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Roboducks outlawed in Arkansas

Mechanical decoys center of controversy

Associated Press — Oct. 6, 2004

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Starting next year, duck decoys equipped with lifelike spinning wings that help lure wary waterfowl into shotgun range will be outlawed in Arkansas.

The state Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously Thursday to ban the wildly popular decoys, starting with the 2005-06 waterfowl season. The vote does not affect the upcoming season. The ban includes "electronic, mechanically guided, wind-powered or manually powered spinning blade devices that simulate wing movement."

Known generically as Roboducks, spinning-wing decoys have been controversial since their introduction about seven years ago. They attract ducks and geese by simulating the flapping wings of birds as they land or take off.

Some waterfowlers and biologists have questioned the ethics of using Roboducks, saying their effectiveness rivals that of live decoys and baiting — methods outlawed in the 1930s out of fear duck populations would be decimated.

"I don't think spinning-wing decoys are in the best interest of Arkansas hunters," Game and Fish Commissioner Sheffield Nelson of Little Rock said.

The decoys have become almost standard equipment for many waterfowl hunters, who use one or more in conjunction with standard motionless decoys.

Spinning-wing decoys typically sell for $50 to $200. Former Game and Fish Commissioner Marion McCollum of Stuttgart, the owner of waterfowl gear retailing giant Macks Prairie Wings, has estimated store and catalog sales of spinning-wing decoys at $1 million a year.

Studies in Arkansas and other states have shown that hunters often kill more ducks - and a disproportionate number of juveniles — when using the devices.

In a survey of Arkansas duck hunters conducted in April and May, 51 percent of respondents opposed a ban of Roboduck decoys and 44 percent supported a ban. Five other states have implemented partial or total prohibitions on spinning-wing decoys.

In July, Game and Fish Commission officials unsuccessfully lobbied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the decoys throughout the Mississippi Flyway. Commissioners said Thursday they hope Arkansas prohibition will entice other Mississippi Flyway states to follow the Natural State's lead.

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