Preserving the history of Saginaw Bay Waterfowl Hunters

Cody Brown, Staff Writer

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   Throughout North America, duck decoys have been used for many years to lure waterfowl within gunshot range. Decoys have become more than just a piece of hunting gear, rather a piece of American folk art that many collect. There are different regions of decoys and styles that accommodate to the hunting conditions.

  For the past two years, I have been fortunate to begin my decoy collecting career. The region that I mostly focus on is Saginaw Bay/Michigan’s Thumb. This area is where I am from and where I waterfowl hunt. Being able to collect decoys from my area is something I take pride in. Hunting this historical area, I feel it’s my job to continue the traditions of the hunters and carvers before me. Being able to hunt some of the same pockets of water on the bay that I have heard stories about from other hunters and journals from the early gunner I feel as I am a part of history.

  Hearing the stories of hunters of the past is very interesting. Also I have been able to meet some of the family members of several thumb carvers.  One thing that many of us collectors have in common is that we share the same passion for our areas decoys. I have a strong passion for all Michigan decoys, but my heart belongs with my home in Michigan’s Thumb.  

  Decoys are more than just a piece of wood, yet they tell a story of the hunters before us. Collecting is addiction and not a day goes by where I don’t think about decoys. The history is extremely important to me and I want to continue the legacy of the sport I love so much “Waterfowl Gunning”.  

  Some of my favorite decoy carvers in the Thumb & Saginaw Bay region are folks like Otto Misch, Cecil Rollin, Ralph Van Wagener, Art Perry, and the list goes on. This past opening day of duck season I took out Charlie Weinert decoys who carved for Bud Theade at Bud’s Landing and I hunted them. Having these decoys with me made the hunt so much more memorable. Decoys are a piece of history in my area and I hope to someday pass these stories and traditions onto another tradition in years to come. The time and work ethic these men put into decoys is fading away quickly and hoping that one day this hard American work ethic will return.  

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