Pretenders to the Perch
The latest bird decoys deviously deceive with lifelike movements and a more realistic overall appearance.
By Gibbs Milliken
Birds have excellent eyesight and instantly recognize the forms, colors and movements of their own kind and that of their enemies. The poses and natural orientation of species-specific decoys are key attraction elements. Many birds react quickly to threats like the presence of an owl, hawk or crow in their territory, which often brings in several individuals to scold and harass the intruder. Hunters and photographers take advantage of this response with the agitated birds fearlessly approaching within easy range of their blinds.
When attracting waterfowl like ducks, the correct location, size and configuration of the display is critical. The set can be made more seductive by having at least one that hovers above the others with wings in motion as if about to settle. One example of this type is the Mojo Mallard Drake, which is suspended in midair by a steel tube and has battery-powered, rotating wings. Another touch of motor-activated realism is the Head-scratching Wobbling Mallard, a wobbling decoy that has one raised foot in motion as it floats on the water or rests on the bank. And finally, some duck decoy setups are connected by a string system that allows the hunter to put the entire raft into motion with a tug of the cord. These innovations, plus the convincing use of the duck call, should bring in the spookiest of birds. (Mallard Drake, $149, battery, charger and 4-foot stand included. Mojo Outdoors, (318) 283-7777, <www.mojomallard.com> (Head-Scratching Wobbling Mallard, $79.95, Ure-a-Duck Decoys, (252) 524-3393, <www.ureaduck.com>.)
With geese, a larger number of decoys are necessary to present a persuasive spread. It is ideal to have at least several dozen in the field. A new lightweight design by Sillosocks packs flat and is easy to transport. It has a silhouette head and neck combined with a full body appearance and directional movement that allows the bird to shift like a windsock around a single spike support. Once positioned and fluffed up, this decoy’s unique support system maintains a full body look with or without wind. (Snow Goose, $59 per dozen, Sillosocks Decoys, (402) 614-6237, <www.sillosocks.com>.)
Some of the most effective decoys are for wild turkeys. A realistic hen or jake can bring in a dominant tom from a great distance with the proper calling. Add some gusty winds, and you can expect a close approach. The Bobb’n Head LifeLite Turkey Hen has a spring mounting system for a natural left/right motion that is wind-generated, plus the head bobs like a feeding bird. Also available is the LifeLite Turkey Jake. This young male turkey comes with an expander mounting mechanism, height adjustment for deeper foliage and detailed, hand-painted iridescent body colors.The mount is controlled with 45-degree left and right movement in the wind, but will not spin in an unnatural action. (Bobb’n Head Hen, $24.95, #BW80A or LifeLite Jake #BW82, Buck Wing Products, (800) 555-9908, <www. buckwing.com>.)
Dove decoys strategically placed on bare tree limbs and fence lines near feeding or watering holes add just the right touch to bring in the birds. Some of the best are the Happy Hooker Dove decoys that come in a set of four with different body positions. They have an ingenious mounting system allowing them to be lifted into high places on the end of a pole. Add a 3-D Flapper Dove flying suspended in midair by a length of clear monofilament and the realism is complete. (Set of four mourning doves, $49.95, Flapper Dove, $59.95, requires two AA batteries, Ure-a-Duck Decoys.)
Decoys are believable to birds only when the decoys appear in the correct habitat and there is variety in presentation. It does not take long for birds to sense that an owl sitting atop the same post day after day is a dummy. In fact, it is not uncommon to observe seagulls along coastal wharfs using the head of such an owl for a handy perch.