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The Men Behind the Legends

Decoy carvers that dazzle us
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DU decoys a program staple for years

Decoys have been a part of duck hunting for ages. Tens of thousands of old, wooden blocks have since found their way onto mantles, and shelves, private collections, and museums. Those decoys now retired from careers on the water are considered folk art. They are accent pieces these days, or investments, or both, depending on the bird's pedigree.

Contemporary carvings have also established a niche. Not built to hunt over, these wooden sculptures have been used to decorate homes, lodges, cabins, offices, and just about anywhere else a waterfowl hunter or nature lover hangs his or her hat. And Ducks Unlimited played a role in promoting an appreciation of this wildlife art form.

Introduced at DU membership banquets 20 years ago, decoys have become a staple at events from coast to coast. They have taken many forms-from reproductions, or antique-looking works, to highly-detailed designs.

Many of those offered today are resin casts of extraordinarily realistic waterfowl carvings. Shorebirds, herons, egrets, loons and more have also been made available over the years.

Any number of talented artisans have contributed to the success of the Ducks Unlimited decoy program, which is offered as a component of the national event merchandise package. Included among the pioneer carvers whose creations were featured at DU events were Hershey Kyle, Jr., of California; T.J. Hooker of Illinois; Tom Taber of Montana; William Veasey of Maryland; Randy Tull of Minnesota; and Valerie Bundy of Indiana. Their respective works are a credit to their outstanding skills as craftsmen. Ducks Unlimited salutes their contributions to waterfowl and wetland habitat conservation. nSelect Vocations

1. Hailed by the Chiefs
Lem and Steve Ward carved decoys together for 65 years in the same Crisfield, Maryland, shop. Notable among the brothers' many accolades: Presidents Harry S. Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson at one time or another shot ducks over Ward decoys. For all of their artistic talents, the Wards made their livings as barbers for four decades.

2. Busy Hands
Decoy historians have estimated that Captain Ellis Parker of Beach Haven, New Jersey, carved between 30,000 and 40,000 decoys during his career. Parker managed the Middle Sedge Gun Club on Long Beach Island and is credited with passing on his carving knowledge to a nephew, Nathan Rowley Horner, who became an accomplished artisan in his own right.

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