November 28, 2023
The what, where, why, and how model lines up with adding motion to your set up. So let’s take a look at a few of the options for each of these principles and help you get more birds in the freezer over the next few months. What are the best ways to add motion into your decoy spreads?

By: Justin Hunold

Go to your local pond, river, lake, reservoir or even street puddle where you regularly see ducks. Lots of things will seem random, the vocalizations, the number of ducks, the mix of sexes, the age structure, the species of birds. One day you might walk out there and see nothing but some Suzy’s with their young ones and other days you might spot a group of drakes with a random spoony in there. They might be chuckling away and hailing other ducks in the air one minute, to being dead silent the next second. There is one thing I can promise that will be the same about all of these scenarios. There will be movement. 

The what, where, why, and how model lines up with adding motion to your set up. So let’s take a look at a few of the options for each of these principles and help you get more birds in the freezer over the next few months. What are the best ways to add motion into your decoy spreads?

This is everyone’s favorite category, gear. These are just some of the options to add into your bag of tricks. This will focus on a few simple options that can be managed by one to three hunters over a modest one to two dozen decoys that will be set up and taken down each hunt. We will also be looking at options that can fit in the decoy bag and be easily hiked, canoeing, kayaked or bought by a relatively small boat to the spot. There are big, intricate, and high production options that we won’t be talking about because these don’t fit this narrow description. 

Spinning wing Decoys: What are they? Spinning wing decoys are exactly as the name sounds, decoys that are either floating or suspended in the air by a long stake that have spinning wings. The wings can either be activated by wind or battery power. They can be any species of duck and can be either sex. Some popular brands are Avian X, Mojo, Lucky Duck and Higdon. These aren’t the only options but just a few of the more popular ones.   Where to use them? Most folks will say that spinning wing decoys are great to use over dry fields. When we are talking about picked corn or other such food sources spinning wings are a must have. They are also great for hunting Diver Ducks, where motion is the main attractor.  The other place they are commonly used is to compliment a standard spread in the whole or pocket that you want the ducks landing into.  Why use them? You should think of spinners as attractors not closers. They grab attention, like some sort of car ad. Hey come look at this new truck. That got you in the door, then they got you with someone to actually sell you the truck or “Close” you. Same principle applies here. Spinners get the birds attention and oftentimes can get them to swing towards you. They are not the finishing touch though.  How to use them? I personally like a floating spinner on a remote. This allows me to control what looks like a duck stretching its wings, as opposed to a duck just flapping away suspended in the air. This is a decoy I use near the X but often adjust depending on the reaction of the ducks. The same idea applies to suspended spinners, hanging there in the air. They are big time attractors. If budget allows I like remote models so I can decide when to kill the motion. This is generally done when the ducks seem to commit to the spread.  Spinners cover mistakes and I think that it’s a great investment for newer hunters. 

Swimming, Splashing, Feeding, Quivering Decoys: What are they? Yes, we turned this into one category. Essentially, we are looking at any single decoy that adds motion in a non wing spinning way. They can swim, spit, sputter, pulse, quiver or splash and they do this by a battery actuated operation. Sometimes this is done by a spinning magnet, or a water pump or even a propeller of some sort. They add a natural motion of a single duck swimming, stretching, feeding, dabbling or any other imitation. Popular types are active swimmers, quivering single decoys , or duck butts that have action. Where to use them? In my opinion there is no wrong time to use these decoys when on the water. You cannot use them on dry land so, if that’s your game don’t bother buying any. I find even a couple of quivering duck butts can add a ton of reality to my spread. Smaller early season ducks like Teal and Woodies really key in on these. I cannot tell you how many woodies I’ve taken using a simple gray quiver magnet…it’s a pile though. Why use them? Simple to carry, simple to set up, and pretty natural movement, this style of decoy is the easiest way to add realistic motion into your spread. A lot of the time they can be a replacement not an addition to some of your other decoys making them great on space saving and set up times. How to use them ?  I like to use these often, basically in every spread. Place them in the middle of a cluster of your other decoys to add motion to all. It’s a simple game for every dozen or so decoys. I like one of them to be this style, more if I can afford it. How often do you see a bunch of ducks completely still on the water? Never is the answer, which is why these are so great.  

The Jerk Rig: What is it? Simply put a Jerk Rig is a decoy(s) anchored on one end, with a piece of elastic material tied directly to that anchor, then a line from that elastic material to the decoy, then a line from the decoy to the hunter. Jerk the line and the decoy will swim and move naturally wrong under tension of the elastic material. There are probably hundreds of ways to make a Jerk Rig. Look it up on the internet, you can use weight, stakes, or a premade kit. In my opinion this is the most cost effective way to add motion to your spread and the Granddaddy of them all, the OG motion set up. Where to use them? My first instinct is to say everywhere there is water and ducks. This application is great in any spread and a lot of folks won’t hunt without them. Some folks will even choose a jerk rig over calling. They tend to be used in shallower water, and in some places with really deep water would be almost impossible(Think Diver Ducks here). If you’re hunting puddle ducks you can’t go wrong with having a jerk rig. Why use them? This is fairly self explanatory. Jerk Rigs are one of the easiest, fastest, cheapest, most practical way to add motion to your spread. You can likely make a jerk rig from stuff you have in your garage. How to use them? I one time had an old timer tell me” Start jerking as soon as you set it out and stop when you pick it up.” and that’s sound advice. Yet, I think just like the other decoys in this article you should probably start the action upon visual acquisition of the ducks and stop when they seem like they are committed to the spread and ready to be finished. There isn’t really a wrong way to use them or a bad place to put them in your spread…..Just use one. 

So, now you know some easy, fairly inexpensive and deadly options that any duck hunter can add into their arsenal. These are small scale, easily portable and highly effective decoys and tactics to use them in. I will say this, ducks might love motion in the decoys but they hate it in the blind. Keep you and your companions still, and covered. Doesn’t matter if they are two legged or four. If you guys are moving and easy to be seen, no decoy in the world will make those ducks finish. In the end there is no magic bullet and hunting is hunting. Do your job and put in the effort and sometimes you’ll be rewarded for that with duck, but all the time you’ll be rewarded by just being out there.