Cork vs Plastic Decoys

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Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby bloodnguts » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:34 am

For those of you that have hunted over decoys of both materials, can you share the differences you have noticed between the two in the way they stand up to use over time, how they look and ride in the water, and how ducks react to them? I'm contemplating investing in a small spread of cork decoys and maybe picking up a new pair or two each year to build up to a couple dozen, but I'm not sure if it's worth the high dollars if there isn't a huge difference in the cork's ability to draw and finish birds compared to their plastic counterparts. Thanks in advance for sharing your observations.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby killerv » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:22 pm

Cork decoys generally will not finish any more birds than plastic decoys. A well made cork bird will last for many many years of use, probably more than most plastics. Paint holds up a lot better than plastics. Of course all this depends on the carver and if he knows what he is doing or not. Can specify for the most part of what body positions, head positions you would like. You definitely can customize a rig a little more with carved birds, have more preening, sleeping, feeding, scolding positions, whatever...stuff you can't buy off a shelf. That in itself can make the setup more realistic than a bunch of plastic soldiers out on the water. They also tend to float more life like. Hunting over carved birds just adds a little more to the whole experience, rather than hunting over something plastic. I carve, and I'll be the first to tell you it isn't worth the price difference if you are simply going for "finishing more birds", atleast I don't feel they would consistently help you finish more birds. I think why a lot of carvers got into it, they just weren't happy with the plastic options out on the market, plus it helps keep duck season going year 'round the other 9 or so months out of the year. Collecting from different carvers can be fun also.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby hankyorke » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:26 pm

Killerv nailed it.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby ScaupHunter » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:44 pm

While not corks, I cast and carve my own foamers. They move more in the water, and float the way you set them up at the proper body attitude and angle of a live duck. I would never go back to plastics for any reason. The foamers when handled properly will last a lifetime or two as will good cork decoys. An occasional repaint and you are good to go. Occasional being every decade or so. The long life of a cork decoy makes it worth a ton more than any plastics you will buy.

I think a lot of people are way to worried about looks and think that a perfect decoys brings in more birds. I know guys that hunt over all black decoys and kill as many birds as anyone.

If you want to just throw them in a single bag and beat them around, don't buy cork decoys. If you plan to take care of them and want to hunt over decoys with more life and movement then make the purchase.
Last edited by ScaupHunter on Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby woodduck31 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:58 pm

I'll give you a different perspective. I've hunted over hollow wood, cork, foam and plastic and dislike the float of a cork decoy more than any other type. The corks bob unnaturally side to side rather than sitting level on top of the water more than the other choices. Plastics aren't immune to unnatural float and that will vary from brand to brand depending on their footprint (length and width), but are better on the float than cork. With all the variety of poses available from several companies you won't have to only buy standard soldier decoys in plastic. Paint durability varies from brand to brand and you have to do your homework regarding which brand is better. We repaint cork decoys all the time, no decoy is immune from repainting. I spend far more time per decoy repairing cork decoys than any other type. I can hunt over any kind of decoys I want to, I make hollow wood, cork, and carved foam decoys, but I prefer to hunt over carved foam or foam filled plastics. I like the top of the water ride of a light weight carved foam decoy. Being primarily a diver hunter, I want decoys that can handle a pellet once in awhile and most plastics aren't up to that task. Only a few companies sell foam filled plastic decoys. The only concern I have when making decoys is will they bring more ducks into range. 50% of the time the realistic aspect of a decoy probably doesn't matter, but I'm not willing to gamble which time that will be and use the best decoys I can every time I'm out.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby killerv » Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:14 pm

Sounds like a pattern or keel issue for a cork bird to float like you mentioned Don. Somebody didn't know what they were doing. I have seen some poor riding cork birds, but next to them others that appear to be glued to the same water. A foam or wood bird can ride just as bad as your cork experience if they aren't done correctly.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby ScaupHunter » Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:47 pm

I have to agree on the float of a properly designed foam decoy being the best. A lot of cork decoys end up having very rounded lower sides and no edges to keep the properly leveled in rougher conditions. My favorite foam bodies actually come down to the water line almost perpendicular instead of kind of rolled into the bottom flat / water line area. These decoys move the best and float properly in all water conditions.

Corks can be made to float properly, it just takes a good carver to make it happen.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby MassDecoyCarver » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:49 am

I prefer cork over anything else, at least most of the time.
Either my own carved blocks or LL Bean coastals, I think they ride well and are pretty durable,..but it depends on how you treat them and whether or not you're willing to do the annual touch ups to keep them looking good. I use slotted bags and old socks as head covers to protect the paint while in transport. (it's a real pain putting socks on heads while picking up the spread, but it sure helps to protect the paint, especially the bills)
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby Have Gun Will Travel » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:57 am

So those old round bottom upper bay birds never bobbed side to side? The type of movement or how a bird floats to totaly dependant upon weight, weight distribution, and the shape/size of the surface that hits the water.

I agree with killerv in his right up. The other upside, if you're only after "finishing" birds, to plastics is that they are typically lighter in weight. They can also be replaced with ease if they get in the way of a duck.....errrrr steel shot.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby mudpack » Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:31 am

hankyorke wrote:Killerv nailed it.


X2. :thumbsup:

I have cork decoys, wood decoys, foam decoys, and plastic decoys....that I've hunted over for 25 years.
The last five seasons or so, I only hunt with the plastics.

1. I don't have to be anally cautious in handling the plastics like I feel I have to be with the others.
2. The modern (Avian-X, ProGrades, etc.) plastics are far more realistic than the others.
3. Plastics are lighter than cork or wood.
4. Plastics don't take so much of my hunting budget.
5. Plastics ride better than foam in very windy conditions.
6. But plastics don't give me that warm/fuzzy feeling watching them out in front of my blind that cork/wood does.

Bottom line: modern plastics are more effective tools. Hand-carved cork may give you more satisfaction. It's really a personal thing, and the decision is yours.
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby Ringneck » Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:14 am

AS many others have stated I also have hunted with plastics, foamers, urathane molded foam, wood and cork birds. Used them across 3 different flyways and in multiple states over the last 21 years. Based on my experience there is absolutely no difference in any of them with their ability to toll birds. They all are on equal ground. There is no "magic decoy"...it's all on the hunter.

The difference is purely preferential to the hunter and how he likes to hunt. my opinion is that anyone telling you one is superior to any of the others is most likely invested in that product somehow. Buy what you want and hunt what you want. All that matters is HOW HAPPY ARE YOU with the choice.

I hunt corks but I will agree 100% with mudpack that the modern plastics are hard to beat....some of the brands anyway. There are some that still look like crap IMO. Guess those can't afford to hire a good carver :huh:
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Re: Cork vs Plastic Decoys

Postby ic3breaker » Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:33 am

I mix both in my spread and have done fine most days with them.
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