A Brief History of Waterfowl Decoys

Waterfowl Hunting is a sport steeped in history and rich tradition, and men have been hunting for waterfowl for centuries, as the sport dates back 2,000 years ago. Hunters and gatherers from centuries back would shoot at geese, ducks, and waterfowl with bows and arrows, but soon discovered that they couldn’t hit the target. These people soon discovered that it made more sense to build some sort of decoy to attract fowl within shooting range. So, someone came up with the ingenious idea to create an ancient version of a duck decoy.

Envision a hunter crouched amidst the tule marsh (a type of grass) of centuries ago. As a flock of geese goes by, he discovers that his arrows don’t fly high enough to hit its prey. After several attempts, the hunter sets his handmade duck decoy, made of wood, cork, into the water, and then a few ducks fly within shooting range.

In the early days of hunting and gathering, natives were able to mock up an antique decoy made of feathers that were woven into the decoy. The decoys of yester-year were carved from either wood or cork, and the waterfowl’s feathers were woven onto the decoy with hemp strings. The hunters were able to paint the decoy’s head and neck for a closer resemblance of a duck or goose.

With a lot of effort and craftsmanship, these hunters were able to fabricate a simplistic, yet realistic decoy, and various types of waterfowl would fly into shallow marsh areas and land within shooting range. At any rate, the replica was good enough to “fool” ducks and geese into believing it was part of the flock.

Today, Native hunters still use tule duck decoys, especially in the Stillwater Marsh area of western Nevada. Located within Nevada’s wetlands, the marshy areas of Stillwater provide excellent grounds for hunting.

Of course the tools of hunting are more sophisticated today, but the concept is basically the same. Hunters use rifles and shotguns to kill their prey instead of bows and arrows, and modern decoys consist of canvas, plastic and paint. Decoys are able to create very good replicas of waterfowl using elaborate painting techniques.

Man’s passion for hunting wildfowl has never changed, but the tools and weapons used to hunt game has evolved, and the art of making decoys has been passed down from generation to generation. New techniques are being used and duck skins from earlier kills are often stretched over the decoys to make them more lifelike.

The Indians in North America are given most of the credit for being the pioneers of duck decoys. The Cree Indians from the Great Lakes area make standing goose decoys from flexible tamarack sticks, while the Chippewa Indians make floating toy decoys, only a few inches in length, from single cattail leaves for their children.

As you can imagine, the world of duck decoys has evolved rapidly, and today’s decoys are ultra-realistic, and include a variety of different types of waterfowl, including, ducks, geese, turkeys, owls, and pheasants.

DOA Decoys has taken full advantage of the waterfowl decoy market by employing some of the best wood decoy carvers in the world, and creating a beautiful line of gunning decoys. They’ve taken on the challenge to create a great line of decoys, and are proud to work with the best artists in the business.

Justin Sieverding has spent most of his life hunting waterfowl in South Dakota and throughout North America. Justin has a true passion and vast experience in everything related to waterfowl hunting including decoy spreads, bird patterns, scouting, and calling.

0 comments