If you’ve been following the waterfowl "Migration Map" on Ducks Unlimited’s website (www.ducks.org), then you’ve noticed that increasingly lower temperatures to the north are beginning to send more and more birds scooting southward. That’s great news because the battle-weary local mallards have become increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to decoy, making this the perfect time to put some proven waterfowl tools, tips, and techniques to the test.
Last year I tried upping my game by giving my dinged, work-worn decoys a makeover with Flambeau Outdoors UVision paints (www.flambeauoutdoors.com). The advertising hype suggested that “their UVision paints exactly match the UV reflectance of live birds.” The intent, of course, is to convince the birds — particularly those that have survived a run-in or two with their death-dealing plastic look-alikes — that they are touching down amongst kin. While I did get more birds to slap down into my spreads, the enhanced dekes still lacked a vital attraction component: visible and water-rippling motion.
Since I primarily jump shoot and layout small decoy spreads on the sloughs and creeks in my hunt area, I cover a lot of ground in a day and, by necessity, I have to pack light. At my age, I don’t have the energy or desire to lug around anything more than half-dozen full-size decoys, my lunch, and camouflage burlap blind. Here’s my dilemma: How can I give my impotent, lifeless decoys some shimmy and shake without adding a heavy, battery-operated Mojo wing spinner to the load on my back?
I’m pleased to report that the answer to that question came my way in the form of a YouTube video entitled: “How to make a Jerk Rig for your Duck Decoys.” In a nutshell, a decoy jerk line is nothing more than a system for attaching three or four decoys to an anchored bungee cord. Give the cord a tug, and the tethered dekes magically begin to slosh back and forth. Believers suggest that it’s this visible motion, along with the rippling wake it produces, that convinces even the most shell-shocked drake circling overhead that his presence is required below.
Although there are any number of variations possible, putting together a basic jerk line rig is simplicity itself.
Here’s a checklist of the items that I used for my particular build:
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- 50 ft. length of dark-colored paracord
- 2’-3’ bungee cord with hook ends
- small canoe anchor
- 3-4 stringer clips (removed from a $2.50 fish stinger)
- a short piece of black PVC pipe to wind the jerk line around
Rather than bore you to tears with a detailed description of how to assemble the components into a live-action jerk rig, I would suggest that you give the YouTube video a look-see. My favorite (as I mentioned above) is titled, “How to make a Jerk Rig for your Duck Decoys,” by Stick Outfitters EP. 25. The hosts, Craig and Shad use an entertaining, easy-to-follow format to show how easy it is to assemble a live-action jerk line of your own.
NOTE: If you don’t have access to a small anchor, a substitute can be fashioned using a foot-long, wooden stake (painted a dark, non-reflective color) with a threaded eye hook. Hook your bungee to the stake and then pound the stake into the opposite bank/shallow bottom at the terminal end of the jerk line. In place of the smaller fishing swivels used in the video, I substituted the larger fishing stringer clips. I found that they are much easier to clip onto the decoys’ keels, particularly when temperatures begin to hover around the zero mark and your fingers are no longer communicating with your brain. You, veteran hunters know what I’m talking about! The beauty of this simple setup is that it can be easily customized to suit your unique needs.
At this point, I’m just beginning to experiment with the jerk line system, but it’s already paying dividends; the greenhead body count is steadily rising. These initial positive results suggest to me that the visible movement of the decoys, coupled with the agitation of the surrounding water were the essential elements missing from my inert plastic Jezebels.
Why don’t you give this system a try, and let me know how it’s working for you? And, if you have any other proven waterfowling tips, tricks, and techniques that you’d like to share with our readers, please drop me a line (and give it a jerk). I’ll be happy to get it into print.