They don’t call it the “November Doldrums” in the Central Valley of California for nothing. It’s chilly in the mornings, hot in the afternoons, and there’s no shortage of mosquitos buzzing around as you sit and stare blankly at an empty sky. Throughout most of November in the Central Valley, duck hunters will keep themselves busy by scouting new locations, making last-minute adjustments on the duck boat before things take off in December and January, or spending those last couple weekends with family before you take up residency in the blind for the next two month. The only thing that can make November worse (yes it can get worse) is having issues, or failures, with your electronic motion decoys just before the season is set to get rolling.
Let’s back up a bit. When I was just getting into waterfowl hunting, I didn’t have a ton of money to invest in my decoys. I made the decision early on, that instead of buying cheap decoys I was only going to buy solid products when my bank account permitted. I researched, and researched, and researched, and then researched some more, in regard to the best electronic motion decoys that would fit my budget. I finally decided that out of all of the options available on the market, I was going to go with Higdon Decoys. I had a few friends who were running them, and they all spoke very highly of the quality and even more so around the quality of customer service they were provided. That feedback is what sold me.
I purchased my first motion decoy a little over a year ago, the Higdon XS Pulsator Drake. Throughout the past year, I’ve used that decoy in every waterfowl hunting scenario possible. Whether in saltwater, freshwater, marsh, rice fields, sunshine, pouring rain, wind and ice, and the Higdon XS Pulsator Drake never missed a beat! Fast charging, easy to use, and it lasts roughly 10 hours on a single charge. It’s the perfect amount of motion to not flair birds and give them the confidence to work right into the shooting window, 15 yards and feet down! This season I decided to add another motion decoy to the spread, the Higdon XS Crazy Kicker. Opening weekend, I ran both decoys all day and had an amazing shoot! The birds loved the motion, the assortment of other Higdon Floating Decoys, and perhaps most importantly what the pond had to offer.
Fast forward to the fifth week of the season, the doldrums of November. Woke up early for a hunt with Hunt Bums founder, Casey Hartwell, reservation #28 at one of the Sacramento Valley’s largest refuges, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. We had the reservation, we had the equipment, and we had the spot picked out, now we just needed the birds! Setting out decoys in the pitch black with only a small headlamp to find your way can sometimes be a bit of a task in itself. The last thing you want to worry about is a malfunction on one of your electronic motion decoys. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Fully charged, ready to rock Higdon XS Pulsator plugged in and placed in the spread if you will……the cherry on top. One buzz prime of the pump under the decoy and then nothing. A quick check of the unit confirmed that everything was plugged in and correct. With no tools, 10 minutes before shoot time, and no idea what could be wrong we opted to put in the Jet Sled and leave it be.
When I got home, I did what everyone does, for the most part, I unpacked and set everything out to dry. Thinking about what could have gone bad I started in on the breakdown of the decoy to test the individual components, per Higdon’s FAQ and “How To”. Power, ground, and a small lithium battery helped confirm that the pump itself was good to go and working as it should. Time to dig into the rest of the decoy. Four screws and outcomes the decoy’s little black box. Inside the box are the battery pack, the timer, and the associated wires and plugs. When I opened it up it was obvious that the box had leaked and filled with water and shorted out and corroded all of the items in the box.
Knowing that my decoy was over a year old and Bass Pro would not do an exchange for me, the search was on! I spent countless hours researching lithium-ion batteries and looking for a suitable replacement that I could obtain quickly. Because of COVID-19, I was finding that nothing was available and there was nothing else out there that would not only fit in the once watertight box but also not sacrifice run time. I finally caved and called Higdon, with the thought that maybe they can sell me the components directly. For those of you that don’t know, Higdon will repair and refresh ANY of their motorized decoys for $40.00. The form can be found on their website www.higdondecoys.com .
When I called directly to Higdon, I spoke with Zain, I explained what had happened, and what I found, and from there asked if these were components that I could purchase separately since the decoy was out of warranty. Zain asked me to send an email with some photos of what I had and what the items looked like so that they could see the aftermath. After he provided me with his email to forward over this information, he asked me to include my name and mailing address, and phone number so that he could send out replacement parts. I asked him what I owed him for the shipping and parts, much to my surprise the answer was, “Nothing, you don’t owe us a dime. We are going to warranty out these parts for you at no cost.” A bit shocked by the response I received I attempted to persuade Zain to let me pay for the replacement parts. “Surely you would like something for these as my decoy is over a year old and out of the warranty?” His simple response was, “Nope, sir you don’t owe us a dime. You had an issue with something we provided indirectly to you and we need to make it right. We will not be asking for any type of payment for the parts or shipping.” I thanked him and provided him with the information he asked for and disconnected the phone.
A lot of times we have fellow hunters that ask why we pay the premium price for our motion decoys? If you think about it, it’s a fair question. I’m paying $150+ dollars for an item that I’m going to throw into the water, the dog is going to swim over, it’s going to get dropped, tossed in a Jet Sled, and sometimes even submerged by accident. The likelihood of there being an issue is pretty high due to the nature of use. The difference though is how a problem is handled when it does arise. Subpar decoys are typically made by subpar companies. A lot of times if you can even get someone on a phone the service in most cases as I have experienced is also, subpar. That’s not the case for Higdon Decoys. I paid a premium for my motion decoys if you even call it that at $150.00 for a robotic duck butt that squirts or splashes water, but really I paid the price for the service that I experienced and will continue to support Zain and the rest of the crew at Higdon Decoys any way I can.
Zain, if you ever read this know that you created an experience that has made a lifelong customer!