Robo Duck ban passes Minnesota Senate committee

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Mar. 05, 2002    

Ban on motorized decoys passes Senate committee.

BY SCOTT THISTLE, Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL -- If Sen. Doug Johnson has his way, Minnesota duck hunters can pull the batteries from their motorized duck decoys.

Devices that carry names like RoboDuk, Perfection Deception, RotoDuck, Widdow Maker, Moto Duck and Mojo Mallard would be banned in Minnesota under a bill that passed a key Senate committee Monday.

Johnson, DFL-Tower, was successful in tacking an amendment that bans battery-powered decoys onto a bill before the Senate's Environment and Agriculture Budget Division. The next stop for the bill is the Senate's full Finance Committee, which Johnson leads.

"Unless we stop this now, we are going to see more and more sophisticated gadgets that take outdoor sports away from people that can't afford it or who want to keep hunting 'hunting' and fishing 'fishing,' '' Johnson said. "We should have done this 10 years ago.''

Concern over the "flapping wing'' decoys, as John- son calls them, prompted a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources study of the devices that will be conducted in the coming duck hunting season, the department's Wildlife Division Manager Tim Bremicker said.

"I call them devices because I tend to think they are not decoys,'' Bremicker said.

Three other states -- California, Pennsylvania and Washington -- have enacted bans or partial bans of the devices, Bremicker said.

In January, Bremicker backed away from asking lawmakers for a law that would put a two-year moratorium on the use of the devices while the DNR does its study. It's still uncertain whether the motorized decoys are actually having a negative effect on duck populations, he said.

The response to a DNR survey of waterfowl hunters in 2000 was mixed, Bremicker said. Some felt a ban would only work if all 14 states in the Mississippi flyway banned the device. The flyway is the corridor along the Mississippi River, stretching from Minnesota to Louisiana, that wild waterfowl migrate through each fall.

Others feel the devices should be banned, and that using them violates fair hunting ethics. Some hunters feel the state shouldn't try to regulate decoys. But most said if biologists could prove the devices were impacting overall populations, they would go along with a ban.

What is certain is that increasing numbers of hunters are using the devices, Bremicker said. The first year the devices were introduced, only 10 percent of Minnesota duck hunters used them. That has risen to close to 40 percent, Bremicker said.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the devices are effective, Bremicker said.

Sen. Charles Berg, R-Chokio, said he watched hunters using the motorized decoys last fall. Berg said he didn't think the hunters were taking more ducks than their legal limit with the devices, but said they had few problems reaching those limits. Hunters that weren't using the devices were getting shut out, Berg said.

"People that were using them were just slaughtering the ducks,'' Berg said.

Johnson's motorized decoy ban is part of a fish and game bill sponsored by Sen. Jane Krentz, DFL-May Township. That bill will go before the full Finance Committee Thursday or Friday, Johnson said.
 

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