News / USA

Decoys Aren't Just for Hunters Anymore

Wood carvings are American folk art in Maryland town

Hunters traditionally use decoys to lure waterfowl - mostly ducks and geese - close enough to shoot.
Hunters traditionally use decoys to lure waterfowl - mostly ducks and geese - close enough to shoot.
June Soh

Havre de Grace, Maryland is a popular destination for hunters because it's located where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, a well-known habitat for waterfowl.

However, more and more visitors to the small town are seeking a different kind of bird wooden decoys, the town’s traditional craft.

Self-proclaimed decoy capital of the world

Capt. Bob Jobes brings his boat into dock, returning with his son after a day of crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay.   

Like many others here, Jobes fishes for a living. But when he's not on the water, he's working in the shed behind his house, carving wooden decoys. 

“It was just growing up as a kid, learning a skill how to do this," he says. "I've got two brothers that carve, my son carves and my father. Yeah. Three generations carving decoys.”

Bob Jobes hard carves a wooden decoy duck.
Bob Jobes hard carves a wooden decoy duck.

Hunters traditionally use decoys to lure waterfowl - mostly ducks and geese - close enough to shoot.

Decoys are so revered here that the town calls itself the decoy capital of the world.

Decoy museum

Havre de Grace even has a decoy museum, where about 1,000 decoys are on display. Most were handmade in the Chesapeake Bay region.  

"Approximately 14,000 visitors come here each year," says John Sullivan, director of the museum. "We have visitors from all over the United States and all over the world.”

Henry Miner came from the Chicago area to see the decoys. "I particularly like the older ones, the very first styles and anything that is wood because, nowadays, everything is plastic or foam, so they are pretty neat to look at."

According to Sullivan, the demand for decoys took off in the mid 19th century when hunters began to use sink boxes, which were floating platforms surrounded by decoys.

“You would use from 200 to 500 decoys around these gunning devices," he says. "And that demand put a lot of the housepainters and carpenters in the business of producing decoys.”

American folk art

The demand for decoys declined after sink boxes were outlawed in 1935. That's when people began to perceive the wooden birds as form of American folk art.  

“People were collecting decoys and we were selling so many decoys that we could just totally make a living off of carving," says Jobes. "It's changing a little bit now, with the economy."  

Decoys are beloved in Havre de Grace. They sit in restaurants, adorn shop windows and decorate homes, including Mitch Shank's. His grandfather, R. Madison Mitchell, was the most prolific decoy carver in town.

Shank started collecting decoys as a teenager, when he worked for his grandfather.

"In Havre de Grace, if you drove around town and knocked on a door," he says, "most of the houses would probably have at least one decoy.”

Wooden decoys, here in Vincenti's shop in Havre de Grace, Md., can sell for up to several thousand dollars.
Wooden decoys, here in Vincenti's shop in Havre de Grace, Md., can sell for up to several thousand dollars.

Carrying on the tradition

Jeannie Vincenti and her husband, who run a store in town, are also carvers.

"Our customers are local people who are aware of the tradition," says Vincenti. "There are also tourists that come in and do not understand quite exactly what a decoy may be, but when they come in they find something in the store that they like and consider a treasure."

Prices for a decoy can range from $50 to several thousand. One antique decoy in Vincenti's shop has a price tag of almost $5,000.

The shop also sells carving supplies.  

“There are younger people coming into it every day," she says. "Is it the number that we saw years ago?  Probably not."

Vincenti hopes more young people become decoy carvers so the tradition will continue, allowing Havre de Grace to continue to call itself the decoy capital of the world.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid