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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
I’ve used all the decoy types described below with considerable success throughout the autumn and winter, and would recommend any of them, so I will focus here on the particular merits of their respective designs.
Despite the popularity of their extensive range of clothing and shooting accessories, Jack Pyke is probably not the first name that comes to mind when shopping for decoys. But that’s set to change, because they now offer a wide variety of types at the very reasonable prices synonymous with the brand.
My pick of the bunch were their flocked full-body crow and magpie decoys, which are available with or without foam wings. Wing kits are available separately too, so you can upgrade any standard decoys you already have.
The wings have just the right balance of stiffness and flexibility to keep them from drooping whilst allowing them to move with the wind, and are generously cut for greater visibility. In the case of the magpie, the white wing tips are very clearly marked but the high position of the slots in the body partially masks the white bars formed by the wing covers. By contrast, on the more-refined, and more expensive, alternative from Riverside Outdoor, the wings are set lower in the body so as to show off the wing-cover bars to full effect. Whether this makes a difference to the magpies is another matter, however.
No tail is provided –or required- for the JP flying magpie decoy, but the crow is appropriately equipped with one. Both crow and magpie are supplied with a stout ground spike, and the crow comes with a wire floater cradle too, but if you want to mount the magpie on a floater you’ll have to buy a separate cradle or make the necessary cut-out in the tail of the decoy yourself.
Whilst the aforementioned flying decoys represent a keenly-priced alternative to equivalent designs from other suppliers, another really useful model is currently unique to Jack Pyke. These are their flocked crow shell decoys. Supplied complete with a ground spike that incorporates a spring to give them a rocking motion, they’re perfect for a quick set-up on a field that’s been recently drilled or spread with muck. The spring position can be adjusted to suit the wind conditions too, which is a nice touch.
FUDs (Fold Up Decoys)
Most portable of all, however, are the crow and magpie versions of the neoprene NRA Fold-Up Decoys (FUDs). These are printed with a photorealistic image of the target species and fold flat around their central sheet-metal support, which also serves as a loop that allows you to hang them, six at a time, from a green plastic carrier dubbed the “FUDslinger” that hooks over your belt or any other convenient strap.
To deploy the FUDs you simply fold the two bottom flaps together, secure them with the support, stake it into the ground, and adjust each decoy into a natural-looking pose. This is possible because the body of the decoy, its head, and in the case of the magpie version its tail too, can be set at a variety of angles to simulate sentry, feeding and resting positions, etc.
The result is that every FUD can be made to look different, giving a degree of naturalism to the pattern that is unique to the design and more than makes up for their 2-dimensional heads and tails. Indeed, perhaps because it doesn’t expect them to be partially flat, the eye is easily deceived into perceiving FUDs as entirely 3-dimensional.
A mixture of rocking shell decoys and FUDs will provide a good combination of variety and movement, but there are some other designs you might consider to give even more life to your decoy array.
The first of these are Expedite’s Edge “Air Crow” decoys. Based on a fairly standard full-body decoy, and available in both plain plastic and flocked versions, Air Crows feature an insert in each side of the body that serves as a bearing for a metal axle on which are mounted a pair of plastic wings with an aerodynamic S-shaped profile, whilst underneath there’s a hole in the breast to take a plastic ground spike with a round cross section. The latter allows the decoy to rotate and turn into the wind, which in turn causes the wings to spin. To my eyes, at least, the effect isn’t particularly lifelike, but crows must see things differently, since the decoys bring them in nicely, once they’ve got a bit of wind in their wings.
You don’t need much of a breeze, about 5 mph, but you can still use them on windless days by fitting them with suitable brackets, available from www.a1decoy.net, and attaching them to the arms of a rotary machine.
My favourite decoys for use on a rotary, however, are Sillosock’s Hypa Flap crows, from www.ukshootwarehouse.com. They may look at bit “Heath Robinson” at first sight, with bodies made from flat pieces of corrugated plastic, wings made from floppy nylon, and the whole lot covered in black velour, but insert the carbon-fibre wing supports, attach them to a rotary, and with only a little fine tuning you’ll have a revolving “flight” of crow decoys that actually flap their wings as they go round.
As with the FUDs, but if anything even more so, they give the impression of being entirely 3-dimensional as they turn, and the overall illusion of realism is extraordinary, fooling crows and people alike.
It’s true that the Hypa Flaps feel a bit delicate, and need a bit of extra care in transit, but they’re also supremely light, and can also be used effectively (as can the Air Crows) on a floater, provided there’s a bit of a breeze. Indeed, in such conditions I often decide to travel light, taking just a pair of Hypa Flaps and a couple of floaters, and have yet to be disappointed.
It probably goes without saying that all the above decoy types are also available in pigeon variants, but to my mind their virtues are best appreciated in the more testing pursuit of wary corvids. The most important thing is to keep varying your tactics and trying out new things!
• Jack Pyke (jackpyke.co.uk); Tel: 01234 740327
Flocked shell crow: £6.50
Flocked full-body crow: £6.95
Flocked full-body crow with wings: £16.95
Crow wing and tail set: £5.95
Flocked magpie: £6.95
Flocked magpie with wings: £14.95
Magpie wing set: £4.75
Flying decoy cradle: £2.25
• Riverside Outdoor (riversideoutdoor.co.uk); Tel: 01204 708930
Flocked magpie with wings: £26.95
• Bushwear tel: 0845 226 0469
• McAvoy Guns Tel: 01257 426129
• Sportsman Gun Centre tel: 01392 354854
Magpie FUDs: approx. £26 for 6
Crow FUDs: approx. £33 for 6
• Edge by Expedite Air Crow (Bushwear.co.uk); Tel: 0845 226 0469
Flocked full-body spinning wings decoy: £19.99
• A1decoy.net; Tel: 01173039227
Edge Air Pro mounting bracket: £5.99 for 2
• Sillosock (UKshootwarehouse.com); 01869 278 946
Hypa Flap Crow: £25 (or £40 for 2)
• John Rothery Wholesale ltd 01730 268011 (trade only) www.bisley-uk.com
SportsPlast Standing Crows and Magpies with legs and support stakes: approx. £9.99 each
Sport Plast Flying Crow with wind directional stake approx. £39.99
Economy Crow with legs & stake approx. £5.49. Also available in flock coated finish with legs & stake approx. £7.99