SI Vault
 
Time to Pick up the Decoys
Ray Cave
December 13, 1971
The canvasback of the Atlantic Flyway is not, officially, an endangered species. He numbers about 100,000 now, not much more or less than he did a decade ago. But what is extinct, as the daily bag limit on the Chesapeake Bay "can" has fallen from 15 to 10 to four to two to one, is a sporting way of life. The canvasback is nostalgia on the wing, and the hunting of him, in the grand and proper way, had no more hope of surviving the '50s and '60s than the Pullman car or the live-in maid. The times doomed him, as Canada's farmers drained his breeding grounds, his rivers came up sludge and his flyway turned to smokestacks. Unlike the mallard and Canada goose, the canvasback takes unkindly to the notion of living in the backyard of man. His imperiousness will be the death of him.
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December 13, 1971

Time To Pick Up The Decoys

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Down on the Eastern Shore they used to pray for bitter weal her early so the Flats would freeze and drive the canvasbacks on south. But even when it happened, not many hunters ever got to know the can quite the way the Flats man did. The best of them on the Shore today will tell you that you can't call a canvasback. Of course you can. Back in the early '40s Jim Farring would call them right off Senator Millard Tydings' decoys half a mile away. He could talk to 'em and turn 'em and comfort 'em with a lovely high-pitched whine, a sound unique. And we would sit there, man and boy, and smile and wait. He even taught me how to do it. Sometimes on a winter morning a man feels like trying out that sound again. But it catches in the throat.

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