I set out to make a rig of working decoys in about 1982 and decided it would be cheaper to make wooden decoys than buy the plastic ones Canadian Tire sold.
First attempted laminated plywood (failed) and then got my neighbour in Chelmsford to bring me some basswood from Manitoulin Island.
Carved a few working ducks and then decided trying to get them to float properly to hunt was more aggravation than it was worth.
The rest of the blanks became mantle riders and were often given to friends and relatives as gifts.
I had moved from Chelmsford to Calgary in 1985 so continued carving just because it was fun and most were never painted.
In about 1998 I met Malcom Ho You who carved songbirds and shorebirds who advised me there were competitions for carvers and he asked if he could take a couple of my pieces to a show in Edmonton.
He brought me back a first and second place novice ribbon and that was it I was addicted to competing.
Looking back on those first decoys it reminds me that while they did look a bit like ducks they were really pretty bad and the show organizers must just give out novice ribbons to encourage new carvers. I traveled to Saskatoon myself a few months later for a show there and with 9 decoys I got zero ribbons and requested a critique from one of the judges after the show. he advised me I had some real anatomy issues and before doing my next decoy recommended I really study the look and shape of a live duck on water.
Many months later I completed a male wood duck including paint which successfully placed in 4 shows in western Canada again in Novice class. I enjoyed the carving but struggled with the painting for years.
I joined a couple wood carving forums on the internet where we could learn and share tips and techniques and developed some really good on line friends including Lori Corbett, Chad Hauser, and Patrick Eubanks. They led me to Vic Kirkmans Birdcarvers Online as well as decoycarvingforum run by Tom Matus so I continued to learn.
An old friend from high school introduced me to Pat Godin in 2003 and he helped refine both my carving and painting over the space of 2-3 years to the point where I could compete in Ocean City Maryland at the World Championships. At this point in time I still enjoyed the carving but couldn't wait to start painting in the structured blending style I had developed/learned over the years from watching many painting styles and other techniques.
By 2006 I was placing second in Species at the Worlds in both black ducks and mallards in the Contemporary Decoys.
I entered World Shooting rigs in the Worlds in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and found my real love in high end rigs that are actually floated and judged in Cheasapeake Bay. Never won it but my entries according to Pat got stronger each year to the point in 2009 several judges congratulated me on my work but cited teal as rather small birds to compete on the Bay.
I had planned and drawn patterns for larger birds for 2010 but unfortunately my health issues became serious when an abdominal aneurism in my aorta burst leading to emergency surgery and a long recuperation time. Still have all the tools and many blocks rough shaped and plan to get back into it but for the time being I am just too busy on the farm with dog training and bird shoots to devote the proper attention to my art right now. I will be back.
2009 World Championship Shooting rig entry Cinnamon Teal Family Group on log with toadstool anchors