Duck decoy (model)

A duck decoy (or decoy duck) is a man-made object resembling a real duck. Duck decoys are sometimes used in waterfowl hunting to attract real ducks.

Goose by Bob Biddle
Black duck by Cigar Daisey

Duck decoys were historically carved from wood, often Atlantic white cedar wood on the east coast of the US from Maine to South Carolina,[1] or cork. Modern ones may also be made of canvas and plastic. They are usually painted, often elaborately and very accurately, to resemble various kinds of waterfowl.


Ever since Joel Barber, the first-known decoy collector, started in 1918, decoys have become increasingly viewed as an important form of North American folk art. Barber's book Wild Fowl Decoys, was the first book on decoys as collectible objects. It was followed in 1965 by folk art dealer Adele Earnest's The Art of the Decoy and American Bird Decoys by collector William F. Mackey.

Mackey made many trips to Chincoteague Island for the great flounder fishing as well as hunting for Chincoteague decoys. On his trips to the island he called Snug Harbor Marina home. He would send out locals to search for great finds of Chincoteague history. Cigar Daisey was one of the local Chincoteaguers that would help Mackey find all the best decoys that made his collection world-famous.[peacock term] Cigar has told many stories of the many truck loads of decoys he rounded up for his good friend.

By that time a milestone in collecting had already occurred with the publication of Decoy Collectors Guide, a small magazine created by hobbyists Hal & Barbara Sorenson of Burlington, Iowa. The 'Guide' helped foster a sense of community and provided a forum for collectors to share their research.

By the 1970s decoys were becoming big business, at least by previous standards. The death of Wm. F. Mackey brought his decoys to market in a series of auctions in 1973 and 1974, with the star of his collection, a long-billed curlew by Wm. 'Bill' Bowman selling for a record US$10,500.

Since the 1960s numerous collectors organizations have been created, specialist books and magazines published, with specialist dealers, and special interest shows around the US and Canada. Canadian decoys are still believed to be the "sleepers" in the world of decoy popularity and are often undervalued but are starting to gain recognition.

The current world record price for an antique duck decoy at auction is a red-breasted merganser hen by Lothrop Holmes for $856,000. Guyette & Deeter[2] and Christie's New York. January 2007.[3]

The first million dollar price was achieved when two decoys (Canada goose and a preening pintail drake) by A. Elmer Crowell of East Harwich, MA were said to have sold for US$1.13 million each in a private sale, in September 2007. The record-setting decoys were sold in a larger collection of 31 decoys for $7.5 million in total so it remains for a single decoy to clearly break the $1 million mark.[4]

Vintage factory decoysEdit

Mason's Decoy FactoryEdit

The most famous of all factory-made decoys are Mason's which operated in Detroit, Michigan, from 1896 to 1924. Produced decoys in the same style as Peterson and Dodge. Produced five grades of decoys:

  • Premier Grade - two-piece, hollow body, flat bottoms, glass eyes, swirl paint on breast, notch carved bill, carved nostrils, carved nail.
  • Challenge - both one piece solid and two-piece hollow bodies, flat bottoms, glass eyes, less elaborate paint on breast, no notch carved bill, lesser carved nostrils, painted black nail.
  • Standard #1 or "Detroit"(glass eye) - smaller in stature, less carving, more paint detail, glass eyes.
  • Standard #2 (tack eye) - smaller in stature, less carving, somewhat less paint detail, tack eyes.
  • Standard #3 (painted eye) - smaller in stature, less carving, even less paint detail, painted eyes.

Other decoysEdit

  • Peterson Decoy Factory – Began in 1873 by George Peterson in Detroit, Michigan. Sold factory to Jasper Dodge in 1883.
  • J.N. Dodge – Jasper N. Dodge (1829–1909) began his decoy production c. 1883 after purchasing the George Peterson Decoy Factory. Production ceased in 1905 and closed permanently in 1908.
  • William E. Pratt Manufacturing Co. – Established in 1893 in Joliet, Illinois, did not begin to produce decoys until 1921. Eventually bought out by the Animal Trap Company of America which became Victor.
  • J.W. Reynolds Decoy Company – Established in Chicago, Illinois
  • Swisher & Soule – Established in Decatur, Illinois.
  • Hays – Established in Jefferson City, MO.
  • H.A. Stevens – Harvey A. Stevens (d. 1894) began this factory in Weedsport, New York from 1880 to 1902. Harvey had several brothers that helped out at the shop, but George was the only one that would carve and paint decoys under his own label. So, the two brothers made commercial decoys and they made them during two time periods. First, the tackeye decoy made between 1870 and about 1890 and then the improved glasseye decoy made thereafter until George retired in the early 1900s. The Stevens brothers made two models, the standard decoy and the sleeper "humpback" decoy.
  • Evans Factory – Walter Evans (1872–1948) was a large scale producer of fine hollow body duck decoys in Ladysmith, Wisconsin from the 1921 to 1932. Similar in appearance to the Mason Factory decoy.
  • G&H Decoys, Inc. – Began in 1934 one year after the federal government in the United States ended the practice of live birds being used as decoys in the practice of hunting. Their original 'Henryettan' design is still manufactured today in their facility and home office just north of Henryetta, Oklahoma.
  • Wildfowler Decoys, Inc – Began in 1939, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. In 1957 the company had a tragic fire that destroyed the building and most of its contents, the company was sold and moved to Quogue, New York. The company was bought by Charlie Birdsall in 1961, and moved to Point Pleasant, New Jersey. It was subsequently relocated into Babylon, New York in the mid-1970s. Occasionally, Wildfowler were contracted to produce decoys for the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.[5]
  • Herter's Inc – Popular sporting goods catalog company founded by George Leonard Herter in Waseca, Minnesota from the 1930s through 1970s.
  • L.L. Bean – Sporting goods mail order company based out of Freeport, Maine produced factory decoys for a few years.
  • Peterborough Canoe Company – Famed canoe manufacturer out of Peterborough, Ontario known to make solid body decoys during 'lean' canoe production seasons."
  • Mintz Decoys—Family owned business based out of Boise, Idaho and founded by master carver Don Mintz that pioneered the process of full body flocking on decoys, which creates a three-dimensional illusion and virtually eliminates all glare from the sun. Said to be far superior to regular, factory-produced decoys.
  • General Fibre Company - Began mass production of the Ariduk brand of fibre duck decoys in 1946. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, the manufacturer produced mallards, pin tails, blue bills, black ducks, canvas backs, oversized mallards, and oversized black ducks. The company also produced goose decoys and crow shooter's kits.

Museums and collectionsEdit


Collectors associationsEdit

  • Canadian Decoy & Outdoor Collectables Association.[23]
  • East Coast Decoy Collectors Association (Maryland and Virginia area)[citation needed]
  • Long Island Decoy Collectors Association[24]
  • Midwest Decoy Collectors Association[25]
  • Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association[26]
  • New Jersey Decoy Collectors Association[27]
  • Northwest Decoy Collectors Association[citation needed]
  • Ohio Decoy Collectors and Carvers Association[28]
  • Potomac Decoy Collectors Association[citation needed]
  • Thousand Island Decoy Collectors Association[29]


  1. ^ Ward, Daniel (1989). "Commercial Utilization of Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides, Cuppressaceae)". Economic Botany. 43 (3): 386–415. doi:10.1007/bf02858736. JSTOR 4255181.
  2. ^ "Guyette and Deeter".
  3. ^ "Bids for the birds - San Diego Union Tribune". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  4. ^ "To tune of $1.13m, decoys are the real thing". The Boston Globe. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  5. ^ Cowan, Richard; LaFountain, Richard. from "Wildfowler Decoys". Decoy Magazine. Jan./Feb. 2001
  6. ^ Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center Retrieved December 5, 2016
  7. ^ Centerville Historical Society. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  8. ^ Charles Perdew Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  10. ^ "Decoys". Shelburne Museum. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  11. ^ Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  12. ^ D'Amico, Diane (January 16, 2017). "Noyes collection moves to Hammonton, for now". The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  13. ^ Peoria Riverfront Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  14. ^ "Upper Bay Museum". Upper Bay Museum. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  15. ^ Wendell Gilley Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  16. ^ Core Sound Decoy Festival. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  17. ^ Easton Waterfowl Festival. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  18. ^ "Calendar of Events" Archived 2009-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  19. ^ Tuckerton Seaport. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  20. ^ Thousand Islands Museum Archived 2009-03-31 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  21. ^ Annual Upper Bay Museum Decoy Show. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  22. ^ Ward Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2012. Archived February 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Canadian Decoy & Outdoor Collectables Association". Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  24. ^ "LIDCA". Archived from the original on 2012-06-25. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  25. ^ "MDCA". Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  26. ^ "MnDCA". Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  27. ^ "NJDCA". 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  28. ^ "ODCCA". ODCCA. 2011-09-08. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  29. ^ Barry Hart. "TIDCA". Retrieved 2012-07-10.


  • Earnest, Adele The Art of the Decoy: American Bird Carvings. Bramhall House, New York, NY
  • Waterfowl Decoys of Southwestern Ontario and the Men Who Made Them (Brisco, Paul 1986)
  • Decoying St. Clair to St. Lawrence (Crandell, Barney 1986)
  • Fleckenstein, Henry A. Jr (1979) Decoys of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Schiffer, Exton, PA ISBN 0-916838-24-2
  • Fleckenstein, Henry A. Jr (1983) New Jersey Decoys. Schiffer, Exton, PA ISBN 0-916838-75-7
  • Starr, George Ross, Jr. (1974) Decoys of The Atlantic Flyway. Winchester, New York, NY ISBN 0-87691-141-6
  • Goldberger, Russ J. and Haid, Alan G. (2003) Mason Decoys-A Complete Pictorial Guide: Expanded Edition. Decoy Magazine, Lewes, DE ISBN 0-9724423-0-8
  • "Frank & Frank Sporting Collectibles October 26, 2008 Catalogt" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 22, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  • Country Home (June 1992 p. 86)