The wind bellowed out its fury over the small man-made pond, the waves cascaded over the rim of the sod dikes, the goose decoys posted rock-solid in the pounding wake of your average south-wind spring day. The conditions were beautiful only to the hunter, as the clouds loomed low in the sky, limiting the flying level of the geese to less than a hundred feet.
A flock flew by, circled, then landed amongst the decoys. After the kill, the accolades for the good hunt were linked to the skill of the decoy-maker, using time-honoured traditional methods, local materials, simple tools and some paint.
The decoys were made of saltwater-soaked and sun-dried cedar, the heads from a crooked elbow branch from the black pine and carved roughly by saw, filed and hewn using a moogoodagan (crooked knife). Several decoys a year produced a pond full of enticers, drawing in the geese like magnets to metal.
The secret? The hefty weight of the wood that made the decoy even more lifelike in stature, the kind of weight that could withstand heavy winds and not banter around looking like a lame duck or skitter sideways left and right unnaturally, unnerving the head goose enough not to land, when using modern-day plastic decoys.
The art of decoying was always determined by the nature of what you want to lure into your line of sight. Once, a wily hunter from Nemaska decided to post a large life-size moose decoy atop a hill, not far from the James Bay highway. It worked well and he bagged his kill, just as he planned. But he decided to leave the decoy a while longer, then eventually leaving it for a year or two.
When he trekked up the hill it was mounted on in order to spruce it again for another season, he was amazed to see that the entire decoy was full of bullet holes. There were so many that decoy looked screened and the sunrays streamed through it easily, to mark out some sort of weird well-lit shadow on the ground. When he grabbed his prize decoy, it crumbled in his fingers. The motto: don’t leave your decoys out too long.
Another new method that seems to work well for snow geese is the ordinary white-plastic shopping bag. Just stuff it and shape the handles into a head, stick it to the ground with a stick and voila, a snow-goose decoy. One decoy that was supposed to be a trail marker – just a rock painted white – ended up attracting those silly snow geese to the astonishment of a nearby hunter, who had spent hundreds of dollars for new decoys the previous fall. But they didn’t work as well as the primitive trail markers. The motto, cheap handmade decoys work just as well as expensive manufactured ones.
Tamarack decoys, common on the lower shores of James Bay, serve their purpose ideally, except for the time it takes to make them. They are the perfect type of decoy. Now, those decoys are worth more than the plastic ones in art value alone. So the last motto is: make your own decoys, sell them to the highest bidder and then buy the plastic ones later on.
I tend to prefer to use a few strategically placed decoys to lure in the real thing, and then use the real birds for decoys. The motto, kill a few and use them as bait. Whichever your preference, the list will go on in the number of ways you can lure in geese or other animals to your favourite blind. But the motto is: get some food on the table, any which way you can!