I Fell in Love…at the Wildfowl Art Museum

What started as a joke turned out to be stunning. Not stunning like in the aftermath-of-a-stun-gun, but stunning-magnificent. Stunning-surprising.

But it isn’t a joke to them. The folks at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Maryland take their exhibit and craft very seriously. I went because I thought it was funny that there’s a place dedicated to duck decoys. And while it still is funny, it also turns out to be eye-opening to skill and artistry I’d never considered.

How are Decoys Used?

24-50 decoys all of the same breed/genus/phylum (I have no idea of the terminology) are put on water to lure passing flocks. See, birds are social and they’ll see the party going on below and join them for a spell. Then kaplooyee! Lurking hunters who were laying/lying (?) flat in a boat sit up, shoot em, and send dogs after the ones that went down.

The circle of life.

Um, You Said this Was Beautiful

The killing part isn’t–just letting you know how the decoys are used. Context, people.

And BTW, Native Americans also use decoys, made from wood and reeds that were dyed and woven around the mold to look like feathers.

The beautiful part comes in the detail. Excruciating detail down to the rippled effect of color changes on the feathers. I’ve not seen many wildfowl in my day, but these looked life-like to me! And aside from the occasional goose or duckling, my exposure to wildfowl is quite limited, so to see the colors and patterns on living creatures (although these were inanimate wood) was a romance of its own.

All work was hand-done. A labor of love. And that’s when I fell in love. With duck decoys.
Think it’ll last?

Click on the pic to advance the slideshow. And these aren’t my pics: I don’t know how to shoot through plexiglass! So let’s all say thanks to Flickr, yet again!

That Was Then, This is Now

This level of detail today isn’t as thorough as back-in-the-day. Anyone surprised?

That said, “basic” models sold for $200-300 in the gift shop, with painted, not carved feathers.

The decoys made by the Ward brothers? Some say priceless, others thousands of dollars.

There’s a Competition. Of Course there Is!

Every April folks gather to see the best wildfowl art. (Mark your calendars) In addition to design, they’re also tested for perfect symmetry – not only does it float, but does it roll back over when shot at? See, unlike living birds who will flop when shot, the decoy will also surely get hit, but it needs to recover and lure more birds. It’s judged on the ability to do that.

In one way or another, aren’t we all judged on the ability to lure more birds?
More income, more dates, more friends, more things.

What Big Wings You Have

Compare your wingspan to that of a birds. Sure, I’m “game.”

Bird Wingspan


Wingspan with Me


What hunting tidbit do you find beautiful and/or fascinating?

One Response


I don’t find much to like about hunting, although I found this post to be very interesting. Many people I love are passionate about hunting and top of the list is my dearest 13 year old nephew, Jacob. He has been hunting with his Grandpa for years and owns his own gun at the family farm. I have listened to grizzly details about their kills and try to ask questions as he really enjoys talking about it. I am up for any subject that gets a 13 year old boy to chat on the phone with his Aunt. Even hunting.

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