Thoughts About Adding Motion To Your Decoy Spread
I hate sky busting birds. Yes, I will admit it, I've done it. At times it seems no duck will do anymore than a fly by your decoys. No matter how good you are on a call or how nice your decoys the birds just wont cooperate. These are frustrating days. When I experience days such as these I first think of my hide, then I think of decoy movement.
Movement in a duck decoy spread is critical. On bright and windy days, nature takes care of most decoy spreads. But when it is calm or over cast the ducks may shy away from your spread. If you watch ducks on the water, undisturbed, you will see that they are in constant movement. Only when "spooked" are they still with their head high. When hunting, hunted-ducks, you need natural appearing movement to get the birds you seek comfortable enough to commit to your decoys.
Today there are three main ways to get movement into your decoys. Let's discuss each in the order I became familiar with them.
When a young man, a time far, far away, I first used a jerk string. I still do on occasion. A jerk string is a simple and effective way to add movement to a duck spread. At it's core, a jerk string involves a anchor, a bungie cord, a main line. One to many decoys can be attached to the line and with a hand pulled "jerk" of the line the decoys on the line will swing and move. As a kid, I wanted to move the entire spread back and forth. I would have six to eight decoys on two different lines and have them swinging while trying to manipulate a call and hold my shotgun.
My thinking on using a jerk string has evolved. More movement is not always better. You can spook birds by having too much. Nowadays, I want to just make the decoys "waddle". I prefer to have a couple of feeders and a pair of skimmers on a cross pole in the middle of a spread of a couple of dozen decoys. This allows me to move four decoys at once more subtly. This is a good set up in Oregon where motorized decoys are prohibited. My TIP on jerk strings is to NOT aggressively jerk when the ducks are lining up and appear to be committing. In addition, now-a-days you can use an automated jerk string to add motion to the level YOU choose with out you having to supply the energy. This allows you to work birds you haven't seen yet, set the desired amount of movement precisely, keep your focus on calling and preparing for the shot.
Not owning an automated jerk string, my preferred method for using splash in my sets now involve using Wonder Duck Decoys. These are a spinning wheel decoy that has independent timers on each wheel (foot) that run at different sequences. Puts out a lot of splash and movement. I place these (I use two of them), toward shore with other decoys around them. All of the decoys will have some movement and appear to be ducks feeding and rustling for position. It is a very natural presentation.
Spinning wing decoys didn't exist when I first started hunting..... pretty much a time referred to as "pre-history". Initially, they were the answer to every waterfowler's prayer. If you were below ducks and ran a spinner it seemed the ducks would fall from the sky into your decoys. These days spinner decoys still work (I have seven of them) but ducks react differently. On water, my experience, has been that ducks, especially late season ducks, tend to shy from the spinners. I use them on the edges or (favorite way) on one side of a pothole above the reeds. They attract birds but don't finish them like they once did. The place they still shine as no other is in the fields. In grain fields, spinner decoys kill ducks. I use a complicated method for determining where to place the spinner decoys in the fields. I put them three feet from where I want to shoot a foot down duck. Now the down side to these decoys in the fields, and it is a small down side, is that the geese hate them. Generally speaking, geese shy from spinners. The solution is to use a remote on and off and turn the decoys off upon the approach of geese. I consider spinners in the field as my most important duck decoy.
Swimmer decoys are relatively new. Initially I first saw them with a propeller on the decoy. They move well in a pool but tend to get clogged up in a marsh. I used one twice and then decided that although the idea was great the product sucked. But now the science has improved. I have a DUX TRAC portable tracked decoy swimmer. It by far, is the most realistic movement you can have in your decoy spread. It is surprisingly portable. It runs with just a few inches of water or in several feet. It moves two decoys in a triangle. A Drake chasing a hen, a scenario that is common in nature. What I really like about this tool is that it works BEST on the days that are the hardest. Dead calm. My strategy on these tuff days is to down size my set ups and go with a smaller decoy spread of a dozen or so. I put the DUX-TRACK right wherein the landing zone. This has proven to be a killer set up.
I hope these thoughts on duck decoy movement is helpful to you. Until I see you in the marsh or field, be safe, be good, and BE LUCKY!