The majority of my duck decoying takes place on tidal creeks and rivers where the current of the water creates a natural movement in the decoys, but occasionally I will shoot on marsh floods or inland ponds where there isn’t any movement on the water. This looks incredibly unnatural as the decoys sit stationary on the water. Ducks are forever moving on ponds, feeding and generally swimming around, this creates natural ripples on the water. I use a homemade “jerk rig” to create the same effect. This is a very simple method that I discovered while watching American duck shooting DVDs, which I have recreated and put into practice in the UK.
What is a jerk rig?
A jerk rig is simply a line of decoys, commonly four or five, on a cord that is tied up in the hide on one end and attached to a length of bungee that is staked down in or across the water at the other end. The theory is that when the cord is pulled, the decoys move towards the hide and when pressure is released the bungee retracts, pulling the decoys back into their primary position. This movement creates ripples and the illusion of ducks swimming and dabbling on the water.
It is worth remembering that different jerks, be it long, short, gentle or hard, will create different movements on the water. So experiment to see what suits your situation. It is also necessary to have other decoys in the water to break up the unnatural line of the jerk rig. In the occasion where you can wade out, simply add weighted decoys in a random pattern on the water to make it look as natural as possible.
What do you need to set up a jerk rig?
I didn’t have much information to work from when I started on my first prototype, just footage of the rig in action and the odd instructional video. Nevertheless, I like a challenge and with a rough idea in my head I set about sourcing the materials.
The early jerk rig comprised of:
- 2.5m of 5mm-thick bungee, with a loop tied in each end (I got mine from eBay)
- A motherline (from www.tidepool.co.uk)
- A short wooden stick
- A couple of carabiners
- A dog screw
- A handful of decoys (mine came from www.waterfowlireland.com)
How to set up a jerk rig in water
No two ponds are the same, but there are numerous ways to deploy the jerk rig in the field, making it possible to set it up in a variety of situations.
The easiest by far is where the water is shallow enough to wade out, stake the bungee down on one side and wade across the water, unravelling the motherline to the desired length. Then walk back down the line, attaching the decoys at random intervals. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to do it this way. If the water is too deep or unsuitable to wade through, attach the bungee to the stake as before and then walk around the edge of the water, unravelling plenty of excess line to play with. Attach the decoys to the line from the safety of the bank and then drop them in the water, making sure that the decoys will end up in the correct location and not end up on the bank in front of the hide when the line is pulled tight.
Once all the decoys are attached, go back to the hide and reel in all the extra line until there is tension on the bungee, this will drag the decoys in a line across the water between the anchor point and the dog screw. Reverse the process to retrieve the decoys. Once the decoys are off, disconnect the bungee from the stick and ravel the motherline back onto the reel from the hide.