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Dozens of wood and cork duck and goose decoys ride the chop. Three other hunters are overboard, too, bundled up in long underwear, insulated coveralls, sweatshirts, and survival suits. I can see the tender boat, where there is hot coffee, a heater, and another shift of hunters waiting for us to cry uncle, anchored a few hundred yards downwind.

Earlier, when we were motoring out to the flats in Bay Prowler , a crabbing boat, the skies were alarmingly empty of birds. Now, as sunlight warms the bay and ice sheets crackle and drift, the hunt comes to life. Ducks stream in from broad Mill Creek to the north, beelining toward the decoys. And then come the geese. Charles hammers the birds with honks and clucks and deep, plaintive moans.

When they dip low over the water, we know we have them. The birds pull up twenty yards away, wings backflapping, feet out for the landing, and we rise from the silhouettes to fire. Geese tumble to the water. Just before my stint is up, I look out over the spread, ducks and geese rocking in the water.

I hold up a Charles Jobes Canada goose decoy. Skim ice clings to its upswept tail, a signature feature of Havre de Grace decoys. Earlier, Charles pointed out a few details that help identify his particular style of goose. A delicate depression around each eye. In his shop, before the hunt, Charles showed me a goose decoy he particularly treasures. When his Labrador retriever, Chester, passed away in , Charles bored a two-inch hole in the bottom of the decoy, filled it with the ashes of his old companion, and capped it with a dowel.

Decoys : Sixty Living and Outstanding North American Carvers

He puts it in the water on every hunt. The body. Or the painting. The remains of that process skim-coat every surface in his shop, like dust in an attic that no one has visited in decades. Except Charles is here, working, nearly every day of his life. Hundreds of hand tools hang from racks, oyster jars cling to the ceiling like bats, filled with nails and tacks, the lids screwed to bare Sheetrock. Laundry baskets of finished heads are pushed against a wall. Charles pulls out a Garcia y Vega cigar box.

Inside are the patterns for the miniatures and half-size decoys he and Bobby made for years, skittish at first about producing full-size decoys in competition with their father. Tacked and stuck everywhere is the Charles Jobes version of an Excel spreadsheet: hand-printed notes for orders to fill. According to Kneisley, the museum director, this very act of watching a decoy carver work the wood reflects how the art has survived from generation to generation.


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The Jobes brothers make up nearly half the lot. I watch as Charles carves a decoy head, reading glasses perched on his nose. There seems to be no end to the work. I ask him: With a hunk of wood in your hand, do you feel the weight of history? Do you sense your father looking over your shoulder, the shadow of Madison Mitchell? He hesitates. Charles sits back in the chair and palms the decoy head like an oyster.

You might not want to hear this, but I sit back and think: Can I make the next one a little faster? Carving a decoy is one thing. Figuring out how to make a living with a knife, a lathe, a paintbrush, and endless blocks of wood is another. Back in its heyday, in the s and early s, the Havre de Grace Decoy Festival took up the entire middle school plus the high school gym and the museum itself.

Video Ingenuity Awards. Smithsonian Channel. Video Contest. Games Daily Sudoku. Universal Crossword. Daily Word Search. Mah Jong Quest. Subscribe Top Menu Current Issue. Book Shop. One of Tinkham's award-winning decoys. This one is decorative but more realistic in paint style. Jennifer Billock. Jennifer Billock and Spencer Tinkham. One of Tinkham's award-winning lifelike duck decoys.

One of Spencer Tinkham's decorative decoys. With this bird, he was aiming for a more sculptural and artistic representation, while still maintaining an antique look. One of Spencer Tinkham's more artistic decoys. This bird, like a good portion of Tinkham's decoys, strive to use folk art style and traditional carving methods to create a realistic, yet sculptural, look at common waterfowl. This project of Tinkham's is still in progress—only the head has received a full coat of paint.

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It explores the process from carved bird to finished sculpture. Like this article? On top of everything else, they hunt exclusively in water. Comment on this Story. Can you tell me how old they would be? They were made in Spokane Washington. Good morning! I was given the opurtunity to drive to Odessa Washington yesterday to pick up an old duck boat that has been sitting in the barn for some 50 to 60 plus years.

The skin is falling off and some rough wood in areas but intact.

Duck decoy (model)

Inside I found 5 old wood duck decoys! Very dirty to say the least but intact. The heads can be turnrd any direction as they are on wooden dowels. Small glass eys is what appears. I am afraid to clean them. What should I do and could I send you a few pics of the boat and ducks? Boat is about 13 feet long. I may have a little treasure and not know it. Look forward to hearing from you as I need a little help here.

Thanks again, Mike It will be my pleasure to give you information on yoru decoys and please wait until I see your pictures before you clean them. I will give instructions on cleaning…. The daily questions are usually what is my decoys worth and do you have any research history on them.

If you would like to shoot me a few pictures to my home email I will get back to you asap.

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Dear Mr. Our family history says some of my relatives did market hunting around Cobb and Hog Islands and had their own style of decoys. Is this so and where could I go to get info? I have 4 Gus Moak canvasbacks in original condition. A couple are in better shape than the other two. It is always my pleasure to help with all decoy questions from everyone, anywhere in the world…!!!

Your Gus Moak decoys are well known, collectable decoys… like all old wooden decoys, condition is everything …!!!!!!!!!! Gates, Decoys of Southwestern Ontario by P. Brisco,,, They also show up on ebay and auctions…. Its definatly looks like a malard and the KM looks too deep and well done to be the origional owners identification mark to identify it as his property should it end up in another hunters burlap bag.

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Who is KM? How old etc. If you would like to email me a few pictures of your decoys I will research them I send you data.. Please ask all the people you cross paths with, if they have old wooden, duck, goose or shorebirds decoys. This is a free services. Please pass it forward…. I also have a set of broadbill from the Gugenheim estate in sands point ny.

I would be please to help you in any way I can with all your decoy questions. To find out more about your decoys please shoot me a few pictures by email.. I will answer all your questions!!! Most want to know value, age, maker or history… I also get , have you ever seen my Grandfathers decoys , he lived in ,,,,, I would love to see or have one,,,. I have the pleasure of helping hundreds of families a month.. Thank you to Collectors Weekly and all the folks I have had the pleasure to help with decoy questions form all over North America, even England, France and Holland….

A gent in NJ emailed , can you please help me win an argument with my wife about my Grandfathers old decoys…. She wants me to throw them out I want to put a few in the den…. Are these worth anything.. The other day an email came in from a Lady who stared, I have a few bags of old wooden duck decoys from my late husband and would like to know if they have any value because I have a local gent that wants to buy them. I have had many people show me old birds they were give that have a value in teh thousands!!!!! So if anyone anywhere has old wooden duck decoys, shorebird decoys, goose decoys, swan decoys, or any old bird decoys please feel free to contact me and I will always do my best to answer all your antique decoy question.

Thanks Steve for all of your help with our family decoys. I have a very old duck decoy made from leather and has glass eyes. Do you know anything about this type of decoy? Thank you for your help. Thank you to all the people that contacted me to ask decoy questions Its always my pleasure to help with all wooden decoy questions. One of my favorites, Dear Steve, you may be the only man on earth that can help me win this argument with my wife. She has my Grandfathers old decoys in the orginal gunny sack and there is a garbage bag tag on them… help!!

I love helping people with decoy questions and help them discover the treasure that looks like decoys!!! I am waiting to help you….. My father and husband collected decoys and they have passed to me. Is there someone in the Chicago or Wisconsin area who does appraisals of decoys. I have no idea of their worth. I just came back from a days hunt on both the North and south forks and could only find 6 of them.

They seem to be fading away. Is this true everywhere or just here. I like them all and would never part with them. I have a Merganser decoy done by a Wayne Mason. It is my understanding he is a maker of decoys around the Chesapeake Bay area. Any info on the maker would be appreciated.

I am looking to have an old dragon armrest reproduced in wood. I live near Rochester NY. Any help would be appreciated. I have over a dozen wood duck decoys that my parents had collected over the last 35 years. They have since passed and I am trying to find out the value if any to the ducks. I would like to sell them but I have no idea at all about these ducks. Would love your input.


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  8. I have pictures. If you wish to send a picture of your decoys to my email or text I will be happy to get back in 24 hours with a report ,,, there is no cost or fees.. I would like your help but having hard time getting your email! I have a wooden duck with feet and looks old looking how to begin to look it up has no signature and my friend has a collection of R Madison Mitchell and J Jobes and Vincentic and J Pierce.

    We live in Havre de Grace Md and would love to be directed in the way of some help to learn about these ducks Thank you Lisa. Your name required. Your email will not be published required. Your comment. Collectors Weekly. Sign in. All Categories All.