806 Blondes and Spin Class
By Curt Stewart
Before you get too excited, the blonde was actually a leucistic mallard drake, and the spin class was Ira McCauley running a spinning wing decoy powered by an old bicycle. Perhaps you’re feeling a little misled, but we’re glad you’re here. Before we go any further, we’re aware that a leucistic mallard drake isn’t considered “blonde”, but we all know which word gets more clicks.
There’s a lot to unpack here. We’ll start with the drake and move onto the bike later. According to the dictionary, leucism is defined as, “an abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals (such as birds, mammals, and reptiles) that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring and is caused by a genetic mutation which inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in feathers, hair, or skin.” According to Beau Brooks, leucism is defined as “a word you have to google”. Whatever definition you hold true, leucistic birds are rare and worthy of the wall.
At Habitat Flats, Ira McCauley and his crew have come across a few leucistic mallard hens, commonly referred to as “blondes”. On his recent trip to western Washington, Ira encountered his first leucistic mallard drake. A group of three were working the decoys out front and as they turned, Beau spotted a flash of white on the wing of one duck. The birds locked up and Ira dropped the one with the white wing. Low and behold, this mallard was silver. The head was your standard green, but the body had almost no pigment. Where the wings should be blue, they were a smokey gray. It was a very cool bird and one Ira proudly loaded into the Yeti cooler and brought home to Missouri.
Bagging a silver mallard drake is cool enough, but the decoy rig they used to bring him in is worthy of its own tale. This West Coast blind along the Columbia River housed an old bicycle that had been converted into a motion decoy. A braided cord ran across the wheel and led to a spinning wing in the middle of the spread. They’re commonly called “Sauvie Island spinners” named after the premiere hunting destination in Oregon where they can be found in many blinds. Electronic decoys are illegal in the state, so hunters did what they always do. Adapt.
Ira led his own spin class, and his winged students were happy to follow his lead right into the decoys. This Schwinn-like contraption was mounted so that it could be cranked by hand, and you’d have thought the cord was attached to the ducks themselves. Beau harped on Ira to “spin, spin” like a drill sergeant, and spin he did. It turned out to be a great sunny day hunt in an area where you normally can’t talk a bird into the decoys without clouds and rain.
WHAT WE USED ON THE HUNT
- 1 dozen Apex Canada Geese
- 2 dozen Magnum Mallards
- 1 Sauvie Island Spinner
- Beau – Power Calls Ignition, Frequency AA and Static Whistle
- Brook – Power Calls Ignition and Prototype