Motion in the Decoys

February 14, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

Greg Old Hunter Ells demonstrating his homemade goose feeding head device. A great tool for the field

Greg "Old Hunter" Ells demonstrating his homemade goose feeding head device. A great tool for the field

Nothing will cause wary waterfowl to stay clear of shotgun range like lifeless decoys. Allowing your decoys to appear alive or have motion will increase your success in the field. Motion will bring birds closer to the decoys providing better and less-crippling shots. In this article I will discuss several tricks and products that will help to add motion to your decoy spread.

Water Spreads

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. 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 water decoys. Basically a jerk string works the way it sounds. Hunters can tie 15 to 20 yards of 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.

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 comfortable operating. 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 when 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.

Field Spreads

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.

A goose flag to many is more important than a goose call

A goose flag to many is more important than a goose call

There are two basic types of flags that I use while goose hunting. Pole flags are 8 to 12 feet long and are used to attract geese at a distance. Hand flags are on a short pole and when used correctly, look like a goose stretching its wings. Hand flags are used when geese are closer. “Often times when geese are committed, I give them a few flaps with my hand flag and the motion pulls them to my side of the spread.” Explained Lyle Sinner a Fargo, North Dakota native.

Flapping wing decoys, like hand flags, recreate motion caused by geese stretching their wings. Flappers however 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. When used properly different types of wing flappers do an awesome job of bringing geese in feet down.

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.

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 flag if the geese are with in 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. Avery motion stakes can be used with any shell decoy. Hunters just have to drill a hole in the top of the shell that balances out the weight of the decoy. Higdon Decoy Company also makes stackable shells that come equipped with motion stakes. 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 decoys operate the best with 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.

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 dozen’s.

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. Personally I will continue to use one as long as it is legal to do so.

Spinners are like any other device used to add motion to your decoys; when they are used properly they can help and when not they can hurt. There are a few things to keep in mind when using one or more.

Spinning wing decoys, where legal, have changed the way people decoy ducks

Spinning wing decoys, where legal, have changed the way people decoy ducks

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. Spinners don’t seem to scare geese but often the geese will continue to circle waiting for the duck to land.

Hopefully you can take a little away for these tips and good luck adding motion to your spread in the fall.


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