LITTLE ROCK – Duck hunters heading to public land in Arkansas should double-check their regulations this year before plugging in the battery-charger to their motorized decoys. During its May 2016 meeting the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission banned the use of all mechanical decoys on AGFC-owned wildlife management areas. The National Wildlife Refuge System in Arkansas also adjusted its regulations to eliminate their use as well.
Duck Hunting south of Brinkley,Ark.
The AGFC manages many WMAs that are on land owned by other agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or U.S. Forest Service. Mechanical decoys are allowed on public land that does not belong to the AGFC or National Wildlife Refuge System. Ownership of each WMA is listed directly underneath the area’s name on pages 45-59 of the 2016-17 Waterfowl Hunting Guidebook.
“Many hunters felt like their hunting was being unfairly impacted by the decoys,” Naylor said of the reasoning behind the ban. “During open surveys and through comments directly from hunters during the season, duck hunters were very vocal about the widespread use of mechanical decoys lessening the quality of their hunts, particularly on public land.”
Many variations on the original spinning-wing decoy exist, and many other mechanical contraptions have emerged to add some sort of motion to a decoy spread without the hunter’s help. With all the motion decoys on the market, muddying the water, the Commission decided to make the rule as simple as possible. Anything that creates or simulates motion in the decoy spread other than a standard, hand-operated jerk string, is not allowed.
“The intent of the regulation is to get back to the standard decoy, weight and string we all grew up hunting with,” said Col. Pat Fitts, chief of the AGFC’s Enforcement Division. “If it’s got moving parts, shakes, splashes or falls under some other form of gadgetry, it’s not allowed on our WMAs.”
Spinning-wing decoys have been a source of controversy among waterfowl hunters for years, with many hunters feeling they give an unfair advantage over juvenile birds and others feeling that they detract from the quality of the hunt. In response to hunter requests, the use of spinning-wing decoys was banned on Dave Donaldson Black River WMA and Bayou Meto WMA during the 2015-16 duck season.
Naylor says every comment he received from the public last year about the ban was positive, and results from public comment surveys indicated the same positive trend toward extending the ban to all AGFC-owned areas.
“Fifty-five percent of those who responded to the survey earlier this year were in favor of the ban, and only 25 percent were opposed,” Naylor said. “The other respondents had no answer or no opinion on the matter.”