This Merganser decoy is a replica of another great bird by the master decoy maker from Chincoteague, Virginia, Ira Hudson (1876-1949). Hudson, a boat builder by trade who was famous for the “dead-rise” skiffs that he built, was also a prolific decoy maker. Ira once proudly told Lem Ward that he made around 20,000 decoys in his lifetime. That is most fortunate for collectors, because Hudson decoys are a joy to have in a collection.
Hudson made decoys of nearly every species of duck as well as geese, brant and shorebirds. He also made decorative renditions of flying ducks, other birds and game fish. Interestingly, although the lowly Merganser is generally considered poor table fare, and often called a “trash duck,” Hudson made a large number of Merganser decoys, probably to augment rigs of other species to give the flocks a more realistic appearance on the water. Not only decoy collectors, but also astute collectors of folk art compete for Hudson carvings when they come up for sale, with his Mergansers often bringing big dollars from the folk art crowd that quite often knows nothing about duck hunting and couldn’t care less about it.
The miniature shown here is a close replica of a merganser that I bought in Chincoteague in the early 1980”s, but it had very little paint left on it, so this miniature is embellished a bit, based on other Hudson Mergansers in original paint.