've gotten to that point that it really doesn't matter to me what guys are using as a decoy, gun, boat, etc. ......just as long as they have respect for other hunters and the game they are taking. Use what you want and enjoy the sport.....not worth arguing over something insignificant and making and enemy out of potential friend. :thumbsup:
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Rick Hall » Tue May 07, 2013 10:51 am

Ringneck wrote:I agree that landing birds in funny looking decoys doesn't prove much.....no more than landing birds beside decoys that are detailed out.


Amen to that. It's the birds that won't work or don't finish that have my goat.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Mean Gene » Wed May 08, 2013 7:04 am

Guess I've gotten to that point that it really doesn't matter to me what guys are using as a decoy, gun, boat, etc. ......just as long as they have respect for other hunters and the game they are taking. Use what you want and enjoy the sport.....not worth arguing over something insignificant and making and enemy out of potential friend


:thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Steel Shot » Sun May 19, 2013 1:47 pm

I don't think ducks think "That duck looks plastic, it's probably fake." They do have enough experience and instincts to know when something is off though.
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Re: Use of Flocked Head Decoys?

Postby Elvis Kiwi » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:25 am

heres MY take on the issue
young ducks/geese dont have the life skills/past experiences that older birds have so are easier to fool
birds just like trout "forget" those things for a very short time after a hunting holiday..but by 10am opening morning re remember them big time. the trout thing is there as everybody can catch fish that first morning but try next weekend different story I believe birds are the same. I can get my 13' fryan dingy up in range of birds easy when they havent been shot for a few months but once the guns start fireing they wise up very quickly and fly while we are still 2-700yrds away.
parrie ducks are notoriously easy to decoy and the bigger the better...but not birds that have been shot up recently or alot in the past,some of those birds are 15+years old just like geese they dont get old by being silly.
we try to make our spread as realistic as possible and have a lot of different brands of decoy.
but we still dont land many in the spread.
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