Homemade Motion Decoys: The Jerk Store

Chris JenningsMotion within a decoy spread is nothing new. While old-timer market hunters used lived birds to flap around in front of their blind, the modern-day rules of engagement for waterfowl hunters have drastically changed over the years. The easiest and most practical way to add motion is a jerk string. A few years ago, I hunted with a guy who had an in-depth pulley and wheel jerk string system that shook ten decoys at once. In complete awe, I immediately knew I had to have a jerk string. Being short on cash and overflowing with optimism – I was going to make my own.

I started with a one decoy string. The most basic of jerk strings. I merely tied a bowline knot around the keel, and using about 100 feet of nylon cord, I had my first jerk string. It bobbed and swayed, causing the water to ripple whenever I tugged it. It served its purpose and as I got it caught on every tree limb, bush and underwater brush pile, I quickly realized that if I was going to deal with these headaches, I wanted more movement.

Motion decoy(s)Once again, I went back to my inventive drawing board and as it is with every project I take to the garage – my wife told me I was going to hurt myself. I cut a piece of 1-inch PVC pipe to roughly 36 inches. I say roughly, because as my mastermind plans unfold, there’s no time for proper measuring. I ran the nylon cord through the pipe and tied mallard decoys to each end, allowing about a foot of cord to come out each end. This PVC would keep them separated, maybe. I drilled a hole in the estimated middle of the pipe and tied my 80-foot cord to it. The original 100-foot line has now become 80-foot because of unexpected tangles with other decoys in my collection.

I proceeded to drill another hole in the PVC which provided a place to tie a three-foot piece of cord and a weight. Spray painting the PVC with brown and green to camouflage it, I was set, and extremely pleased with my creation. When wound up tightly it had one 80-foot cord wrapped all the way around it, and a three-foot cord tightly wrapped and secured with a weight and two mallard decoys hanging off each end. It was magnificent. Of course, my wife, always the naysayer, quickly pointed out that realistically, the new creation was an atrocity to modern-day waterfowling and I should be deducted two-birds from every daily bag limit for crossing the lines into insanity.

The first morning I met one of my usual hunting partners at a strip pit where birds had been holding for the last few days. I spoke nothing of my new tool and we marched across a dark corn field towards our blind. We tossed our decoys into the water and just before we sat down, I pulled the new jerk string from the decoy bag. Proudly, I walked out in the decoys and began to unwind the cord. Oh, it was beautiful. Both decoys floated 30 inches apart, the weight took the PVC pipe to the bottom, and my cord reached the blind with feet to spare.

DecoysImmediately it began. The constant bantering of a long-time hunting companion. “Did you really make that? I thought you were trying to run phone cable to the blind. If that doesn’t scare birds away nothing will!”

His verbal attack fell silent when I first twitched my fingers, causing not one, but two decoys to come to life. They splashed water, zigged and zagged as birds circled over head. I knew I had created something special and I bragged to my hunting companion about what I had created.

Being an avid television connoisseur and quick-witted, my good friend immediately looked over at me and calmly said with a straight face, quoting George Costanza of “Seinfeld” fame.

“Hey, the jerk store called, and they are running out of you.”

After the hunt, he continued to mock me with his “jerk store” comments and they became even more consistent as I fought to untangle 80-feet of nylon cord from three dozen random decoys, one dog collar, a gun case and a dogwood sapling.

Needless to say, the “jerk store” as it was named that morning, began spending more and more time in the garage. While ideal under the right conditions, it got caught on everything and if it became unwound during transportation, well, it became a nightmare. My jerk string became the talk of the season, and it has now become the talk of every morning in the blind, every season.

Even when I admit defeat and leave it at home, I still get asked, “Hey, I see the jerk store must be closed this morning.”

New for the 2009-2010 season is my homemade timber Jerk String, still unproven, but I’m enthusiastic. Anyone else have any homemade waterfowl hunting tools this season?

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5 Responses to “Homemade Motion Decoys: The Jerk Store”


  1. 1 sford September 23, 2009 at 2:22 am

    the most effective jerk string is to stick a short pole or rod in the water. attach a long bungie cord to the pole and tie your 80ft string to the bungie cord. then ofcourse tie your decoys on the main line going back to your blind. as you pull the string, the bungie cord stretches and retracts, creating a better effect.

  2. 2 Kurt September 25, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    my best home made device would be a active feeding decoy. 1st take a decoy of your choice and un tie the string from the keal. 2nd re tie a loop around the neck of the decoy. take a heavy canoe anchor and feed the string through the loop of the anchor. 3rd drop the anchor in the watter letting the decoy float freely. 4th bring the other end of the sting to the blind and with the right amount of pull the head of the decoy is forced into the watter and the butt of the decoy is left bobbing up and down rippling the water all over. when i first did this i couldnt believe how realistic this was. if someone didnt know it was a decoy the motion it creates would make them think it was real. some decoys have a balance issue and will work with out un doing the string from the keal.

  3. 3 Denis Daoust September 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I would loved to have succeded with the jerk string, on quiet mornings it would have helped with those circling mallards, saddly the same things happen every time “tangle, knots and frustrations.

    A loose floor board on the blind works well and has drawn many ducks to the beaver pond.

  4. 4 Mark Couch September 27, 2009 at 11:15 am

    The most effective home made tool that I use in my spread works on the same principle as a jerk string but it is different in a new way. I have never seen any tool designed to do what I have made.
    I work on a railroad and have access to MANY heavy things. One day I found a cast iron outlet cap from a tank car and inspiration slapped me in the face. I took the outlet cap home and drilled 2 holes in the top of it. One hole was drilled in the top center and I stuck an eye bolt in and tightened it down. The second hole is drilled off to the side to allow air to escape when I submerge the cap.
    Next, I wrapped 100 feet of tarred trot line string around a short 3 inch wide board with “V’s” cut into both ends. This keeps the line from unwinding in my blind bag and getting tangled up with other gear I carry. I ran one end of this line thru they eye bolt and tied a heavy duty brass clip onto the end of the line.
    When I get to my hunting spot I hold onto the brass clip and let the outlet cap sink to the bottom of the pond then I connect the brass clip to the front end of the weighted keel of a Pintail decoy and head for the blind.
    When the birds start coming in I can give the line a pull and the decoy will tip up and start “feeding”. When I let go it sets right back down and floats like normal.
    Another variation I can use for this set up is to take 2 decoys and tie 10 inch drop lines to the front ends of the keels. I tied snap swivels to the ends of the drop lines.
    Next I took an old carbon arrow and drilled small holes on each end and one in the center. I ran a 3 inch drop line thru the center hole and tied on an old key ring. Now I can attach the 2 decoys to this arrow using the snap swivels going thru the holes I drilled on the ends and attach my main jerk line to the center drop line and make 2 decoys feed with one line! Ain’t garage technology great?
    This whole set up cost me around $5 at the local major discount retailer.

  5. 5 matthew carey September 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    a different take on things. went out and found the smallest, cheapest bilge pump i could find. about 20 bucks. screwed it to the keel of a standard size decoy. ran the positive and negative wires from the pump up and through the back of the deek under the tail. put a little rubber sealant to seal the hole. cut into the back of the deek, just a flap big enough to fit a disposable 6 volt battery in the back. attached the wires. most bilge pumps come with a short hose for the outlet of the pump. ran it up to the underside of the tail of the deek. attached it under the tail. just sticks out of the water a little. creating a little fountain of water. looks like a duck splashing in the water and propels it around. about a thirty dollar set back. could get about ten or twelve hours out of it. batteries are cheap. proven itself time and time again. and no tangles.


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