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Dick Ellis Blog:
10/28/2022
New direction needed at DNR Dick Ellis Candidate for governor Tim Michels indicated in October that if elected he would break up the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to serve 1) business and 2 ) the hunting and fishing, or sporting community. “It’s not my opinion that the DNR is broken,” Michels said. “It’s what I hear everywhere I go.” Better days. John and Jim Ellis with a memorable opening mornin...
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Gary Greene’s Memories from an Old Hunter…..#17

Back in 1986, when my son Ty was two, alright almost three, he was capable of a skill that most at that age do not possess. He could identify eight different species of ducks. I had just begun my first attempts at carving and painting wood ducks. These starter ducks were just fair, but were good enough to teach Ty a duck identification game.   I would hold up one of my wood ducks and he would yell out the species. From Mallard to Hooded Merganser, I could mix up the order, but he always got them correct. For him and me, it was fun and I remember him belly laughing as we quickly went through the list.  Today, he vaguely remembers playing the game, but I have that lasting memory.

In the early 1950’s, my first association with duck decoys was my daily viewing of my dad’s wood blocks hanging from nails in the back of the garage.  As an adult, I became intrigued with studying the history and lore of the old Chesapeake Bay decoy makers. One unique fact that stands out in my mind was that in the East, many decoys were made of cork as it became so readily available because of the discarded cork lifejackets that washed up on shore.

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Greene's cedar crate goose, cedar fence post ducks and a 1996 black walnut goose.

As my carving skills somewhat improved, rather than attempting authentic looking wood ducks, I moved on to making reproduction wood decoys. I would make these decoys appear old and worn by roughly painting them and then distressing them.  Through the years, out of my home and at a few art fairs, I probably sold over 500 decoys.

The year was 1991, and while my family was gone, I was pushing a log through my table saw, and I lost control and it kicked back. I got my arm up quickly enough to deflect the log, but into my face.  That kickback log knocked me against the wall and severed my lower lip and uprooted and dislodged four of my lower front teeth. I went into to the house to appraise the damage. As I was looking in the mirror and attempting to put the correct teeth back in the correct holes, I remember thinking: “Boy, I’m glad this didn’t happen to me!” I was in shock. After meeting my dentist at the emergency room and getting 25+ stitches, many years later, I lost two of those teeth.

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Greene's carved wood pheasants: "Roosters Fighting"(2004)

My wood carving skills changed again, as I moved on to making decorative decoys. I experimented with different types of wood. All the wood came from dead trees that I sawed down for friends as a favor to them and for firewood for me. My favorite species of wood was Black Walnut.  I became fairly creative, by not trying to make realistic looking decoys, but incorporating my own personal interpretation.  I went on to create ducks, geese and loons. To bring out the natural beauty of the walnut, I would simply use a satin polyurethane finish.  Sometime down through the years, I had a blacksmith make me a double G branding iron for burning my initials in the bottom of my decoys.

I had seen a taxidermy mount of two rooster pheasants fighting in mid-air.  I really thought that reenactment was an outstanding representation of the bird.  With that picture in my mind, I went on to create the two, life-size, wood roosters with each feather carved with a Dremel tool, and painted in full color. I over exaggerated the tail feather length and used real pheasant feet, while I mounted the two birds on old cedar fence posts.  I put a lot of hours into that display and it is still featured in my office.

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My wife and I just got back from Maine and she wanted a loon....so yesterday, I made this mother loon with two babies on her back.    

After that project, I lost interest, and did not attempt a carving for possibly 15 years.  Then my wife Chris and I vacationed at Yellowstone National Park.  We were staying in the city of West Yellowstone, when we came across a different type of wood carved decoy. I made a mental note of the weathered cedar post decoys.  Each decoy has a finished cedar head and base, with the naturally rough and gray, weathered post being incorporated into the feathers on the back. They are pieces of art and not a working decoy. I searched our property and my neighbor’s abandoned fence rows and collected a workable number of weathered cedar fence posts.

Since that time, at my leisure, if I get an urge……I create one of those decoys. I have made, possibly fifteen or so, and we have kept a few for our home.  One Horicon Zone goose hunt, I gave one to each of our other five hunting party members. Each duck is looking back over its shoulder representing the great times of our mutual past.  As a pheasant hunting guide, I also made a decoy for some of my repeat hunting clients that have become friends. Recently, in appreciation, I have made decoys for several Wisconsin outdoor writers have been nice enough to write pheasant hunting articles featuring me and my dogs, and for Dick Ellis, the editor of On Wisconsin Outdoors, who gave me the opportunity to write this weekly column. These decoys are modest gifts but I hope they create a shared memory of our love of the outdoors.

 

 

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