Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Jerry Davis

The Minnesota DNR’s study of spinning-wing decoys is

Depending on the results, waterfowl hunters could lose a tool
for decoying ducks within range. Or duck seasons and bag limits
could be reduced to protect local breeding ducks. Then again, maybe
nothing will change.

It will be several months before the results of a research study
being conducted here in Minnesota by a team of Louisiana State
University researchers are known. The study is designed to
determine the effectiveness of spinning-wing decoys for hunting
ducks in Minnesota. The study will cost the Minnesota DNR about

The DNR has contracted Alan Afton, of the Cooperative Fish and
Wildlife Research Unit at Louisiana State University, to conduct
the study using state waterfowl hunters as shooters. Afton’s
graduate student, Mike Szymanski, and three LSU technicians (Chris
Garrett, Nathan Jerstad, and Brandt Meixell) are accompanying the
hunters and collecting data, but are not participating as

Their field research on the river kicked off in late

“The researchers started in northern Minnesota and are working
their way down the river,” said Bob Drieslein, manager at the Upper
Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge-Winona
District. “We want to find out the impact on total duck harvest. Do
we need to change bag limits or season length? We don’t know yet.
We know that 76 percent of the hunters in Louisiana use these
decoys, so that tells you something.”

Jeff Lawrence, DNR waterfowl specialist in Minnesota, said
spinning-wing decoys are fairly new devices in the Midwest.

“Hunters in some states have used them longer than here in
Minnesota, and some states have limited their use or made it
illegal to use these decoys,” Lawrence said. “I know Washington and
California have and Oregon is considering limitations for next

“We’re looking at everything in this study, all types of ducks,
but mallards are the main focus.”

Lawrence said that two years ago, 10 percent of Minnesota duck
hunters reported using spinning-wing decoys.

“I’m sure it’s a higher now, because that was two years ago,”
Lawrence said.

Researchers set up two spinning-wing decoys during each hunt.
Hunters can use their other regular decoy spreads and their own
shotguns. Calling techniques can also be used, if that is one of
the methods the hunter typically uses when hunting waterfowl. The
spinning-wing decoys will be turned on and off during alternating
15-minute periods.

During these hunts, the researchers are recording duck behavior
and number of ducks killed by the hunters, along with other

“The only variable from a regular hunt is the spinning-wing
decoy,” Lawrence said.

Under provisions of the research, hunters can take up to four
daily legal duck bag limits, under the provisions of the research.
All other species and hunting restrictions are in place,

“The reason we must be able to exceed a single limit is that,
given a legal limit of six ducks, if a hunter shot four ducks
during the first 15-minute sample period, he or she could only
shoot two ducks the next sample period, so those periods would not
be statistically comparable,” Afton said.

During the early part of the Minnesota study this autumn, during
30 experimental hunts, 63 hunters killed 91 ducks or 1.4 ducks per

At the end of each experimental hunt, researchers collect
biological data from the ducks killed and the hunters are allowed
to keep one legal bag limit. Any ducks killed beyond the legal
limit are taken by the researchers and eventually donated to the
Museum of Natural Science at Louisiana State University.

“A few studies have been done in other states in the last few
years, but we want to know if these decoys increase hunter success
under Minnesota conditions,” Lawrence said. “We’ll provide the
USFWS with the data from our study once it is completed.”

Afton and his team expect to continue the study through
freeze-up or the end of the duck season, Nov. 26, whichever comes

Jerry Davis is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

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