So if you’re like me you’re probably finding yourself scanning for duck hunting shows on TV or re-watching the ones on your DVR for a third time. Maybe you’re disciplined enough to actually be outside honing in your duck & goose calling skills, nah probably not. If you’re like me you are going completely bonkers in early September trying to find something waterfowl related to do. I guess using the duck boat to fish is considered getting the duck boat ready for fall, sort of.
I had written in a previous column that I have way too many decoys that have accumulated over the years from online purchases, trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods, garage sale finds and simply buddies leaving their decoys in my truck.
Well here is an idea for something to do that will occupy a Saturday or two so you can, get off the couch, and better yet out of your wife’s hair, assuming you took the leap of faith and proposed marriage to someone other than your shotgun & loyal four legged friend. Those are two bonds we all know will never be broke. You decide which two of the three bonds I’m referring to.
So here is the idea. Go out into the garage, storage unit, back yard, heck maybe front yard, search the boat and the truck and gather up all your decoys good and bad. Spread them out in the yard or garage almost like your settling in for a mornings hunt. Look at each one to see what the condition is and the species of the bird. Check out what they have for line and anchors on them. Once you have them all separated by condition and species start to cut off any rotted line or marginal anchors and toss out the line and save the anchors. The decoys that are a mess will go in the needs work pile. The ones you think will float will go in the only needs paint pile. If you’re super lucky and have some that look great, those go in the ready for water pile. For the ones that need work and need paint you will have to go down to the local hardware store and get some paint. Get several cans of paint that somewhat resemble the colors of the Black Duck. You don’t need to be fancy with the purples for the side feathering. Simply the flat black and olive and mustard colors if they have them in cans. If you have a ton of decoys like I do you can get a few quarts of paint for each color and get creative by having the paint mixed up to really get close to the right colors. This is what I do. This will take care of any potential puddle duck repaints and repairs. You will then need to get some white and dark greens that can be used for divers. You will also need a few cans of that stuff you see on TV that they paint a screen door with and paddle around the lake. This will be used to seal the holes.
Once you make it home from your scavenger hunt lay out all the materials in the yard near the decoys. This project might require multiple trips to the hardware store but what project have you done in the last 10 years that has not. This will start to actually get fun once you get rolling.
Now take all the ducks regardless of species and spray any ones that have holes in them regardless if you know they float or not with the seal all stuff. While these dry start to paint the bodies of all the puddle ducks whether they are mallards or blacks or woodies with the flat black paint. Let these dry and go paint the diver’s bodies all white. Now do the same to the ones that needed the sealer, if they are dry and ready for paint.
When you’re done you will have a bunch of puddle ducks all black and a bunch of divers all white. Now take the puddle ducks and paint the heads olive and with a small brush. Yes the one you picked up on your second trip back to the hardware store to get brushes. Start to add eyes and other markings on the head of the puddle duck. You can get creative and make the bills yellowish or greenish to make drakes or hens. This talent starts to really develop after about a dozen of birds or so. For the diver ducks that were painted all white spray now paint the black marking of a whistler down its back and if you didn’t forget to get the green paint you can paint the heads. There is a reason they call whistlers Golden Eyes so be sure to paint these eye golden. The hen whistler is more of a gray and the head a bit of a darker gray. If you aren’t sure what the birds should really look like simply Google it to find out.
I think you might be starting to get the picture here. The reason for the all Black Ducks is that most all puddle ducks will decoy to the Black Duck. The Black Duck as you know is less difficult to paint with a very simple color scheme. The Whistler or Golden Eye is a bird that stands out on the water and will attract most all diver ducks. On your next batch after word gets out that you are a decoy restorer try other species if you so desire.
When you’re done you will have dozens of puddle ducks and diver ducks to start to use in your spread this fall. This actually makes watching paint dry a fun thing to do. Once these “new-to-you” decoys are all set and dry you can start to add the strings and weights for the puddle ducks and the gang rigs for the divers. If you want to get real fancy you can get a lead melter and start to melt down the lead anchors and re-cast new ones using a tuna fish can and a piece of steel. I will let you figure that one out or email me and I will give you the how to instructions.
This decoy rejuvenation program can be done any time of year every year. Invite a few buddies over or have the kids join in. You can’t really screw up the decoys because they started out in the needs paint or needs repair pile anyway.
If you have any questions on this or maybe some cool ideas that I didn’t hit on email me and let me know your thoughts.