Hunting Equipment: A better goose trap

Do you remember watching those old Tom and Jerry cartoons? There's one episode in particular when Tom, the cat, builds the perfect mousetrap. It utilizes various household items everything from bowling balls to crossbows and triggers when Jerry, ...

Do you remember watching those old Tom and Jerry cartoons? There's one episode in particular when Tom, the cat, builds the perfect mousetrap. It utilizes various household items everything from bowling balls to crossbows and triggers when Jerry, the mouse, nibbles a tiny slice of orange Swiss cheese tied to a string. Then, some heavy object meant to kill Jerry falls from the sky and flattens Tom.

Hilarious, yes. Practical, no.

Scott Butz, a native of North Dakota, has created his version of the perfect mousetrap, except when his works, anvils don't fall out of the sky: geese do. Butz is the inventor of Reel Wings motion decoys.

Unlike the motorized spinning wing version both adored and despised by countless waterfowlers, his is a bit different in that it actually flies.

Tethered to a securely anchored string, Reel Wing decoys flutter like hovering fowl intent on landing in your decoy spread, and all without batteries.


Early influences

Butz, a former East Grand Forks resident now living in Fargo, was born in Bismarck and lived there until he was 8 years old. He moved to East Grand Forks and lived there until 1989, when he wound up in Fargo. Before becoming a decoy inventor, Butz helped his father, Charles, with his painting business. It was because of his relationship with his dad that Scott got into the hunting business.

"My dad is why I am where I am," he said. "I remember hunting geese with him back when shooting one or two was considered a great day. I owe everything to him."

Charles is part owner of Reel Wings Decoy Co. Inc., and helped get Scott's idea up and running. Scott had to quit the painting business when he realized decoy making would take more work than just as a hobby if he wanted to be serious.

"People have no clue how much work it is," he said.

Butz introduced his decoys in March 2006, but getting the product to that point didn't happen overnight.

A decoy is born

"When you get an idea, it takes a lot of time and effort to get it off the ground," he said. "I tested it for eight or nine years before I finally came up with what we've got today."


There is no doubt that the process of invention is a long one. Butz started with one prototype, which eventually morphed into more than 50 versions. Each design was tested and re-tested as he discovered what worked and what didn't.

"I tried everything imaginable," he said. "Squares, circles, triangles, you name it. And all sorts of different materials: cardboard, pressed cardboard, Styrofoam, corrugated plastic everything."

When Butz finally stumbled upon his current decoy design, he knew he had something special. He decided it was best to seek guidance from a lawyer, who gave Butz a bit of advice.

"He said, 'I don't care if it's your best friend, put it in your closet and don't show it to anyone,'" Butz said, with a chuckle. "I took his advice."

After getting all his ducks in a row, so to speak, Butz brought a video camera with some footage of his decoys in action to Scheels All Sports in Fargo. He showed it to the manager, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"He was blown away," Butz said.

Growing and growing

Everything was rolling along fine when Butz was met with one doozy of a speed bump. Plastic dowels sent out as part of the decoy were breaking, and he was forced to make a drastic decision.


"We had to recall around 20,000 decoys. The wings would break or cup and fall," he said. "We gave refunds to everybody. That's when people saw that we were for real. Customer service is very important to us."

Reel Wings decoys started out in a handful of stores. That number quickly grew to more than 400 across the country; and all without advertising.

"Our marketing stunk," Butz said. "All the growth has been through word of mouth."

That can be a problem, since some customers are pretty tight-lipped.

"Hunters are keeping it a secret," he said. "One outfitter told me, 'I have to admit, I'm a bad customer because I don't tell my clients what it is and that's how it's going to be.'"

Flight advantage

Butz says the reason Reel Wings are so effective compared to other spinning wing decoys is exactly what sets them apart: they fly.

"I'm moving their eyes," Butz said of the geese or ducks, "and that's why they're so deadly. If you use a regular 'roto' duck, the birds are looking right at the decoy and probably right at the hunters hiding behind them. But if you have something in the air, something that draws their attention away from the hunters, that's the ticket, that's what kills geese."


And not only does Butz claim his decoys work better than stationary motorized spinning wing decoys, but it's because of motorized decoys and their use by hunters that his system works even better.

"They abuse the roto duck," Butz said. "You can't abuse mine."

The key, he says, is to have the decoys fly behind the hunters. "If you do what I tell you, it works. That's all there is to it."

Just the beginning

Butz may have started with his Reel Wing decoys, but he hasn't stopped there. The company now makes a variety of products, everything from decoy paint to tent stakes. Butz said he even has a new decoy idea in the works.

"I can't tell you all the details, but it will add some wind-powered ground movement," Butz said. The new decoys, called Easy Wings, will be field tested this fall.

-- On the Web:

For more information on Reel Wings decoys and their products, visit the company's Web site at .


Shoberg is a Herald sports copy editor who writes occasional outdoors stories. Reach him at .

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