How to Paint Wood Duck Decoys

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Duck decoys were used by early Native Americans for hunting.
Duck decoys were used by early Native Americans for hunting. (Image: duck decoy image by Julianna Olah from Fotolia.com)

Archaic-period Native Americans (from 6,000 B.C. to A.D. 1) used duck decoys made from tule reed to lure birds within reach of their bows and arrows. Scientists in Nevada found ancient duck decoys in a cave that opened onto the fossilized Lake Lahontan. Modern duck decoys are also used for hunting and creating works of fine art. Whatever you decide for your decoy's job, you can easily paint your unfinished duck decoy with acrylic paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfinished duck decoy
  • Duck reference
  • Acrylic paint
  • Fine paint brushes
  • Rags
  • Small plastic cups
  • Clear spray paint

Paint the eyes of your unfinished duck decoy. Use black for the center and a lighter color, like red or yellow around it. Check your duck references to find the distinguishing traits, such as plumage colors, for the duck species you plan to hunt.

Paint the beak colors that are similar to your duck reference. Some ducks have dark beaks, like Green-Wing Teal, and some ducks have orange-yellow beaks, like the Mallard.

Paint the rest of your duck's head with the appropriate colors. For example, if you are painting a male Mallard, paint its head dark-green with a light yellow band around its neck.

Add color to the breast of your duck decoy, and then paint its back and wings. Use your reference as a guide for color choices. If you make a mistake, you can wipe it clean with a cloth and then paint the correct colors.

Paint the tail and the sides of your duck decoy. You do not need to paint the bottom, since it will be underwater and not seen. Once your duck dries, you can sign your name on the bottom. Let your duck completely dry for 24 hours.

Spray your painted duck with clear spray paint to keep all the colors intact. This clear finish will protect your paint, especially if you decide to use your duck in the water. Allow it to dry before using.

Tips & Warnings

  • Experiment with different duck types depending on your area. It is best to use ducks that are found locally if you plan on using it outdoors.
  • Use spray paint outside or in a well-ventilated room.
  • Use a drop cloth or newspaper to protect your table.

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