My waterfowl decoy collection provides me with much enjoyment every year, so I always try to return the favor at the end of the hunting season and at the beginning of the next to make sure that each decoy remains appealing. When they’re in use my decoys typically do not get much respect, often stomped on, sometimes shot and generally mistreated. The off season is the best time to refresh my decoys.
I follow the same procedure every year:
- Use a clean cloth and apply petroleum jelly to all parts of the decoy, rub it gently and then wipe it off. Simply removing the grime might be enough to restore lustre. If this doesn’t do the trick, a paint touch up is in order.
- I refer to color pictures and photos of ducks and geese in magazines and on the internet to refresh my memory about colors and patterns I am trying to match. Waterfowl can recognize markings, patterns and colors that belong to their species, even from a distance. The distinctive contrast of white and black on goose decoys is a good example.
- I usually check local hobby stores or sporting goods stores to pick up flat or satin finish paints that meet my requirements. Sometimes I have to order decoy paint kits from internet stores. I’m careful to avoid oil based paints which can damage my compressed foam decoys.
- Brushes in ¼ to 1 inch sizes are best for application of the paints. I find that spray painting is not precise enough for a good result.
- It’s useful to remind myself that I’m trying to fool waterfowl from a distance, so painting in anatomical detail on the decoy is not necessary.
- Once all my decoys have dried completely, I place them in a decoy bag for storage in a dry place.
I’ve been following this routine for years, and it has always provided me with considerable satisfaction knowing that I am ready for the next hunting season.
(Full disclosure: I must confess when extra elbow grease is needed to clean my decoys, it’s very tempting to take advantage of the decoy rental service offered by Minturn Anglers in Denver, Minturn and Vail. What could be easier than simply picking up well maintained decoys when I need them?)