Painting Decoys

By John Potts (aka Crewchief 252)

Most waterfowlers are hard enough on their equipment where painting decoys is necessary

I see this question come up on every duck hunting website I have ever visited. I've also seen a dozen ways to do this, and they all seem to work. It's just a matter of which one you want to use. This is my technique for repainting duck decoys and it has worked well for me.
Let's face it, our decoys take a pretty good beating. A lot of that depends on how often you hunt, where you hunt, and how you hunt. I know some guys who have decoy bags with separate pouches for each decoy. He's very meticulous about putting them in carefully. I simply use the biggest decoy bags I can find, and usually have my son hold it open so I can foul shoot them in from anywhere on the boat. You should see me when hunting the bay where we have large numbers of decoys out. By the time we are done, I am cutting it close to making it work, so I need to get it done quick. With that method, my decoys take a wicked beating, so I typically repaint my duck decoys every 2 or 3 seasons.

A big part of my whole season starts in August. I am getting pretty pumped up for the season, so prepping the decoys is something that I enjoy. It helps to maintain my sanity that last month before opener.

If your decoys are anything like mine, they've been there and back multiple times
First thing I do is remove all the lines and check them for fraying or wear.
I then wash all the decoys with a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and bleach ( 1 ounce to 2 gallons of water ). Hose it down well.

Then use a scrub brush with the tsp/bleach mix. Be sure to rinse them really well with clear water 2 or 3 times. The tsp can leave a white film if it is not completely rinsed.

Let them dry overnight.

Next, make any repairs needed - cracked keels, loose heads, etc. Find a steel wool or some fine grit sandpaper and rub them down anywhere the paint has chipped. The goal is to get those feather edges so they are smooth.

After all have been sanded, rinse them again to remove any dust.

Let it dry thoroughly, now we are ready to paint.

I use gesso first, which can be obtained at any craft or art store. I prefer white, but it comes in clear or black also. Hit every decoy with a coat of gesso. This gives it a very good surface for the paint to stick. It dries in a matter of minutes, then you are ready to paint your duck decoy.
I use liquitex acrylics, but any flat house paint will work. There are also a few commercial decoy paint kits available on the market if you prefer to go that route.

Once all the painting is done, go back and hit them with a coat or two of any flat or matte clear sealer. For the most part, decoy paint jobs don't need to be that fancy. I just think we get caught up in trying for that perfect paint job. Being a decoy carver myself, I am definitely guilty of that. But a simple paint job with the basic colors will bring them in every time. And the way I figure it, if they are close enough to see any flaws in the paint, they should be folding up by then. Happy painting

See John's step by step articles on painting the following decoys below: