I began hunting in 1972. Great grandson of
famed Illinois River carver George “Homerun” Barto. Currently hunt
the mid Illinois River. Hunt Clear Lake with Jerry Cranwill,
Wing Feather Duck Club. Jerry is also a decoy maker.
Also,hunt Matanzas Beach with Illinois River duck hunting legend, John
Karl as well Doug Durako, Tony Jones and Danny Wilson. Also
hunt Sanganois Conservation Area for flooded timber shooting.
Hunt Canada Geese from goose pits in Canton, Illinois with fellow carver
Greg Owens, Rich Ginnetti and Mark Buckellew.
Am a purist when it comes to equipment. No
matter where I hunt I always float some of my decoys. Even have a
couple of great grandpa’s blocks I’ve been known to take out.
I use a 14 foot Fiberdome Wigeon duck skiff in shallow water marsh hunting
and swear by Haydel duck calls. I am an old die hard Remington
870 guy. I love hunting flooded timber in my skiff with my
Chocolate Lab, Callie. Although I never have done it, I hope to layout
shoot someday. My current rig of decoys includes over 75 decoys
comprised of mallards, pintails, blacks, wigeon, woodies, green wing teal,
bluebills, Canada Geese and a pair of spoonies.
Illinois River roots being the great grandson to George
“Homerun” Barto Barto carved Illinois River decoys for 60 years with the
likes of Robert Elliston, Burt Graves and the great Charlie Perdew.
Barto also learned how to make duck calls from Perdew. My mentor
and teacher is Art Behemetuik who was a student of Barto.
I began carving decoys in 1984 and have been carving since.
I have my wife Nancy to thank for this. She has been my biggest
fan and driving force. My production ranges from 100-200 decoys per
year. My decoys are standard size. My passion is gunning birds.
I also carve fish decoys. I do have a mallard drake decoy in the
decoy museum at Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Am currently training my 11 year old son Aaron how to
make decoys. He’s doing quite well. He has accompanied me on
hunts and God willing, will begin to hunt with me soon. My
daughter Sarah (8) will have the same opportunities. Each year
I make gunning decoys for them that they will get someday. It’s been
a tradition since they were born.
My decoys vary in materials from White Pine, to White
Cedar to High Density Cork. I carve hollow birds, solid birds
and high density cork birds. I use some mostly exterior latex
and oils for my gunners. Depending if I am gunning big water
or shallow marsh ground I use a wooden keel or simple disc weight.
Glass eyes are used in all decoys. I have carved literally every
species of duck and geese indigenous to North America. I like varied
head positions and several poses in a rig.
Favorite Bird to Carve
All of them. I haven’t carved a species I
Favorite Vintage Carvers
George “Homerun” Barto, Art Behemetuik, Virgil
Lashbrook, Perry Wilcoxen, Ben Schmidt, Walter Snow, Perry Wilcoxen and
Favorite Contemporary Carvers
Jim Schmiedlin, Jerry Cranwill, Greg Owens, Gary Lutterbie,
Gene Everett, Mike Lashbrook, Don Lashbrook, Gary Meister, Marty Hanson,
Ron Koch, Chuck Brownewell and Ron Snow.
Just began competing in 1996 and have faired well.
Have only competed at the North American Waterfowl Carving Championship
and have taken 3-4 ribbons each with a couple Second and Third Best of
Shows the last couple of years although, competition means little to me.
All my ribbon birds hit the marsh and earn their keep of being a decoy.
The best judges are the ducks themselves. My thrill is seeing birds
lock into my decoys in the marsh. Beats a ribbon any day!
Our Lord has given decoy makers a special gift.
And, like our forefathers, it is our mission to pass it on to the next
generation otherwise, a beautiful and functional art form will be lost
and the great sport of waterfowling will be history.