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In Sacramento, a competitive show of the best hand-carved decoys.

In the 1800s, hunting decoys were fairly crude, with unpainted, almost featureless bodies. Then carvers began adding realistic touches such as protruding wings with the shaft and barbs of each feather detailed, and necks arching as if for preening. The decoy for waterfowl hunting became beautiful as well as functional.

By the turn of the century, cheaper, manufactured decoys were bobbing by the thousands on bays and lakes during hunting season; many handcarvers were driven from their craft. In recent years, collectors have rediscovered the artistry of those antiques hewn from red cedar, basswood, or cork; rare ones can bring bids that draw gasps at auctions--one topped $65,000 at a recent sale.

You can see the best decoy art--both antique and contemporary--in Sacramento on June 23 and 24, as some 250 carvers and dozens of exhibitors gather for the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association's annual Wildfowl Festival. Highlight of the festival will be the competition of carvings of all North American wildfowl species (judging Saturday at 9 and Sunday at 12:30). To meet the criteria for the "best in the West" category, works must not only be decorative but float gracefully and be self-righting (judging is Saturday at 1).

There'll be a painting contest Saturday at 2, and a head-carving contest Sunday at 9:45; carving demonstrations will be given hourly both days. One exhibit room will be filled with antique decoys, some for sale by silent auction. The main floor will hold displays of modern decoys, many for sale at prices ranging from $75 up to $10,000.

Some modern carvers are producing museum-quality works--detailed beauties that will never touch the water. Decoys destined to work the hunt may show subtle adaptations to local conditions: a deeply cut bottom to ride well in rough waters, or a narrow breast to slice through ice-clogged rivers.

Decoys on display will include every species of North American duck, as well as shorebirds such as avocets, curlews, and plovers. (Hunters once lured shorebirds by placing decoys at wave's edge; shore bird hunting is now outlawed.) You'll see carvings of other birds and wildlife species, plus wildlife paintings and prints. Some 100 tables will offer books and carving tools and paraphernalia.

The festival will be at the Red Lion Motor Inn, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento. From Interstate 80, exit east on Arden Way; turn right on Point West. Hours will be 9 to 5 Saturday, 10 to 4 Sunday. Admission is $2.

One publication for further reading is the quarterly North American Decoys Magazine ($12 annually). Write to Box 246, Spanish Fork, Utah 84660.
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Date:Jun 1, 1984
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