GWINN - Back in the day waterfowl decoys, such as duck decoys, were not that big a deal. Hunters would find materials laying around the house to make a decoy to hunt over. Not much skill was used. A hunter would nail a couple of pieces wood together and carve them out using knives and then slap some paint on it and call it good.
Now a days there are two types of decoys used. There are plastic decoys that are usually mass produced and fairly cheap to buy. And then there are hand carved wood decoys that can take more than a week to make and are one of a kind.
Hand carved decoys, over the years, have become more of an art form used as a decorative display. But there are still some hunters that take pride in creating their own decoys.
Jim Krausman uses a drawknife to carve the shape of the wing area of a Loon decoy he is making at his studio in Gwinn. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Krausman browses through one of his album of reference photos he has collected over the years to be sold to taxidermist, wildlife artists and other carvers. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Jim Krausman looks at a scaled down Sandhill Crane he carved while a number of the other birds he has created sit on the table in his studio in Gwinn. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Jim Krausman of Krausman's Wildlife Reference Photos and Woodcarving Studio in Gwinn is one of these types of shooters.
He isn't a shooter in the traditional sense of carrying a gun and shooting at an animal. He carries a camera and uses his skills of carving, that he has learned over the years, to create a variety of bird decoys that he can use to draw a bird in close to photograph.
Jim's wife Pam Krausman was a wildlife rehabilitator and in the early 1980's Jim began to photograph the birds she help rehabilitate. He would photograph every possible angle and view and then began to sell his reference photographs to taxidermists, wildlife artists and carvers. He has collected over 280 different sets of photographs over the years.
After making a number of contacts in the woodcarving industry the couple decided to open a studio.
In 1998 they opened a educational facility that offers weeklong woodcarving seminars taught by world class teachers.
Their classes have drawing both woodcarving artists and hunters alike from around the continent.
"Some people who take the class learn to make decoys as an art form or decorative purposes. Though a lot of the carvers that come to the classes are duck hunters who want to learn to carve decoys to hunt over," Jeff Krausman said.
Students learn the basics of how to carve a duck as well as how to weight it so it floats properly.
"They can then take the techniques they learned and carve other ducks," he said.
The process of carving a decoy is similar to the ones made long ago.
Start with two pieces usually of basswood, white cedar, or tupelo wood. Draw a pattern and start cutting and carving away at the blocks.
The process of carving away the wood has changed slightly over the years.
In the 1960's and 70's when duck decoys become more of an art form is when the tools began to be refined.
Texturizing machines, high powered grinders and woodburning tools have been incorporated to create more details and precise cuts.
"The process in making a hand carved decoy and doing a really nice job usually takes about a weeks worth of work, about 40 hours," he said.
Wether you are a hunter or photographer decoys are very useful.
I started off as a carver and I am doing this simply for the satisfaction of making something, Krausman said.
For more information on the different types of services and classes the Krausman's offer visit their website at www.referencephotos.com
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.