Swimming Black Duck
from my personal hunting rig
For many years I was an avid waterfowl hunter but gave it up after raising a couple of mallards that became household pets and part of the family. I had dozens of plastic decoys which were lightweight, serviceable and easily replaced. Having been a decoy collector and an avid student of the decoy, I began making my own decoys and adding them to the rig, slowly replacing the plastic birds with honest-to-goodness hand-carved decoys until my entire rig consisted of my own decoys.
I had several “favorites” among the old legends of decoy making, notably “Shang” Wheeler of Connecticut, the Ward Brothers of Crisfield, Maryland, Ira Hudson, from Chincoteague, Va., and of course Lee Dudley, of Knotts Island, NC. While the Hudson’s are great to look at, they have a tendency to roll a bit in choppy water, as do the Dudley’s. The Ward’s are REALLY great to look at, and they look good in the water, but to my mind (and for the hunting conditions we encountered most of the time), the best WORKING decoys were made by Charles “Shang” Wheeler, of Stratford, Connecticut. This is, of course, subject to debate, which is what makes decoy collecting so much fun.
My old friend Dixon Merkt, noted decoy author and collector, purchased Wheeler’s patterns after he died, and when I told him I wanted to base my working rig on those patterns he was kind enough to send me copies to work from. Having visited Dixon and lovingly examining the Wheelers in his collection I tried to absorb some of the nuances of the carving and painting techniques he used. As a result I created a rig of black ducks, mallards, wigeon and pintails from those patterns, along with a few teal and woodies.
The “swimming” Black Duck shown here is one of my favorites. It is hand carved, hollow, and carefully painted with oils using Shang Wheeler’s patterns. It has a keel for stability, and is branded “Joe Seme” on the bottom. This decoy is also a prototype and I will carve and paint these as they are ordered. They will not be antiqued, but if you like, I will rig them with lines and weights for YOUR personal rig! They can be solid (if you’re just putting it on the mantel) or hollow, which is more work for me, of course, and is reflected in the price.