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As winter rice fields go silent from the end of regular duck season, most hunters are preparing for a last cleanup day at their leased field or duck-hunting lodge to say farewell to another great year in the marsh. While most of the expensive decoys will be wiped down, packed and handled with the same care as grandma’s antique glass Christmas ornaments, many of the “filler” blocks that have been shot, sun-bleached and scuffed from bill to tail will be tossed in the trash. Instead of adding more refuse to the landfill, give the AGFC’s decoy adoption program a call and rehome those ugly ducklings with newcomers to the sport.
Eric Maynard, assistant chief of education for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, runs the program, and says donated duck and goose decoys typically are used in one of two ways.
“We have dozens of decoy-painting classes at nature centers throughout the year, and we’re always looking for blank canvases to work with,” Maynard said. “We can take any decoy, no matter if it’s shot, has a broken keel or has faded to the point of obscurity, and use it for those classes.”
Maynard says he and other AGFC educators will seal any damaged decoys and paint them with primer before the workshops, which let people paint the decoy in any species’ pattern they choose.
“It’s a great way to draw people into the nature centers to learn more about the many species that fly through Arkansas in winter,” Maynard said. “It’s also a great way to get them interested in learning more about hunting the various duck species.”
If the decoys being donated are still in good condition, Maynard has another way to share them.
“We’ll get a few that still have a lot of life left in them,” Maynard said. “We’ll collect those, add some weights and line to them and donate them to young hunters who are first starting out.”
Many hunters will replace their decoys with the latest and greatest offerings each year, but many of their older decoys would be welcome additions to a first-time hunter’s spread. Maynard will bag these birds up and help would-be waterfowlers get their feet wet, either through one of the many mentored hunts the AGFC conducts or through one of the nature centers’ many other outdoors programs.
“We’ll go through 800 to 900 decoys a year, either through painting classes or hunter recruitment efforts, so we can always use any decoys veteran waterfowlers are willing to spare,” Maynard said. “It’s one of the easiest ways hunters can help keep the tradition of waterfowling alive in The Natural State.”
Anyone interested in donating their old decoys to the AGFC for educational purposes is encouraged to contact Maynard at [email protected], and he can make arrangements to have them picked up.