Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Mississippi Red - by Mike Hruby"

You know they say you can see a man’s soul if you look him in the eyes. Well, if you’re a decoy carver, you can see it in his work.

This is a short story of decoy sharing venture with someone that started carving roughly the same time I did. I’ve yet to meet Justin Harrison; but I can already tell by the way he writes, the things he takes pictures of, and the decoys he carves, what kind of man he is.

Justin contacted me on a thread of a decoy carving forum that we frequent. His request...simple. He wanted to send me one of his decoys of birds prevalent to the area I live in and could hunt. I would take the block, hunt over it, photograph and document it. I thought it was a tremendous idea and agreed!

My wife called a few days later. “Mike, there is a box here from Mississippi for you. I’ll leave it on the counter.” Well I already knew what was in that box, and I couldn’t wait to get home to see the bird I dubbed “Mississippi Red” (MS Red). I knew Justin preferred white cedar and oils; and was using his own patterns, something I don’t have the nerve to try yet, as I’m still making decoys with my cork and wooden heads. In other words, Justin was doing it right in my opinion. Going old school the way the old carvers did.

I cut the box open and there he was. A handsome Redhead drake ready to work! Ironically enough, Mississippi Red made it to Texas a day before we would leave for the windswept middle Texas coast. Perfect timing! MS Red was loaded up with the rest of my gear, and we’d make the trip together in the morning.

We got to Rockport early in the evening enough with a brilliant, sunny day gracing us. As we unloaded the truck expeditiously to launch the boat to find some of our quarry; I found the perfect time and place to take a picture of MS Red in his temporary home for the weekend. It was taken overlooking a back lake that on this day was nothing short of gorgeous with serenity.

Old man winter was to be up to no good on this weekend in December. We arrived to mid 70’s temps and 30+ mph gust from the south/southeast; only to be faced just the opposite in the coming morning. On our scouting trip in the area to look for birds; it was soon apparent that a shortage of divers would not be a problem. What would be an issue is that the thousands of them we saw were rafted in huge, tight bunches in the middle of the surrounding bays making hunting them tough the way we are rigged to do it. We were damn sure hell-bent and determined to try though!

The first morning would be an indicator that the bluebill and redhead would stay bunched in the relative safety of the middle of the bays. On this day only a couple ducks fell victim to our spread, but MS Red got to make his maiden voyage in the Lone Star state. I have to say he looked damn good doing it! I love the way solid wooden decoys float in the sway of a slight chop. The way they toss and turn makes them more realistic than plastic decoys could even remotely resemble. The redheads showed briefly and a hen would fall; but I wanted and hoped for a big drake for a photo opportunity!

Due to the terrain we hunted in the first morning and the proximity of the retriever with her handler whom she no doubt would take the birds back to; my camera would not see much action. The second morning we again were met with horrible conditions. Once again MS Red swam in his chosen place, and hopefully the species of his makeup would swing by for a visit. Well with the north wind absolutely howling, the divers that morning once again rarely left the safety of the middle of the bays where no waterfowlers ventured. On occasion a boat carrying fishermen would stir the raft in which they resembled a swarm only briefly to sit back down. Frustrating to say the least!

MS Red would see some birds fall on this chilly morning but only bluebill and bufflehead. I had to get up and run, but I did catch one of unlucky buffies only seconds after impact!

So goes the story of the little wooden decoy, handcrafted from a carver in the great state of Mississippi, who came to Texas to job…and a working decoy he is.

I have a large collection of decoys from all over North America some in which date to the early 1900’s. I often look at and or hold them and wonder what the maker looked like or what his mindset was while crafting such a beautiful piece of Americana. Like my signature says on one of the carving forums I frequent - ”If only decoys could talk”.

And as stated earlier, I’ve never met Justin Harrison, yet! But when I finally get to look him in the eyes, shake his hand, and say hello, I will already know what type of person I’m dealing with. We’re damn near two peas in a pod. Justin will join Craig and I next year, and I hope he brings Mississippi Red back for his sophomore year! I look forward to it, and to forging a lifelong friendship.

Funny what a piece of cedar or cork can do to men who craft them into ducks for hunting.

Thank you for including me Justin!

THANKS Mike and Craig for taking the lil redhead from Mississippi on a Texas coast hunt!

Hope everyone is enjoying the stories of the rig as they travel across the country!


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