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Two complete 1950s vintage G&H Goose Decoy Co. Canadian goose shell decoys in very good condition. MARK GREENIG/RECORD

Mark Greenig: G&H Goose Decoy Company — three generations strong

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Mark Greenig: G&H Goose Decoy Company — three generations strong
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The early goose season is just about here. So it’s fitting to talk about some vintage and relatively obscure Canadian goose shell decoys from the G & H Goose Decoy Co. Most of you probably are not familiar with this company and its long tradition of making decoys. Time to change that.

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The G & H Goose Decoy Company is in its’ third generation of business. In my research I noticed the company has dropped the “Goose” from its’ name. Today they are more diversified in their efforts and producing all types of decoys for the outdoor enthusiast. Business records date back to 1934. J.V. Hutton was the first generation to produce what the business called “best products available.” Second generation maker John J. Gazalski carried the business torch until “Duck G.” U.S.M.C., assumed control as the third generation maker.

I couldn’t find much information on the company’s website. However, the two geese pictured are the same style as shown in a photo from the 1930’s. The G & H stands for Gazalski and Hutton. I speculate if your decoy shells have, “Pat. No. 2,011,480, P.O. Box 932, Henrietta, Okla.,” stamped in red on the shell underside, they are second generation products. My reasoning is Gazalski and or Hutton did that when Gazalski came into the business. Early company photos show primarily Canadian and snow goose decoy shells, thus the G & H Goose Decoy Company name. Sometime later the company branched out into a multitude of different decoys.

Current G & H motorized decoys are expensive. Mallards sell for $140 and geese are $160 each. Six magnum geese shells are $110. Such prices help keep values higher for their vintage products.

G & H goose decoy shells seem to be made of a heavy paper coated with some type of heavy wax-like material. The paint job is delicate and visually appealing. Heads are made of a heavy material which is wrapped around numerous times to provide strength, no eyes. That wrapping effect is easily noticed in each head. Shells come with a number of different style heads or “moods” as hunters call them. They included sleepers, feeders, semi relaxed and sentinels. All are necessary to fool the wary Canadian honker. Shell bodies are 20 inches long and 6.5 inches high. A sentinel head is 9.5 inches high, with relaxed head postures 6 inches in height.

The wooden apparatus for placing a shell in the ground looks very much like a cross. Made of light wood, it is stapled in the center with a small nail protruding from each side. Those nail heads are placed into a hole located in each side. The pointed end was placed into the ground (don’t know how practical that is when hunting over frozen ground) with the other end, which had a small nail and spring, placed in a hole located center top of the body. The head is attached to the top center wood stake via a black rubber band complete with a hole which was attached to a small nail head. The rubber band pressure insures the head is upright.  This design keeps the shell and head rigid when hunted over. At each point where the cross-like support system is attached,  the company added more material for strength: Another example of the quality of this vintage shell decoy.

It’s surprising how well these shells have stood the test of time. I estimate the two pictured are from the 1950’s, possibly a bit earlier due to their stamping. All pieces are still intact, which maximizes value. Any missing parts and you know what happens. An online search located many contemporary G & H decoys. No vintage goose shells were found, a good sign. I estimate value at $15 to $20 each, assuming all parts are present. As with many collectibles we discuss, these “decoy shells” remain functional, but better suited for viewing pleasure in your home. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.

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