by Wade Bourne
Duck decoys can take on a dull, unnatural look after a few seasons of hard use. Exposure to sun robs their luster. Rubbing and bumping against other decoys and ice causes paint to chip off. Dried mud can leave a grimy film over decoy bodies.
In these days of increased hunting pressure and wariness on the birds’ part, hunters should do all they can to keep their decoys fresh and natural looking. Clean decoys with crisp paint jobs will invariably pull more birds than those that are grubby and dull. Here are some easy tips for pre-season maintenance to ensure a brighter, more realistic spread when ducks head south.
First, wash decoys thoroughly to remove last year’s grunge. Bag them in mesh decoy bags, and take them to the local car wash. Wash them while in the bags, spraying through the mesh with hot soapy water under high pressure. After a few minutes of washing, dump the decoys out, rebag them, and wash again to spray from a different angle. After washing, take the decoys home, and hang the bags so the decoys can air-dry.
Next, do a simple paint touch-up to restore the decoys’ bright look.
Purchase one small- to medium-sized can of satin finish black latex paint and another can of satin-finish white latex paint. (Be sure to purchase satin finish, not gloss or semi-gloss. Satin finish has just the right sheen for painting decoys.) Also, buy a small assortment of brushes 1 inch wide or less. Brushes with exploded-tip nylon bristles are best. Artists’ brushes are usually too soft to work with the rough finish on decoys.
Separate decoys according to sex, and work on the hens in one session and the drakes in another session.