My name is Mark Champlin and I live in Rochester, NY.
I have two children, a son and a daughter. My son, Jeff, is now old enough
to hunt and has gone duck hunting with his dad the past two years since
getting his junior hunting license. I’m a strong believer that the tradition
of our sport rests in the hands of our young people, and teaching my son
the sport of waterfowling is a great calling in life. I work as a landscape
designer for a large landscape contracting firm that does business all
over western New York State.
I didn’t start duck hunting until I was in my early 20’s,
but my love for waterfowl started at a much earlier age. As a teenager
I became very interested in birdwatching (the politically correct term
now is “birding”). I became involved in the local Audubon group and spent
the next 5 years identifying and photographing all types of birds in various
habitats. We made regular birding trips to a local national wildlife refuge
(Montezuma), and at one time I held a banding permit. It was then that
I went off to college and my interest was lost for a while until I met
and married my wife, Barb. Her father owns a camp on the northeast end
of Lake Ontario. It was then that I became hooked on waterfowling. The
camp, meant as a summer retreat also held a secret in the fall. Migrating
ducks pour out of the St. Lawrence River and on their southward journey,
they move past our camp, located just north of the Black River Bay. I have
hunted that area for the past 20 years and have also expanded to cover
most of western New York, including the shores and bays of Lake Ontario
and the western Finger Lakes region.
I became interested in decoy making about 8 years ago.
I always enjoyed the off-season repairing and repainting of my decoy rig
and one thing led to another. I found a source for cork and other supplies,
placed an order, bought some books and decoy patterns, and started carving
with no other formal instruction. I then began attending some shows and
competitions. I would photograph the decoys at carving contests and refer
to bird field guides for help along the way. I solicited very little help
from other carvers, although I do have a special mentor- Jack Flynn. Before
long I was entering the local Rochester/Braddock Bay gunning decoy contest
and started picking up a few ribbons from time to time.
My decoys are strictly gunning decoys and are not mantel
birds by any means. I use Chesapeake high-density cork with carved white
pine or cedar heads that are screwed on and glued. I use glass eyes and
golden acrylic paints on all my decoys. The keels are 1” thick standard
lumber yard pine and usually 2 ¼” to 2 ¾” wide and drilled
out with a wood bit so that cylinders of lead can be poured into the keel
for self-righting the decoy. I haven’t tried to sell any of my decoys,
however I usually donate one each year to our local Ducks Unlimited chapter
dinner for their silent auction. The canvasback decoy pictured here sold
on the silent auction for $90.00! I was real happy about that. I take a
lot of pride in putting my cork blocks out in my spread of decoys. There
is no doubt they make a difference.
My favorite carver is Ken Harris of the upstate New York
and Thousand Islands region. His decoys are legendary and sought after.
He was known as the man whose decoys could lure in the wary black duck.