People and Places with Pierce: Core Sound decoy carving

HARKERS ISLAND, N.C. (WNCT) – In an age where technology is king, long standing traditions can sometimes fall by the way side. But one group of talented artists is looking to pass on an age old Down East tradition.

“I don’t know of a time in my life that I haven’t had a carving under way,” said Jack Gardner, who has been a decoy carver for most of his life.

For Jack, decoy carving is a passion that started when he was a boy.

“My next door neighbor was Mr. Charlie Mason,” recalled Gardner. “As a small child I’d go over and watch him carve. And you know when you’re a child there’s nothing any more fascinating than a sharp knife.”

Jack is a proud member of the Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild, a group dedicated to preserving the history and tradition of carving.

“Carteret County has a tradition of bird hunting, of duck hunting, from the beginning of time,” said Gardner. “Decoy making at its origins was purely functional. The hunters used them to attract wild fowl, waterfowl, closer to their guns. You have to select good wood that’s light and floating, cypress and white cedar, juniper wood. They’d use just basic paint patterns, black, white, gray. It was a pretty rustic rough type of decoy when they started out. The form of decoys started to become much more sophisticated as time went by, not necessarily strictly for hunting, but for mantles and for people to enjoy the craft and the art of the decoy.”

“The Decoy Carvers Guild is of course very active still doing their decoys,” noted Teresa Everett with the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center.

The Core Sound Decoy Festival, held every year the first weekend in December, is one place you can see them in action.

“It’s a chance for people to come down and see traditional boat building demonstrations, decoys,” said Everett. “We have decoys that people would be able to buy.”

“It’s an important tradition for Carteret County and Core Sound in general to try to promote and extend these traditions,” said Gardner.

“This was a way of life,” remarked Everett. “We just want to make sure people remember how it used to be, the way it was.”

Times may have changed but carrying on this tradition won’t stop anytime soon.


For more information on the Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild, click here.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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