Teal season opens Sept. 15 in Arkansas, and for the first time since 2008, teal hunters on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission-owned wildlife management areas and AGFC-owned lakes will not be allowed to use spinning-wing, or motion decoys to attract teal during the special early hunt or ducks during the special youth waterfowl hunt.
The effectiveness and ethics of using spinning-wing and electronic waterfowl decoys have been debated since they first began drawing ducks to Arkansas decoy spreads in 1999 and 2000. Many hunters would sooner forget their shotgun shells than leave behind their trusty Mojo Duck. Other hunters say these decoys can disrupt their hunt and create a situation where people are competing to see how many electronic gizmos they can put out to bring in the ducks. Research also has shown that juvenile ducks are particularly susceptible to the flashing movement of these decoys, which has led to ethical debates as well.
Spinning-wing decoys were originally banned statewide in Arkansas in 2004. However, after four seasons, the decoys were again legalized. In 2015, after numerous hunter requests and public use surveys, the AGFC again banned the use of spinning-wing decoys, this time only on Bayou Meto WMA and Dave Donaldson Black River WMA. This ban was expanded to all AGFC-owned wildlife management areas the next year. The National Wildlife Refuge System in Arkansas followed suit in 2016 as well, banning the use of motion decoys on federal waterfowl hunting properties.
Some inconsistencies in the regulation remained, however. According to the Code of Regulations, the motorized decoy ban was in effect from the first day of the regular duck hunting season until the last day of the regular duck hunting season. Teal season and one day of the annual Youth Waterfowl Hunt, fell outside of those days. Also, many lakes the AGFC owns are not designated as WMAs, so they were left out of the restriction.
"According to the letter of the law, a person could have used a spinning-wing decoy during these few scenarios, which really added a layer of confusion to the regulation," said Steven Fowler, assistant chief of wildlife management for the AGFC. "We do try to eliminate confusion wherever possible in the regulations, and this is one case where it was best to make the ban cover these additional circumstances. The last thing we want is for people to get a ticket for an honest mistake stemming from a confusing regulation."