The County Decoys: The Fine Old Decoys of Prince Edward County, Ontario


196 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55046-446-9
DDC 745.593'6'09713587





Photos by Peter Steer and Him Stewart
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Today, hand-carved wooden duck decoys are more likely to be found on
display in the rec room or museum than in the barn or marsh.

The decoys discussed and illustrated by Stewart started life not as
collectibles, but as rough-and-ready floating tools, part of the working
gear used by commercial, or market, duck hunters from c.1850 to 1930.
Prince Edward County, in southeastern Ontario, is a lacy landscape,
infiltrated by fingers of Lake Ontario. It was, and is, a perfect
location for massive flocks of waterfowl. Victorians assumed the supply
of ducks, like passenger pigeons, would last forever and placed no
restrictions on the numbers “harvested.” “Rigs” of up to 200
decoys per hunter were part of the equipment used in this massive
slaughter. Today, the survivors of those hunting rigs have entered the
antiques and collectibles market, where the identity of the carver and
details of the decoys’ provenance add to their monetary value, which
can be in the thousands of dollars.

This meticulously researched book gives the history of how ducks were
hunted and specifics on the life and work of over 30 carvers. Usually
the carvers reached for an impressionistic rather than a realistic
result, capturing the essence of the duck without reproducing it in

The book is lavish, with more than 300 photos (including colour shots
of hundreds of decoys, as well as reproductions of archival photos of
the carvers and of hunters at work) plus beautiful colour plates of
scenics by well-known nature artist Allan Brooks. The text is rich in
detail and anecdote, and is carefully organized for easy reference.

The County Decoys is a landmark work in both quality and scope,
definitely a must-have for all Ontario social historians and decoy


Stewart, Jim., “The County Decoys: The Fine Old Decoys of Prince Edward County, Ontario,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,