Vancouver, B.C. businessman Peter Brown starting collecting antique decoys in the 1980s. Drawing from sheds, boat houses, duck clubs and collections across Canada, Brown amassed a remarkable collection of decoys ranging from mint condition to gunning repaints.
After his decades-long pursuit, in May 2016, Brown donated 1,000 antique duck, geese and shorebird decoys, appraised at $1.5 million, to Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). In turn, DUC is offering the majority of the collection to the public through auction by Guyette & Deeter, Inc., the world’s largest decoy auction firm based in Maryland. DUC will be the beneficiary of net proceeds from the sale.
Most of the birds are working decoys carved in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including a pair of Fernland pintails appraised at $260,000.
This is a very rare opportunity for waterfowlers, folk art collectors and decoy enthusiasts to acquire an historical, important waterfowl hunting artifact while supporting DUC and its mission. There are wonderful core decoys in the Brown/DUC collection: high value, sought-after decoys by all of the important Canadian makers. As well, there are a large number of lesser known, well-carved decoys that are very collectible and offer great value.
The majority of the decoys will be sold beginning April 2017, however, some are now being offered on Guyette & Deeter’s weekly online auctions at www.decoysforsale.com.
We’re featuring beautiful examples of these working decoys for you to enjoy every month of the year in our 2017 desktop calendar. You may download individual desktop calendars below, or download all the calendars at once here: 1280 x 800 | 1280 x 1024 | 1440 x 900
January: Canada Goose/Canvasback/Redhead
Maker: Tom Chambers
Tom Chambers was a highly skilled waterfowl hunter, market gunner, decoy maker and duck hunting club manager from Toronto who moved to the Flats of Lake St. Clair in the 1880s – first to the St. Anne’s Club and later to the prestigious St. Clair Flats Shooting Company where for the next 43 years he made his iconic Canadian “Flat’s Decoys” and managed the club.
February: Black Duck Hens
Maker: Angus J. Lake
West Lake, Ontario
Angus Lake was a salesman, road maintenance supervisor and later a farmer and tourist operator in Prince Edward County in eastern Ontario. He was an avid sportsman and waterfowl hunter. He probably made his black duck decoys around 1900. Some are in unusual poses best illustrated by one of his extremely rare and important breeding pose hen blacks pictured here.
March: Hooded Merganser
Maker: Samuel Hutchings
Jones Falls, Ontario
This highly stylized decoy with cross-hatched carving and raised delineated primary feathers represents Samuel Hutching’s finest early work. Aquatic-vegetation-eating “hoodies” were considered fine table fare in the early 1900s in eastern Ontario. These diminutive, pocket-size merganser decoys are unique, rare, important and prized by folk art and decoy collectors throughout North America.
At an early age, Hutchings was given the responsibility of carving the family decoys for their local hunting trips. Hutchings’ decoys are small, about 8.5″ long. He defended the unusual size by saying, “‘Very small decoys were fine in the small potholes of the rocky Grant Island lakes–and they are easy to carry.” Hutchings relief-carved the decoy wings and then textured the surface of the bird in a unique way, by “checkering.” Using the sharp edge of a file, Hutchings etched diamond shapes that resemble argyle or fancy gunstock grips. Hutchings made more than two dozen hooded mergansers incorporating this technique.
April: Toronto Harbour Shorebirds
Shorebird hunting was popular prior to 1918 mostly for the millinery trade. Hunting of shorebirds became illegal in 1918 with the Migratory Bird Act.
May: Merganser Pair
Maker: Clarence Ernst
Indian Point, N.S.
A classic pair of racy mergansers with strong influence from Orran Hiltz.
June: Bluebill pair
Maker: Orel LeBoeuf
St. Anicet, Quebec
In the 1930s a dozen of Orel LeBoeuf’s decoys sold for $12. LeBoeuf specialized in scaup and goldeneyes, but carved all other species as well.
July: Wigeon Drake, circa 1900
Maker: Charles P. Reeves
Port Rowan/Long Point, Ontario
Branded G.H.R. for G.H. Richards 1883 and R. Winthrop 1906, both early members of the prestigious Long Point Company duck hunting club located on the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario.
August: Mallard Drake
Maker: David K. “Davey” Nichol
Smith Falls, Ontario
A prominent early Canadian decoy carver, David K. “Davey” Nichol appears to have lived and worked his whole life in Smith Falls, Ontario. He and his brother Adam (1864 – 1928) were important influences to a decoy carving dynasty in Smith Falls. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has 44 of the family’s carvings in its collection.
September: Shoveler Pair
Maker: John R. Wells
John Wells was a boat builder by trade. He hunted on Long Point and the St. Clair Flats where he encountered the carving influence of the Warin brothers’ style.
In 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales, traced his father’s footsteps to Manitoba for a hunting expedition. It is believed that he shot over decoys supplied by John Wells, including this pair of shovelers.
October: Pintail Pair, circa 1915
Maker: Ivar Gustav Fernlund
Hollow decoys with fine scratch painting.
November: Merganser Pair
Maker: Ken Anger
In the 1930s, Ken Anger started carving, but received little public attention. The demand for Anger’s decoys erupted in 1941 after he placed an advertisement in Rod and Gun magazine. Anger’s surface carving gained him his title as “rasp master.” He covered the textured surfaces with subtle coloration.
December: Canada Goose
Maker: George and James Warin
George: 1830-1905; James: 1832-1884
George and James Warin emigrated from England and combined their skills to start a boat-building company: “G. & J. Warin, Boat Builders.” Both George and James frequented the marshes of the St. Clair Flats to hunt, and George co-founded the St. Clair Flats Shooting Club in 1874. Warin decoys are known for the elegant painting patterns. The feather painting of Warin pintails and Canada geese have no rivals.