Jim Matthews on the moto issue

spectr17

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ELECTRONIC DECOYS UNDER ATTACK -- matthews column 15aug01

Spinning-wing decoys may be partially banned in California.

Washington state banned the use of spinning-wing style waterfowl decoys when it set waterfowl hunting regulations Aug. 4, even though more than two-thirds of hunters were in favor of keeping the decoys legal. Idaho, siding with the vast majority of hunters in that state, decided to continue to allow the decoys for this hunting season. And California? The state Fish and Game Commission will accept written comments and hear testimony from the public through the August 24 meeting in Santa Barbara before making a final decision on the issue, but the Department of Fish and Game is recommending that mechanically-operated spinning wing decoys be banned from the beginning of the season through December 1. Spinning-wing decoys were designed to represent the flapping wing movement of a duck either landing on the water or rearing up and flapping its wings. The flashing of the decoys could be seen from great distance and attracts birds from great distances. Some have even reported that the spinning-wing decoys have a mesmerizing affect on the birds and they are mysteriously drawn to the decoys.

California, unlike other states, actually conducted surveys, one small scientific study, and did an analysis of harvest data on both locally produced mallards and all waterfowl using the state during the season in making its decision, said DFG biologist Cliff Feldheim. Feldheim said the DFG recommendation is for a two-year period to allow the DFG to continue to gather data both on early-season hunting when many of the birds taken are locally reared mallards. By allowing the spinning-wing decoys during the later part of the season, the DFG could also gauge the impact the decoys might have on overall harvest by comparing the two periods. Banded bird data showed that during the last two seasons, harvest on locally-reared mallards has increased 35 percent, and the local mallard population declined by 40 percent over the same period. Feldheim said it was impossible to make the direct link between the use of spinning wing decoys, increased harvest, and the mallard decline because there are so many other variables involved.

A limited study done on duck clubs by John Eadie showed that spinning-wing decoys make it six times more likely a mallard would be shot by hunters, and DFG surveys at both public and private hunting areas show that hunters feel they are more effective with the spinning-wing decoys. “They shot one more bird per hunter -- on average -- in a sample of 1,200 visits,” said Feldheim of the survey. “If you use one of these decoys, you’re going to shoot more birds.” Feldheim said the agency didn’t “have a problem with the total duck harvest, just with the local mallard harvest.”

The problem with suggesting that we ban spinning wing decoys half the season is that hunters who shoot the most local mallards -- private duck club hunters in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys -- are the ones least likely to be affected by the change. It is the public ground hunter who will see his annual duck harvest drop by a few birds because he doesn’t have the slight advantage the spinning-wing decoys add to his spread. The Southern California hunter, who spends most of his time at the Salton Sea or hoping to get drawn for San Jacinto, doesn’t shoot many mallards, local or otherwise, and this regulation discriminates against him.

In the Grassland area of central California, duck club owners were polled and 73 percent reported shooting more than 30 ducks a season. The statewide average is just 12 birds per waterfowl hunter per season. There’s no question the private club hunters shoot more birds than public land hunters. Feldheim said that in the DFG’s California surveys, 85 percent of those surveyed said they would rather see restrictions on mechanical decoys rather than reductions in bag limit and/or season length. That might be true statewide, especially if you ask private club hunters. But they sure didn’t survey me, and no one took into consideration the interests of Southern California hunters. I’d much rather see a two-bird mallard limit until December 1 and not lose the use of moving-wing decoys.

There’s an even better alternative. If the real concern is local mallard harvest early in the season, why not go to a mallard punch card before December 1, setting a limit on the number of mallards a guy could shoot before that date. With most hunters shooting on either public areas or private clubs where check-out is required so harvest information can be recorded, it would be easy to use a punch card. This wouldn’t change the overall limit or the season length. It wouldn’t ban the use of anything. It would be fair and based on biology and concern over resident mallards, rather than speculation that a style of hunting might be having an impact.

Banning a spinning-wing decoy, without any real evidence it is the root of a problem, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This is a real slippery slope. A former DFG director “Void” Gibbons wanted to ban use of dogs for bear hunting but didn’t see the hypocrisy in the fact he used dogs for his bird hunting. Yes, there are subtle differences, but do you think the non-hunting public sees this? They would say, “Why not ban all dogs?” In fact, there was legislation proposed that would have done just that before it was amended and later killed. Why not ban all decoys? Aren’t they all unfair? Let’s don’t take this road.

This all comes at a time when it appeared that waterfowl hunting was on the upswing -- thanks to improved bird numbers and moving decoys that allowed even a novice to be more successful. New hunters were coming to the sport and old timers were coming back. Our ranks were growing again for the first time in over a decade. Now it seems like the state game agency is aligned with the anti-hunting forces in working to slowly but surely eliminate the sport. It will happen through attrition if no other reason. Each time we adopt another stupid regulation that isn’t based on science, we run people from this grand, old tradition. Needlessly.

Sportsmen can comment on the spinning-wing controversy by sending letters to John Duffy, Fish and Game Commission, 1416 Ninth Street, Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090, via e-mail at jduffy@dfg.ca.gov, or verbally by attending the Aug. 24 Commission meeting at the Santa Barbara City Hall Council Chambers, 735 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara. Written comments should be made by Friday this week, but must be received prior to Aug. 24.
 

Duck Fan

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Thanks for this post...and his perspective.  I do not hunt with a moto and I think some of his suggestions would have been worth trying before a ban.  But, I believe it is all too late at this point given the comments we have seen so far and the proposals.

Having grown up hunting at Wister, I can't remember any days where greenheads were "the bird of the day".  I do remember teal and pintail hunts that were amazing.  As a matter of fact, I NEVER shot a mallard at Wister and that is after hunting there from age 10 until my early 20's.  So the "local" mallard population never showed up there as far as I could tell.

Thanks again for the post.

(Edited by Duck Fan at 7:24 pm on Aug. 15, 2001)
 

E A Hunt

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Grand, Old tradition is right. Teaching your kid or a new hunter the grand, old tradition is what it's about.
Not how to put the batteries in and flip the switch.

No real evidence ?????? What more do you need. Mallard population down 40%
mallard kill up 35%.  Was it that a bunch of us just turned into great hunters or was it the flip of a switch ?
When did  all become about how many we kill. I'd love to say I killed 7 mallards every time out but not if it was a machine that did most the work for me.
I case you wern't watching spinners attract all ducks so whinning about being a So cal hunter being discriminated against is just whinning.

The use of dog's to run a bear up a tree and hold it ther till you show up and kill it is apples and oranges when compaird to useing a dog to find a dead or crippled bird.

Let the "new commers" go. If they can't do it without learning the "grand" and "old tradition" way than I say adios. I for one do not want to share a blind with someone who can't sit still if he's not killing right here right now. Go play duck hunting video games if thats what your about.

You sound bitter about the lose of your crutch and the place you hunt. If So cal is that tough then move. I did. From L.A. to S.F. I want to be even closer to the prime hunting so now it's S.F. to Redding

Adapt.learn and use it to better your next time out. Thats Tradition

I do agree that there were other options. If Mallards were the only concern than the punch card idea would have worked.

Thanks for the post Jesse even though to me it sounds a bit like Mr. Matthews is more concerned about how many he kills and not all too concerned about the long term effects on waterfowl.
 

Greenhead

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That's the first hunter I've heard or seen that was ready to give up birds in the bag over giving up his moto.

Since they don't shoot mallards in SoCal, and the moto ban is all about helping the mallards out, what's the beef?
 

Jay

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A limit on mallards won't affect them since they don't shoot many. So they'd rather have their moto and let the northern hunters take the hit with a lower mallard limit.

I say stop sending them our water.
 

Greenhead

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I agree, Jay. And I also say if your a died-in-the-wool duck hunter, SoCal ain't the best place to take up residence.
 

spectr17

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There are a few mallard holes down here, you'll never get me to say where. One of them was at Wister until they turned it into a goose feeding area. One day when I first started hunting down there I was waiting to backfill a decent pond. An old timer heard me moanng about not being able to shoot mallards. He told me of the area and I thought, yeah right.

He wasn't kidding and we whacked mallards every trip down there in that area. After awhile, some of the regulars caught on and I had to wait some days to get into the area.

I've never used a moto, but several years ago I got one of the flapper mallards, Wonder Duck I think they call it. I've used trolling motors and jerk cords to get some movement in my dekes since Wister is like glass 99% of the time. The jerk cords get old and you have to reset it if the deke anchor pops loose. Is my flapper evil?

E.A., on the analogy Jim Matthews uses about bears and dogs and quail. I believe he is referring to using a dog to find game, then point it and hold it until you show up to take a shot. Be it bears, pheasants or quail, the dog is a tool doing the same job on all 3 cases. Gibbons wanting  to ban one but saying the other is noble is flawed logic.

I'm in favor of waiting another year to see what the studies say and then make a sound decision based on the facts.

I'm retreating to put my asbestos undies on.
 

Greenhead

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Jesse- I lived in San Diego (Fallbrook) for 10 years and used to hunt ducks up around Palomar Mountain. All I ever shot were mallards and honkers.

The San Luis River basin is loaded with mallards, but there's no hunting allowed in San Diego County. If there was, I bet I could have shot a limit most anytime. So, when Matthews says no mallards are taken in SoCal, he's wrong.

I also fished tons of farm ponds around Fallbrook and at dawn and dusk the number of mallards that flew in and landed was incredible.

Thanks for your forum--it's a hoot.
 
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