Motion Decoys: How to use them and pros and cons of various types

If you’ve ever hunted on a bright day with no wind, you’ve probably noticed how “flat” and unnatural duck decoys and the water around them appear. The surface looks like a mirror with plastic figurines placed on top of it (which is kinda what it is). This is where motion decoys come into play.

Type of decoyBiggest StrengthBiggest Wealness
Swimmersmovement w/o overdoing itlimited water disruption
Splasherssignificant water movementseveral moving parts
Flashersseen from long distancestoo flashy for pressured ducks
Jerk Cordsease of packing in/outmanual setup/operation
Motion Decoy pros and cons

What are motion decoys for duck hunting?

Motion decoys are used by duck hunters to imitate the movements and gestures of living ducks in their natural environments. These added movements are intended to add realism to the decoy spread and increase the likelihood ducks will come close enough for the hunters to get a shot at.

Do motion decoys work?

Motion decoys work by adding lifelike movements to a decoy spread. Waterfowl hunters use them to imitate live ducks in their natural environment.

Motion decoys work because they:

  1. Attract attention that ducks can see from long distances
  2. Create movement on the water’s surface
  3. Provide a focal point for circling ducks which helps hunters stay hidden


Which are the best motion decoys?

There’re several categories of motion decoys on the market. In this article, I’ll breakdown them down and discuss the best times to use them.


Swimmer decoys are those that ride on the surface in and around a other duck decoys. They create the illusion of realism by moving their actual location within a spread. Unlike many other types of motion decoys, they show minimal if any movement on the decoy itself.

Most effective way to use swimmers

Swimmers work best in open water situations where they have room to move about. To position them, leave a large “gap” in your spread where you’d like the ducks to try to land. Then place one or two of them directly in the middle so they have maximum room to roam around. They’re designed to give the final “incentive” ducks need to finish vs grabbing their attention from long distances.


  • Ability to add realism without causing too much commotion that can flare call/decoy shy birds
  • Provide a focal point for circling ducks to distract them from spotting hiding hunters


  • Most don’t cause much surface disturbance, so on calm days they’re best used in tandem with other motion decoys that do
  • Because they don’t “flash”, there’re better options for grabbing the attention of ducks from far away

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to have more like it delivered to your inbox


Slashers add life to a decoy spread by disturbing the water’s surface. They often include some type of pump that sprays or pushes water around them. This creates the illusion of ducks actively feeding.

Most effective way to use splashers

Splashers are a great option for shallower water where live ducks do most of their feeding. The best place to position them is along the edges of and within short vegetation. Even though the vegetation may block out the movements when viewed from our eye level, it’s very noticeable from the air.


  • Signal to passing ducks that there’s a safe place to feed
  • Keep the water’s surface from appearing flat and lifeless


  • Can cause too much commotion that can actually flare “educated” birds
  • Most have several moving parts which can make them easier to break and harder to fix
  • Usually more expensive than other options



Flashers grab ducks attention by showing various changes in color. This change in color is created by some part of the decoy spinning or rotating. Flashers give the impression of birds on the water stretching and flapping their wings.

Most effective way to use flashers

Flashers are best used in hunting situations when hunters are trying to attract the attention of high flying ducks. They are best positioned throughout the decoy spread instead of bunching them all together. If your setting decoys up in smaller groups, it’s better to add 1-2 flashers to each group than it is to have them all grouped together.


  • Provide great visibility to high flying ducks
  • Come in small lightweight versions that make it easy for setup and transport


  • Can add too much flash when hunting highly pressured ducks
  • Don’t do much in the way of making movement on the water’s surface

Click on the image below to see Amazon pricing for our favorite flasher decoy:

Subscribe to have the most recent articles and migration updates delivered directly to your inbox

Jerk Cords

Jerk cords are a decoy motion system that physically attaches some type of cord/string to a decoy or group of decoys. Most are hand operated by the hunter. They’re designed to create movement of the decoy itself as well as create disturbance on the water’s surface.

Most effective way to use jerk cords

Jerk cords work best on those days when there’s little to no wind. Their movement creates small waves/ripples on the water’s surface that imitates ducks moving around. They’re best positioned on the outer edges of a decoy spread. This provides a distraction for the birds to focus on, which is important because the arm movement by the hunter to operate the rig needs to be concealed.


  • Less expensive than other options
  • Lightweight and easy to pack in and out


  • Sometimes tricky to set up and take down (especially with cold hands!)
  • Most have to be operated manually. This requires a hand that could otherwise be used to blow a duck call, hold a gun, or eat a snack

Click on the image below to check out Amazon pricing for the jerk cord rig that I prefer:

Subscribe to have the most recent articles and migration updates delivered directly to your inbox

Spinning Wing Decoys

We cover spinning wing decoys in-depth in another article. Click here to see the full guide.


When used correctly, motion decoys for duck hunting can do a great job of adding lifelike movements throughout a decoy spread. It’s important to use the correct type and place them in the best positions for maximum effectiveness.

Did you find this article helpful?

Yes No


Duck-Tracker is a member of Amazon associates and Bass Pro Affiliate Program. In English, this means that if you end up purchasing a product we mention in one of our articles, we might be eligible to earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. This revenue helps us keep the site up and running. Thanks for your support!