Among the many ways that wingshooting is a gear junkie’s joy, waterfowling may top them all as the most intensive—with its purpose-built guns, high-tech waders, lanyards brimming with calls and so on. And with hundreds of desirable new decoy styles becoming available every year, it makes one wonder: Where do all the old, faded and worn decoys go?
For Eric Maynard of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, one solution for repurposing decoys was borne of elegant simplicity. Among the dozen nature and education centers the AGFC operates, decoys long have been used in teaching duck identification and hunting techniques, and repainting decoys has become especially popular with new hunters and budding conservationists. So when a few years ago Maynard, the AGFC’s assistant chief of education, drove by a farm and saw decoys piled amidst a burn pile, he saw treasure where others saw trash. With permission, he spent an hour or so rescuing dekes for use in the education programs—and the first inventory in the “decoy adoption center” filled the bed of his pickup.
This past year word spread quickly, and the pace of collecting used dekes really took off. “I put the word out,” Maynard said, “and people have been more than happy to give them to me—by the truckload.”
From hunter-education-program giveaways to helping outfit mentor hunts, repurposing a steady stream of used decoys offers win-win possibilities. When the AGFC started hosting outdoor gear flea markets on a “swap & shop” basis (where outdoors enthusiasts could buy and sell used gear to each other), Maynard saw young hunters drawn to the decoys. “[The program] gives people an opportunity to get out there and hunt without having to spend a fortune to start off with,” he said.
For more information on how the AGFC makes decoy donations work, email Maynard at [email protected].