Connecticut

Connecticut forms the northern coast of Long Island Sound and while the rivers flowing into the sound and resulting marshes did not yield the great kills common for market gunners, they welcome the occasional shooter and sportsmen.

The most noted of Connecticut's carvers were located in the Stratford and along the Housatonic River areas. Collectively, these carvers offered a distinctive look known as the "Stratford school" -- A full breast that slopes away from the bow of the decoy, a pronounced tail, and platform for the head usually located below the highest point on the back and parallel to the surface of the water.

The exaggerated breast was upswept to allow the decoy to float over ice and slush. The bodies were usually hollowed, two-piece, with rounded bottoms where a pear-shaped weight was attached with a brass screw. Heads were well designed with glass eyes, and there was usually a neck notch or v-groove just below the back of the head. Decoys were beautifully painted using a combing technique.

In addition to the Stratford School, there were the Mystic River and Connecticut River Schools where the decoys, though similar, had their own unique characteristics. Mystic River carvers made beautiful slender bodied mergansers or shell-drakes with long narrow bills, and Connecticut River decoys were normally of solid construction. Hunters in all three areas sought black duck, broadbill, goldeneye, scoter, and merganser and the carvers from the Connecticut schools provided them with beautiful functioning lures of each species.

The most notable of the Stratford carvers were Albert Laing, Ben Holmes, and Shang Wheeler; while Sam Collins, Bertram Tooker, and Ned Pratt are from the Connecticut River school.