The Craft, Art & Collection
of Waterfowl Decoys

Zachery Cote
Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter Auctioneers

Wednesday, November 14, 7:00 p.m.
Bowdoinham Town Office Building

Rare short body old squaw drake by Oscar Bibber
Photo: Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter

Waterfowl decoys have spanned the spectrum between a practical and necessary tool for survival to high class collectible art. It’s one thing to cut a rough piece of log in approximate likeness of a duck to lure in your food. It’s another thing entirely to spend hours with whittling tools and paint creating that perfect or sometimes more abstract, likeness of a specific waterfowl species. Somewhere along the spectrum occurs that perfect blend of grace and perfection, where form following function more effectively puts food on the table whilst becoming a joy to see and use. Long winter nights in Maine provided ample opportunity for Merrymeeting Bay hunters/carvers to strive towards perfection in this art. Merrymeeting Bay is still the largest migratory waterfowl fall staging area north of Chesapeake. While duck populations are a shadow of what they once were, the carving and use of decoys is still practiced by some.

For many years, perhaps proportionate with the decline in duck hunting, appreciation for the fine art aspects of decoys has escalated with some selling at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Zachary Cote is the assistant auction manager, gallery manager and New England representative for Guyette, Schmidt, and Deeter, the world’s leading decoy auction house.  Since 1984, Guyette, Schmidt, and Deeter has sold over $136 million worth of antique decoys including the world record auction price of $856,000 paid for a merganser hen by Lothrop Holmes circa 1890.  The company provides free appraisals and maintains a retail store in Freeport, Maine with decoys in the $150 - $1,500 range.

Come learn about the history of decoys, how they were and are made and the fine art of collecting. Attendees may bring decoys in for evaluation.

The FOMB Winter Speaker Series takes place monthly from October-May on the second Wednesday. The series, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Friends of Merrymeeting Bay with support and valuable door prizes from Patagonia Outlet in Freeport. The next FOMB presentation on December 12th at the Bridge Academy in Dresden is entitled Herons & Cranes of Maine and features Danielle D’Auria, biologist with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.  

To receive more information on FOMB’s programs call Ed Friedman, Chair, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, at 666-3372 or Full speaker schedule and speaker biographies are available on the web at

Part 1

Part 2

Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler
Last Updated: