Spinning-wing rules nearing an end?
St. Paul — When spinning-wing decoys broke onto the duck-hunting scene, the reaction was swift and similar to what occurred with the advent of fish finders.
Some hunters lauded them. Others predicted they would help everyone shoot a limit. Some states allowed unfettered use. Others called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take the lead in regulating them.
“I haven’t had a single comment in five years on spinning-wing decoys,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.
Said Brad Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association: “Frankly, I don’t think you hear a lot about them because everyone is using them.”
Well, not at the moment, they’re not. Minnesota for years has restricted the early-season use of motorized decoys. This year, hunters can’t use them until Oct. 7, and they’re never allowed on water bodies or lands fully within state wildlife management areas.
But liberalizing the regulations is a concept the DNR is likely to consider as early as next year.
“Overall, we would like to see them liberalized a little bit more,” Nylin said.
While it’s clear that hunters who use spinning-wing decoys shoot more ducks, it doesn’t mean they’ll always shoot a limit, Cordts said. And it isn’t entirely clear whether it actually adds ducks to the overall bag, or simply redistributes the harvest.
But as far as Nylin is concerned, the positives outweigh the negatives.
He’s not experienced much success with them on species such as teal and wood ducks, but says they’re especially effective at drawing mallards closer, which, in turn, can help hunters determine what’s a drake and what’s a hen.
“If the birds are receptive to a motorized decoy, you are going to have a much more quality hunt,” Nylin said. “As far as quantity, I’m not so sure.”
In Minnesota and elsewhere, regulations governing spinning-wing decoys largely have remained the same for years, Cordts said.
And it’s been up to the states to regulate their use, since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so far has resisted some states’ efforts to have it take the regulation lead.
“The thinking was that maybe the Service should be the one to restrict them,” Cordts said. “But if they were ever going to do that, it already would have happened.”
Part of the reason there’s been little effort to restrict their use is because the fear some had that the technology would continue to improve their performance and lead to huge numbers of dead ducks hasn’t been realized.
“Maybe they work better mechanically now, but it’s still just a plastic duck on a stick with a motor that spins its wings,” Cordts said.
In addition to potentially changing the regulations that govern spinning-wing decoys, the DNR may also consider changes to another: The 4 p.m. closure, which, like the motorized decoy restriction, is in place this year from the opener through Oct. 6.
There’s been a regulation like that since the early 1970s, and “we have continued that every year, but it’s not well supported by hunters,” Cordts said.
While the DNR instituted major duck-regulation changes before last year’s season – and revised them again this year – it opted to hold off on changing the afternoon shooting hours.
Instead, agency officials will first gather a couple years’ worth of data on the effect of the reg changes – which, among others, included increases to the wood duck and hen mallard limits – before considering more.