Motion Decoy Buyer's guide
By: Mark Mazour
If you have been around the world of waterfowling recently, you probably have heard about the motion decoy craze. It started with motorized swimming decoys, but it really hit the fan with the spinning wing decoys. The success rates with hunters using these new motorized attractors was so high that several states even investigated banning them.
Do they Work?
Three letters - YES! If you don't believe me, check out the picture of me above. When I first saw these decoys at the 1999 SHOT Show, I admit I had my doubts to their success. I figured it was just another gimmick that could convince a duck hunter he needed to spend more money. However, the video clips of dive bombing greenheads definitely got my attention. So, in the fall of 1999, it was without much reservation that I accepted an editorial assignment to test and review several of these decoys.
My first experience with a spinning wing decoy was rather humbling. We set up, and at first light had no less than a dozen mallards land in a five-foot circle around the spinning decoy. After shooing them off with several rounds of #2 steel, another group repeated this performance. I was sold right there. I had never seen ducks commit like that before.
Throughout the rest of the season, the results were similar. Not all the ducks committed instant kamikaze dives, but I know success was definitely increased. Everyone I hunted with last year wanted to know where they could get one of those dekes by the end of the day. The effectiveness was really driven home on the last day of the season. I had recently moved to western Nebraska and received an invite to hunt on some leased pits. These pits had been hunted hard, and the ducks had seen it all - except the RoboDuk. My new blind companions were highly impressed as we left with a limit, while the other pits left with a lot lighter game bag.
I know some of you may scoff at paying big bucks for a single decoy. Trust me, I used to feel the same way. But, after seeing what they can do in the field, these decoys are definitely worth it and have earned a permanent spot in my spread.
Why do they work?
Only the ducks know the true answer to that question, but after observing literally hundreds of ducks responses to them, I think I have some pretty good ideas. First, the rotating flashing wings do look like landing ducks, especially when viewed at a distance. On one occasion, I walked about 300 yards from my spread, and at that distance, I could not make out any of the 30 floaters that I had in my spread. However, the spinning wings stood out plain as day, with the flashing wings looking just like a group of ducks settling in. I also observed that several ducks would literally dive at it from the heavens, coming down from the stratosphere with wings folded. They had spotted the motion rig and made up their minds to come in long before we could spot them.
Later in the year, I started watching the ducks more while they were circling this electronic traitor. That is when I saw the key. Almost all ducks would keep their eyes on the spinning wing decoy while making their final pass. Since their focus was the master deke, they didn't search for blinds, dogs, or movement that can betray a hidden hunter's location. When a couple of samples malfunctioned and stopped spinning, I noticed that those drakes would go back to their rubbernecking ways and scour the reeds for any movement or reflection. This brought you back to reality, when it took perfect conditions to result in a big score. The spinning wing decoys were especially effective on late-season birds that had seen the usual tricks and needed that extra convincing to get them down.
By far, mallards were the most effected by the motion decoy. It definitely worked for gadwall, wigeon, and pintail, but no ducks were as drawn to it as the greenheads.
The Mojo Duck
Fairly new to the market is the Mojo Duck. Based on a full-size Carry-Lite decoy body, this bird has its feet out and is coming in. Powered by a standard 6-volt rechargeable battery, you won't have to fumble around for a bunch of D-cell batteries. The large 36-inch wingspan is constructed of durable, yet lightweight sheet aluminum for years of use, and the bright flashing is visible for hundreds of yards.
I was most impressed with the power of the direct-drive motor. With no belts to slip or break, the wings were spinning at a rate much faster than I had seen I other models, and the battery had plenty of energy for the hunt. The sturdy 4-foot stand lets you set up easily in most locations, while the included charger keeps your mojo working every day. For additional variety, the Mojo is offered in both drake and hen mallard configurations.
Super Lucky Duck
If you want the look of a realistic landing duck, you have found it. This new entrant to the spinning wing decoy market has a body style that is much different. Designed to specifically mimic a duck in the landing position, the craned head on this deke is sure to pull those birds that have become wary of other spreads. The direct-drive motor keeps you spinning in any weather condition, and the detachable wings and included three-piece stake make transport a snap.
Flambeau has made a name for themselves in the decoy market with quality floaters, full bodies, shells, and silhouettes. Not wanting to miss out on the new market, at the 2001 SHOT Show, they introduced their new Sky-Scraper decoy. When I first saw this decoy running, what I noticed most was how quiet it was. The whisper quiet direct-drive motor won't spook ducks on those still days. Flambeau also came out with an innovative way to attach the molded plastic wings. A spring-loaded action allows the wings to be snapped on without any clips or screws to drop in the marsh. The rechargeable battery boasts a 10.5-hour life, even in the coldest conditions, guaranteeing you will be still scrapin' greenheads from the stratosphere on the last flight of the day.
Flambeau is also famous for their cases, toolboxes, and tackle boxes, so they decided to build a carrying case that comes with each Sky-Scraper. It includes everything you need for the decoy and more: a telescoping stand to let you set up in a variety of water levels and conditions, rechargeable battery, and a wall charger that lets you hunt every day without worry and charge the decoy without removing the battery. They also included a few extras like their Sweet Susie duck call to help coax those mallards in, and a 16-bird game strap carrier to haul you blind's limit of drakes home.
In that first year of these decoys, I tested several models, and the RoboDuk came out on top. It was easy to use and outperformed many of the early models. It was also one of the first to use a rechargeable 6-volt battery, in lieu of the D cells used on many early models. New for this year is a direct-drive motor, with no belts to slip or break. Also, they have changed the wing socket design so the wings snap in without the old cotter key clips that could be dropped in the grass or water and lost forever.
Based on a G&H shell decoy, the RoboDuk also is easy to pack in for those remote honey holes. The included two-piece pole gives you plenty of height in the water, yet breaks down easily. The wings detach easily from the decoy, and then the whole setup breaks down to a 22" package that could be carried out to the blind in your game bag.
Do It Yourself with the Baby Mojo Kit
If you aren't sure whether you are ready to spend the bucks on a commercially made spinning wing decoy, you can make you own with the Baby Mojo Kit. Including everything but the decoy body itself, the kit comes with corrugated PVC wings, direct-drive motor, 6-volt rechargeable battery, charger and 4-foot stand. With the detailed instructions, you will soon be pulling ducks to the dekes with your own mojo.
Editor's Note: The Ethical Question
Since the success of these robotic mallards has been overwhelming, the ethical flag has been raised many a time. Several states, the most vocal being California, have even considered banning them, fearing they could lead to the over harvesting of some species.
Where do we draw the line? I have had this ethical battle with several soapbox waterfowlers who conclude that better calling is the answer, and it is the more ethical option. We are all trying to sell the same illusion of real ducks on the water. So how ethical do you want to get? Following the above logic, should we not be able to paint our decoys in lifelike colors or use calls that sound too "ducky"?
Suppose a small flight of greenheads comes in at dawn and lights in the decoys before you get a chance to toot on your call. Do I presume that the more ethical sportsman shoos them off and waits until he can call one all the way to the gun?