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Old-school Decoys Still Worthy of Space

Homemade dove deocys
Despite the many manufactured decoys available, these homemade models still make their way to the field each year. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

Each September, I get a subtle first-hand reminder of the influence of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s communications efforts.

About 15 or 20 years ago, a how-to story insPanhandle Passagespired me to construct dove decoys out of plywood, metal hooks and a little paint. I’m not sure who wrote or delivered the narrative, but I’m certain it came from the Commission – NEBRASKAland Magazine or something else.

Nobody is going to mistake my work for a Michelangelo or Rembrandt, but the doves are the only critics I care about. I’m certain these decoys have helped me get a closer look at more birds through the years than I would have otherwise. The presence of dove-shaped silhouettes hanging from a tree branch or a fence line seems to give birds enough confidence to fly within shotgun range.

I’ve since purchased a flock of the more realistic plastic dove models now commonly found from retailers and have added a motorized Mojo motion decoy – items I don’t remember being available when I constructed the plywood versions. Regardless, there will always be a place for the homemade decoys in my dove hunting set-up. They have a slim figure and don’t take up much space in the bag.

Manufactured decoys
Manufactured decoys, still sporting a bar code sticker, line a barbed wire fence. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)
Mourning dove
The real thing. A mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) perches on a fence post near Whitney Lake. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

This conversation may bring up an old question: do you need decoys? They help. Similar to a lot of outdoor ventures these days, however, I’m afraid the availability of so many tools and toys from retailers has become a deterrent to those who might enjoy such a pastime – a walk through a sporting goods store may cause people to think a wealth of accessories and a full wardrobe of camouflage are a requirement to even get started. Back in my teens, I bagged a lot of doves, or at least burned through a lot of shotgun shells, while sitting decoy-less near a farm pond donning blue jeans and a white T-shirt with a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun in hand. Perhaps not the best approach, but plenty of fun, nonetheless.

Whatever your methods for getting doves within range, I hope you all have a successful, fun and safe season – don’t forget to get a HIP number and license and always be sure of your shot. If you’re like me, taking aim at these little flying acrobats is among my favorite things to do.

Also, if you have any good do-it-yourself tips for hunting and fishing I’d love to see them. We’ll tell about them through our communication channels and, if they’re good enough, perhaps somebody will still be talking about them in 20 years.

Motorized dove decoy
The motorized decoy is quite convincing, especially when placed near water. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

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About justin haag

Justin Haag serves the Panhandle as a public information officer for the Commission, also serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and enjoy introducing their two children to the many outdoor recreational opportunities of the Pine Ridge region.

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