State to reconsider electronic waterfowl decoys

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If electronic waterfowl decoys are legal in 47 states, why not Washington?

Virtually all waterfowl hunters and managers agree that adding motion to decoys improves their effectiveness in luring ducks and geese.

For decades if not centuries, hunters have used strings or other non-electronic tricks to make floaters bob and make ripples in the water.

Hunters simulate wing flapping by waving flags in their blinds to get distant waterfowl to zero in on their decoy sets.

Mike Meseberg, a Mar Don Resort waterfowl guide for four decades at Potholes Reservoir south of Moses Lake, says the state is silly to hold out on allowing hunters to add electronic decoys to their bag of tricks.

“It will create more enthusiasm for hunting, be good for stores that sell waterfowling equipment, increase revenue from hunting licenses and make hunters more successful,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

As vice chair of the Waterfowl Advisory Committee to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, Meseberg floated the electronic decoy proposal to the group and got majority support, although it was not unanimous.

He and a Western Washington waterfowl guide petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider reversing the 2002 vote to ban electronic decoys in Washington. The decision will be made in April.

To a novice hunter, having an electronic decoy can make the difference between getting a bird or two and getting skunked, Meseberg said.

“Success is what drives the industry,” he said. “A hunter who succeeds buys more gear, stays at motels, eats at restaurants and keeps hunting.”

He said he’s frustrated by state officials who are reluctant to do simple things that generate revenue.

However, hunters who oppose use of electronic decoys say they don’t want to have to buy electronic gear just to keep up with the hunters in the adjoining marsh.

"I've hunted waterfowl in North Idaho for 30 years, always on public land, and have seen this one device turn a great tradition of decoying ducks into an arms race," said John Nitcy of Sandpoint, by email.

"Last season my 11-year-old son and I were the first hunters in one of our local marshes,'' he said. "We had our traditional, non-mechanical decoys in place before the sun came up and I know from many years of hunting this area that we were in is the best spot. Shortly after shooting hours, several hunters arrived with a spread of traditional decoys and two spinning-wing decoys.

"Our competition limited in several hours while we didn't get another shot. This was a very frustrating for me since I wanted my son to have a quality hunting experience.''

George Orr of Spokane, a former member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, favors mechanized decoys.

"We use compound bows with trigger releases, rifles that will shoot 1,800 yards with optics that make Marine snipers jealous.,'' said Orr. "We use outboard motors, ATVs and 4x4 trucks to get us and our gear there, but a battery-operated decoy is the bane of sportsmanship. Really?

"If 47 states haven't found a biological reason to ban the decoys then lighten up. If you need to protect ducks so much, lower the limit, or shorten the season.''

“Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania are the only states that don’t allow battery-operated decoys,” Meseberg said. “Our seasons and limits are determined by the success of the hatches in the northern nesting grounds. Seasons have nothing to do with harvest levels.

“Adding a few more ducks to a hunter’s bag is good for the sport and the contributions hunters make to wetlands conservation.''