January 8, 2012 in Outdoors

Guide makes case for electronic decoys

By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy photo photo

Mojo Mallard Drake spinning wing duck decoy from Mojo Outdoors.
(Full-size photo)

Support conditional for electronic decoys

 After several Washington waterfowl hunting guides petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting, state wildlife managers conducted an email survey of waterfowl-license buyers in November.

 RoboDuks and other decoys that move or spin their wings are allowed in most states. Indeed, they were allowed in Washington for about five years after they became popular.  But in 2002 they were banned in Washington after being declared so effective in attracting waterfowl they might lead to shorter seasons or lower limits.

 Of the 3,500 waterfowlers who responded to the November survey:

• 29 percent opposed use of electronic decoys,

• 57 percent favored them if it did not lead to hunting restrictions,

• 14 percent favored their use unconditionally.

If electronic waterfowl decoys are legal in 47 states, why not Washington?

Virtually all waterfowl hunters and managers agree that adding motion to decoys improves their effectiveness in luring ducks and geese.

For decades if not centuries, hunters have used strings or other non-electronic tricks to make floaters bob and make ripples in the water.

Hunters simulate wing flapping by waving flags in their blinds to get distant waterfowl to zero in on their decoy sets.

Mike Meseberg, a Mar Don Resort waterfowl guide for four decades at Potholes Reservoir, says the state is silly to hold out on allowing hunters to add electronic decoys to their bag of tricks.

“It will create more enthusiasm for hunting, be good for stores that sell waterfowling equipment, increase revenue from hunting licenses and make hunters more successful,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

As vice chair of the Waterfowl Advisory Committee to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, Meseberg floated the electronic decoy proposal to the group and got majority support, although it was not unanimous.

He and a Western Washington waterfowl guide petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider reversing the 2002 vote to ban electronic decoys in Washington. The decision will be made in April.

To a novice hunter, having an electronic decoy can make the difference between getting a bird or two and getting skunked, Meseberg said.

“Success is what drives the industry,” he said. “A hunter who succeeds buys more gear, stays at motels, eats at restaurants and keeps hunting.”

He said he’s frustrated by state officials who are reluctant to do simple things that generate revenue.

However, hunters who oppose use of electronic decoys say they don’t want to have to buy electronic gear just to keep up with the hunters in the adjoining marsh.

It’s one thing to compete with natural congregations of waterfowl on big waters that lure ducks and geese away from hunting blinds. But having to buy another generation of equipment to compete with other hunters seems like an unnecessary financial burden, they say.

Some hunters argue that at some point the use of electronic devices goes beyond the ethics of fair-chase.

Others shrug and say the more electronic decoys are used, the less effective they become as birds become educated.

“Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania are the only states that don’t allow battery-operated decoys,” Meseberg said. “Our seasons and limits are determined by the success of the hatches in the northern nesting grounds. Seasons have nothing to do with harvest levels.

“Adding a few more ducks to a hunter’s bag is good for the sport and the contributions hunters make to wetlands conservation. I’m totally in favor of electronic decoys with no hesitation.”

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