Late-Season Duck Hunting Requires a ‘Jerk’

Motion is a key to late-season waterfowl success, especially on those flat, calm days, but by season's end, ducks are sometimes wise to spinning-wing and splasher decoys

By: Lynn Burkhead,

Duck Decoy Jerk Cord Rigs

Since motion can be so critical to late-season duck hunting success, don’t forget to add a tried-and-true jerk-cord-decoy rig to your arsenal. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Watch Jim Ronquest hunt ducks long enough, either in person in the flooded Arkansas timber or on Sportsman Channel as he hosts another episode of RNT-V, and you’ll notice he doesn’t mind the idea of being a jerk.

Or more specifically, the Stuttgart, Ark., resident doesn’t mind utilizing a tried-and-true old school jerk-cord decoy setup, something that still lures in wise and wary late-season waterfowl after all of these years.

“Yeah, to me, a jerk cord is a lot like using a duck call, you’ve got to have it for success on a lot of days,” said Ronquest, the 2006 world duck calling champion.

While commercial-produced jerk-cord rigs are available, Jimbo builds his own.

“I typically have two to six decoys on a jerk cord, sometimes maybe as many as a dozen,” he said.

“I try to set up a rig like a drake is chasing a hen,” he added. “I don’t think the ducks see that from the air necessarily, but looks good to me.”

Another decoy trick Ronquest adds to the jerk rigs he builds is to avoid the tin-soldier look.

“I’ve found that you don’t always have to use regular decoys because duck-butt decoys make the water move really good,” said the Rich-n-Tone duck call public relations director.

“They look and work good on a jerk-decoy rig, even in deeper water,” he added. “I like putting a few duck butts with a few regular decoys and Tanglefree skimmer decoys for my jerk rigs.”

So important is the jerk-decoy rig that Ronquest will often pick out someone to handle the chore on a flooded timber hunt.

“Yeah, I’ll actually assign someone to handle the jerk cord on a hunt,” he said. “Why? Because I want them to move it really well when the time comes.”

Late-Season Duck Hunting

In addition to using a Rich-n-Tone Mondo duck call to lure in late-season ducks, Jim Ronquest is a big believer in bringing some jerk-decoy motion to flooded timber. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

While most duck hunters shy from movement as the ducks approach, Ronquest says carefully orchestrated movement with a jerk cord is a key component to duck hunting success.

“Yeah, granted, we’re all told that movement in the duck woods is a bad thing,” said Jimbo. “But when ducks are flying real high and we’re trying to break them, I want the water to boil (with the jerk rig).

“I want to be calling hard at them and to have someone hit the jerk cord really hard at the same time,” he added.

“You don’t want to not pull it hard enough with the water just barely rippling.”

When it comes to luring in late-season ducks, timing can often be everything, at least in terms of when a caller throws out a highball and hits the jerk decoy rig string.

“When I’m blowing hard at ducks, I’ll pull my jerk cord really good just before I hit it a lick,” said Ronquest. “I want them to turn at the sound and see the water moving. That’s how you use a jerk cord in conjunction with calling.”

As they close ranks, however, Ronquest says it’s time to back off in terms of both calling and the jerk-cord rig.

“You want to put a little rhyme and rhythm into it all,” he said. “I think the biggest mistake most hunters make is pulling it too hard when ducks are up close and in your face, looking things over.

“When they’re that close, you don’t hit a call as hard as you can and you don’t yank the fire out of the jerk cord when they’re about to land.”

At the end of the day – or the end of the season – Ronquest admits he’d rather leave home without his jerk-rig decoy than without a Rich-n-Tone Original call or Mondo call hanging around his neck.

But just barely.

“Because the duck call business pays my bills, yeah, I’d rather forget the jerk decoy,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “But really, some days (in the late season), that jerk cord is really almost as important.”

So much so that Jim Ronquest doesn’t mind being a jerk – a jerk-cord-decoy operator, that is – deep in the flooded timber of the eastern Arkansas woods.