Spin City

The Arkansas Fish and Game Commission has reversed its ban on mechanized, spinning-wing duck decoys because none of the 14 other states located along the Mississippi flyway decided to follow their lead.

In September 2004, the commission voted to restrict the use of electronic duck decoys in the state beginning with the 2005-06 season, after Minnesota decided to limit the devices to the early part of its duck-hunting season.

After several brands and models of the mechanical decoys—commonly referred to as Robo Ducks--first hit the market several years ago, they faced the scrutiny of waterfowlers and game managers alike. Some critics claimed the decoys were too effective at attracting ducks and offered users an unfair advantage.Rotoduck

Some game managers also questioned whether widespread use of the devices could disrupt the natural movement of waterfowl.

In the wake of the controversy, the states of Oregon and Washington banned spinning-wing decoys outright. California restricted their use in the early season, while Pennsylvania already had laws on the books restricting all types of electronic game attractants.

Arkansas, arguably one of the most popular duck-hunting states in the country, has now returned to the flyway status quo on the Robo Duck issue.

Freddie Black, vice chairman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, told outdoor writer Bryan Hendricks it is unfair to require Arkansas duck hunters to make further sacrifices when other member states of the Mississippi Flyway Council refuse to address the effects that spinning wing decoys might have on duck migration patterns and harvest patterns.

“What effect mechanical decoys have on migration patterns of ducks in the flyway is something to be concerned about,” Black said. “It’s something to pay attention to and for us to continue to work on, but I don’t think there’s any need to penalize our hunters any further.”

The council agreed to request the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the continental effects of spinning wing decoy use on duck populations. One study—the Ackerman Report—indicates that kill rates increase with the use of spinning-wing decoys, but no data has been collected on overall harvest impact.