Another flock of grays was lining up on approach to our spread, just as we'd planned.
With a steady but slowing wing beat, these birds were locked in and closing fast at about 100 yards — it looked like they were sold lock, stock,and barrel.
But just as we were about ready to nudge the safeties over, the lead bird started veering and the others quickly followed.
Frantically, I scanned the other members of our party. Both gunners were well covered and holding still, faces buried in the grass.
"What could be wrong?" I whispered. "Why aren't they finishing?"
Our spread of extremely lifelike gadwall decoys had even been brought to life by a respectable breeze.
But the next flock approached and again bailed out at the last minute, a process which would repeat itself again and again as the morning wore on.
Still trying to figure what might be amiss, my skeptical gaze settled on the two other decoys out in the spread: Motorized spinning-wing decoys that turned a steady beat flashing in the sun.
Mike Smith, of Louisiana Marshland Adventures, is always looking for an edge to put more ducks over the decoys for his clients in the marshes of Delacroix and Reggio.
The difficulty is determining what that edge might be on a day to day basis.
“In the marsh, the spinners can be feast or famine, with my best luck coming on bright sunshine days,” the long-time St. Bernard Parish guide said.
Success can also hinge upon knowing when to change things up if the birds aren't adhering to the plan.
“One thing is for certain, if it’s not working for you, pick those spinners up or at least turn them off,” he said.
While acknowledging at times the spinning-wing decoys can be a game changer, Smith reiterated the key is knowing when to pull the decoy from the spread or maybe even leave them at home for the day.
“A lot of times I’ll put it out for the early-morning teal flight to help catch their attention, and then pull it later when grays start working,” he said. “I don’t usually even put spinners out on cloudy or really windy days.”
Smith also noted that he’s been having the most luck with the smaller line of spinning wing decoys, such as the Mojo teal or dove.
With the smaller wings, Smith theorizes that the faster-spinning, but smaller-sized wings, are less apt to spook approaching flocks, and seem to do well in catching the attention of skirting birds, especially teal.
Regardless of which model used, Smith advised to be prepared to tweak your decoy setup as the season wears on.
“I don’t even bother putting the spinners out in late-season,” he said. “They’ve surely wised up to them by late December and into January.”
So spinning-wing decoys can be a great way to give your spread more visibility — just don’t get caught in denial to their potential adverse effects on a given hunt under certain conditions.
For us, bagging the spinners mid-hunt turned out to be the ticket, and allowed us to salvage the morning and put a hefty bag together before the flight was over.
As Smith preaches, never be afraid to take a few minutes to change your setup mid-hunt — it just might save the day by putting more birds over your decoys.