Throughout the years, you will find many hunters and decoys that have come out of the St. Clair Flats area, but one man in particular with his heritage and decoys stands out. Robert Soulliere (RAS), the owner of DECOYS by RAS, is a six-time generation waterfowl hunter of the Soulliere family. Growing up on Harsens Island, RAS was inspired by carvers such as Frank Cummings and Ben Schmidt and was also fortunate enough to know and carve with several Michigan decoy carvers such as Bill Rose Sr, Chuck Smith, World Champion Jon Jones, and many others.
In 1980, RAS and his friend Dale Jones were both 16-years old, and their fathers hooked the two up with a world-renowned decoy carver from Anchor Bay, Dick Watson. Watson taught carving lessons in a little school on Harsens Island and started teaching the two by carving a pair of Blue-Wing Teal. Once RAS carved his first set of gunning decoys it was infectious, he had to carve more. As time passed on RAS began to create his own style of decoys, along with his trademark signature “RAS” with the S swooping back underneath RAS.
One thing that RAS always wants to make clear to folks is that there are decoy carvers and decoy makers. RAS is a great example of a decoy maker. The difference is that a decoy maker understands the conditions that the decoys are going to be used in, whether it’s the water, waves, or the size of the boat that is being used to haul the decoys or to deploy and pick up the decoys. What makes RAS decoys so nice to gun over is that they meet the hunter’s needs. From the wide bodies to the big thick wide heads they make deploying and picking up decoys much easier for the hunter.
“If you’re hunting in November and there’s 30 mph winds while you are picking up these tiny little decoys by the head as you’re drifting by in the boat and you can’t grab it, then it’s not a very functional decoy; that’s why I like big decoy heads,” RAS said.
In the early 2000s RAS decided to start his own business, “Decoys by RAS”. RAS was involved with many Ducks Unlimited dinners and is a Double Diamond life member of Ducks Unlimited(DU) which is a result of donating $20,000 worth of carvings to DU. RAS was doing 38 DU dinners a year, and it was obvious that many people wanted to buy decoys outside of the venue, and that’s when Decoys by RAS became a business.
Once the business was started, RAS put a bed and breakfast over the top of the carving shop and he advanced some of the equipment in the shop for production use and then just started carving away. Decoys by RAS has become very well-known throughout the waterfowl community in the state of Michigan and throughout the United States.
Over the past several months, I have been fortunate enough to start carving decoys with RAS. Every time I go over to the shop I learn something new, whether it’s learning about decoys from his collection or from his carving techniques. To have a friend and teacher like RAS is something I truly cherish because he is teaching me things that I can’t find in books and is passing something that means so much to him onto me is an honor. If you plan on meeting RAS, you can either find him in the shop carving decoys and getting ready for the upcoming waterfowl season or you can find him on Lake St. Clair layout gunning for diver ducks this fall.