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Leon Bibb: Duck decoy maker has a passion for the past

A hunter and duck decoy maker, Vic Sutek is in his own world in his duck shack just outside Minerva, Ohio.

MINERVA, Ohio — On a snow-covered and wind-tossed day in the rolling hills of Columbiana County, caught in Ohio's winter breeze, are the sounds of a wood carver at work.   

Although he is grounded in his work, the mind of Vic Sutek wanders off to the water where he will lay out with a shotgun. He will scan the skies for any duck which will take to what Sutek is making today and swoop into shotgun range.  

A hunter and duck decoy maker, Sutek is in his own world in his duck shack just outside Minerva, Ohio. Sitting quietly on the shelves are ducks devoid of voice. For two decades, Sutek has made hundreds of decoys. Intricate work here to create a floatable wooden replica. The idea is make the real thing take the bait, thinking it is joining birds of the same feather.  

"I hope they're thinking, 'Well those look good. Let's go down and fly in and have some lunch with them,'" Sutek said.

The real quacker has no idea it is being offered a shotgun invitation for lunch. This is Sutek's passion. He's made so many decoys, his wife scolded him to "build yourself a shack and keep your birds out there." Well, he did. His wife rarely ducks in there.  

"I guess all guys need a man-cave of some type and this is mine," Sutek said.

Artist at work who knows hunters can buy machine-made plastic decoys at outfitters stores, Sutek shuns the thought. I'm a handmade wood man, he will tell you.

On a shack wall is a vintage photograph of some duck decoy hunters. For generations, fellows like these have passed down the know-how.

"A lot of old guys used to find old telephone poles and chop 'em in half and split 'em and make decoys that way," Sutek recalled. 

In his duck shack, Sutek prepares for the Great Lakes Decoy Association show later this month at a Westlake hotel. You're invited to duck in and eyeball decoys offered as artwork, which could go for big dollars. But mostly, decoys will be judged for what they were made to do – not bring in the bucks but bring in the ducks.