After a three-year ban on the use spinning-wing duck decoys, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted last week to allow the controversial devices for the upcoming waterfowl season.
The commission banned the so-called “Robo Ducks” in 2004, expecting other states on the Mississippi Flyway to follow suit.
That never happened.
Outside of some provisional, early season restrictions for waterfowl hunters in Minnesota, hunters throughout the duck-rich region may now use the motorized decoys that proponents says can lure airborne ducks from as far as a mile away.
Many hunters and wildlife biologists argue that the spinning-wing contraptions are unethical and especially effective on vulnerable young ducks migrating south for the first time.
Seasoned waterfowlers also contend that once ducks have seen the decoys, heard the gunshots that accompany them and become educated, they avoid them altogether. Like, by the time they reach the flooded rice fields and hardwoods swamps of Arkansas.
Whatever the case, there seems to be no middle ground in the debate over use of the multiple styles and brands of spinning-wing decoys—especially in The Razorback State.
Bryan Brasher, the outdoors scribe for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, wrote in this weekend’s column that there aren’t any fence sitters on the “Robo Duck” issue down in the Mississippi Delta country.
“I’ve heard the words ‘spinning wings’ so much during the past month they’re tattooed on the cerebral cortex of my brain,” Brasher wrote. “Right now, all I know is that most people I’ve talked to have an opinion on spinning wings–they either love them or they hate them and all they spin for.”
In casting his lone dissenting vote last week, Arkansas Commissioner Brett Morgan said most of his constituents told him they wanted to maintain the decoy restrictions.
“I can’t support something that we know helps kill juvenile ducks,” Morgan said. “This is an issue that we (commissioners) raised–not the public. The majority of e-mails and phone calls that I’ve received support keeping the ban in place.”
But George Dunklin, chairman of the Arkansas Commission’s waterfowl committee, said data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that motorized decoy use creates “no demonstrable impacts on either overall harvest rates or population levels.”