Motion Decoys in your Spread
By PJ Maguire
Nothing will cause wary waterfowl to stay clear of shotgun range like lifeless decoys. Allowing your duck or goose decoys to appear alive or have motion will increase your success in the water or field. Motion will bring birds closer to the decoys providing better and less-crippling shots. In this article, I will discuss several waterfowling tricks and products that will help to add motion to your decoy spread.
On windless days, water decoys may not be very effective. When live ducks and geese swim on calm water they cause small ripples from their motion, this is nothing new to waterfowlers. There are several techniques and devices to mimic these ripples caused by live waterfowl.
Jerk strings may be the easiest to operate and the most cost effective. Jerk strings can be attached to both goose and duck decoys. Basically a jerk string works the way it sounds. Simply tie the decoy line to a weighted keel decoy, then thread the line through a couple pound weight. Hunters can make their own weights, or I have found that down-rigging weights are available and affordable. After placing the decoy and the weight in the water, spread hunters “jerk” the string, moving the decoy and creating ripples across the calm water. You can get as creative as you want with these setups, tying as many decoys together as you feel comfortable using. This is also a great way to get non-callers involved with the hunt.
There are many types of shakers and swimming decoys available on the market today. All of these decoys serve the same purpose and can be affective when used properly. I recommend that you purchase one that you feel will work best for your hunting. For me, I keep two shaker decoys in my bag. They operate on AA batteries and I only turn them on when needed. Plus, I always keep extra batteries in my blind bag.
Often times hunters in flooded timber move their legs when standing in a couple feet of water to create the ripples caused by feeding ducks. This can easily be done in hunting spots where you have to stand in water. However, be careful not to move too much and attract the unwanted attention from passing birds exposing your location.
And the last sounds juvenile, but we’ve had to pull it out before when we forgot our jerk string. Have your hunting party collect rocks and throw a couple in the spread when birds are approaching. We’ve even thrown rocks right after the birds fly over and are starting to turn. Let’s face it, ANYTHING beats a perfectly calm decoy spread. It simply doesn’t look natural.
The most common technique for adding motion to field decoys while hunting all species of geese is flagging. There are many different types of flags available and they can be deadly when used properly. I hunt with a lot of guys that would choose a flag over a goose call if they could only hunt with one.
There are two basic types of flags that I use while goose hunting: pole flags and hand flags. Pole flags are 8 to 15 feet long and are used to attract geese at a distance. They are also great when you want to keep the movement away from your blind position. Hand flags are on a short pole and when used correctly, look like a goose stretching its wings or landing. Hand flags are often used when geese are closer, but both can be worked close when used properly.
Flapping wing decoys, like hand flags, recreate motion caused by geese stretching their wings. Goose flappers are placed away from the hunters drawing attention away from the concealed field blinds. The Higdon decoy company produces the most common flapper available on the market, and there’s been many other brands that are available. When used properly, wing flappers can really help finish geese in the landing zone.
After purchasing a wing flapper, you may have to make some minor adjustments to the decoy. Typically more weight has to be added to the foot base so it doesn’t tip over.
When flagging or using a flapper decoy it is important not to use them too much or when geese are directly above your location. I have found that flagging is the most effective when geese are at a distance or going away from your spread. I never use a hand flag if the geese are within 100 yards, however, flappers may be used in this range because motion is away from the concealed hunters.
Motion stakes add natural motion with just a 10 mph wind. These stakes also prop-up shell decoys giving them the appearance of a full-body. Most motion stakes can be used with any shell decoy, but make sure to ask to make sure. Hunters just have to drill a hole in the top of the shell that balances out the weight of the decoy. These decoys appear to be birds that are walking or feeding to airborne flocks.
Windsocks have been used to hunt geese out of fields for a long time. These goose decoys operate the best with around a 10 mph wind and are used almost exclusively for snow geese. Snow geese feed through fields very quickly, therefore the walking motion the wind creates in the socks makes the decoys look real. For this reason, windsocks are probably the most used decoys of all time for snow goose hunters. Using too few windsocks is the biggest mistake I see hunters making when snow goose hunting. You cannot buy just a dozen or so windsocks and expect to shoot geese. I know that everyone is not made of money, but each member of your party should try to contribute to the spread. I would try to buy by the 100s rather than dozens.
Windsocks can also be used to add motion to Canada goose decoy spreads. A couple buddies of mine mix them in with their full-bodies to add realism. They have found that using one windsock for every dozen full-bodies is about the right ratio.
Spinning wing Decoys
Spinners for ducks can be highly affective in fields and over water. The studies that have been done on them prove that they work, especially for Mallards. Spinners are now banned during some parts of season and completely in some states. Although I can say that they don’t work as well nowadays as the first times using it. Like all inventions before, birds seem to have wised up a bit. By the second week of the season this year the birds pretty much ignored them altogether.
Spinners are like any other device used to add motion to your decoys; when they are used properly they can help. There are a few things to keep in mind when using one or more.
Make sure that the wings on your spinner do not reflect in the sun. An easy way to fix this is by re-painting them with flat paint. When using multiple spinners try setting them at different heights. Make sure to turn your spinner off if there are geese working towards your spread.
Hopefully you can take a little away for these tips, these are a few things I’ve learned along the way. There are so many products on the market today that create motion, and probably another dozen being planned as I write this. Who knows what will come next? Good luck adding motion to your spread in the fall.years
I have found that watching him shoot is becoming a common practice as I find myself shooting less. And nothing beats the experience of how excited he gets when he is the first one to see a flock of ducks in the distance. During this off-season, he started learning to call. I gave him a wigeon whistle and let him go to town, and to be honest, he is already as good as his old man. And one thing I found we all have in common, no matter what our age or how long we have been at it, is the simplicity of a beautiful sunrise. When the suns breaks the horizon, we all stop for a minute in awe of what nature has to offer. You can’t find that on TV, in the mall, or in the classroom; this is something that has to be shared and experienced to understand.
So, when your out there with the kids, remember how tough it can be for them, and keep them interested, they are the future of the sport.