Duck Decoy

Duck Decoy (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Duck Decoy (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In Texas, it's very common to have a stock tank on your property if you have a bit of acreage. For the rest of you, you probably refer to this small body of water as a pond or small lake. We simply call it the "tank".

We've used to purchase a few ducklings from Tractor Supply around Easter for the kids when they were younger. As the ducklings grew, we would move them from the secure pen (away from the dogs) and down to the tank where they could fend for themselves. Eventually, something would get them.

For Christmas one year, my parents gave my first husband a duck decoy. I have to admit that it was not a gift we would have ever anticipated. After they explained their logic, it actually made a bit of sense. They thought we'd attract a few wild ducks to the tank if we had a decoy floating around on it. We promptly launched it out on to the tank to see what would happen. It actually worked. Over the years we had quite a few ducks drop in and call it home for a bit.

Duck Decoy Fast Facts

  • The oldest known duck decoys were discovered in Lovelock Cave in Nevada. It had been a shelter for native Americans for over 3000 years until an earthquake closed it off. In 1911, some artifacts were found by some bat guano miners. In 1924, archaeologists found 11 duck decoys that were made from marsh bulrush or tule reed and fancied up with some real duck feathers. It’s estimated that they were constructed around 200 A.D. These decoys are now in the Smithsonian Institute.

  • The most prolific and recognized duck decoy carver in the United States is R. Madison Mitchell (1901-1993). He was from Havre de Grace, MD and began making decoys at the age of 23. It is believed that he produced over 100,000 decoys.
  • Owen J. Gromme is believed to have made the most complex mechanical decoy and it's now on display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, WI.
  • Joel Barber was an architect from New York who is an early collector of decoys. He also promoted them as folk art. He began collecting them in 1918 and organized decoy carving competitions, produced a few of his own and wrote a book about decoys. When he died in 1952 his collection of 400 decoys was donated to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.
  • The current World Record price for an antique duck decoy sold at a public auction is a Red Breasted Merganser Hen by Lothrop Holmes for $856,000 in New York in January 2007. A pair of decoys sold for $1.12 million dollars in a private sale in September 2007. They had been part of a 31 piece decoy collection that sold for $7.5 million.

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8 comments

Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Great words, incidentally learned that there's such a thing as a Guano Miner, that'd make for an interesting resume bullet! Very cool story about attracting the wild ducks with the decoys. By the end I kept thinking about the old decoys my folks found in my great grandpa's attic, I'm pretty sure they sold them, probably for a song too. Also, our first family pet (a collie/german shepherd mut) was named Decoy, so it has a place close to my heart.

Thanks KCC, you Texans are alright in my book.

Ben


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas Author

Maybe one of us should do a hub on Guano miners. LOL What a horrible job, huh? I hope your grandparents got a good price, because from what I read in researching this hub they really do net some good money. Decoy is a great name for a dog! Thanks for stopping by Ben!


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I was a bit shocked and surprised a duck decoy could fetch so much...

But if it is collectible.

Interesting hub.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thank you Springboard. I didn't realize they were that collectible either until I did the research. Amazing, huh?


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

It makes one wonder when they've got all this junk lying around...you never know who wants what and what they're willing to pay for it. BTW, do the "tanks" have a specific function? I only ask because when you use the word tank it seems to suggest you use the water for something.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas Author

Our tank isn't used for anything. Most are stock tanks, meaning they are used to water cattle or other farm critters. :) The story goes that the highway department needed more dirt for a nearby overpass and my ex's grandparents wanted a tank. They cut a deal with the highway department and they dug it out. Don't know if it's true or not.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

My husband has been carving decoys for about 30 years. And i have been intending to do a decoy hub for some time. (Yes they do work.) There's a picture of him and some of his work here. http://vicetight.com/about.php

Yes, some of the antique decoys fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. Carved duck decoys are one of the three original American art forms-- the other two are quilts and jazz music.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas Author

Oh wow, Rochelle. How cool! Yes, you MUST do a decoy hub. I'll certainly give you a link here. I'm heading to look at the pic now.

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