Richard Feucht is pictured here sitting at his kitchen table as he surveys a collection of ducks and other birds that he has carved over the years. The birds include blue jays, cardinals, and doves. Carving these decorations has become a hobby for Feucht since his retirement from Cabot in 1999. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
A fowl hobby
Duck hunting has turned into a booming business in all areas of the state from leading guided hunts in the marshes of Gueydan to filming episodes of Duck Dynasty in and around West Monroe.
Here in Central Louisiana, duck hunting has turned into a hobby for one Ville Platte resident. This hobby, then, has turned into a way for him to pass his free time since his retirement and a way to give back to the community.
Richard Feucht carves duck decoys that he sells and gives as Christmas presents. He also donates some to be auctioned to raise money for recent events as the Dixie Youth and Girls’ Softball Radio Auction, the mission trips to Honduras, and Delta Waterfowl.
“I bring some to Delta Waterfowl in Eunice and also Ville Platte, and they auction them off every year,” Feucht said. “They sell them for quite a bit of money. They’re glad to get them, and I’m glad to give them too. The decoys are an attraction that a lot of the duck hunters like to see.”
The idea of making these decoys sprouted from Feucht’s own love of duck and goose hunting. He said, “I’ve been doing that since I was really young, and I’ve enjoyed it. I guess that’s probably why I got interested in the birds and making the birds.”
“I started making the birds in the late 1950’s, and then I got away from it,” he continued. “Then, when I retired from Cabot in 1999, that’s when I really got into it. I’ve been carving pretty extensively since then. It’s fun, and it’s something to do whenever I don’t have anything else to do and when it’s hot outside.”
The process for Feucht of making the decoys begins with him cutting down a Tupelo gum tree. “The gum trees are very common around here,” he said. “The broad trees at Chicot Park are Tupelo gum trees. When they get down to the water’s edge, they make a buttress that get real big. That’s what I use to carve with. I’m thankful that I have place that I can cut these trees because one block costs $45.00.”
After the tree is cut, Feucht said, “I let it cure for probably two months. Then, I make blocks out of it with a chain saw. After I cut up the blocks, I’ll draw the duck that I want on the block. I have to square the block off real good, and, then, I cut out the pattern.”
“I cut out the top and the side, and, from there, I start carving and rounding off the bird in whatever position I want it to be in,” he continued. “It’s a long process. Some birds will probably take four months, and it’s a lot of work on them. It’s anywhere from five to eight hours a day.”
During the process, Feucht uses electric tools to do some of the finer work. “I have electric tools in all kinds of different shapes that I do the feathers with, and then, after I do the feathers, I’ll start detailing with the burning iron and some little cutters to do the split feathers with.”
Much of the time consumption used on the birds comes from the amount of detail put into each one. As Feucht said, “Some are just burnt. They’re carved and burnt with a burning tool. I carve the feathers then burn the individual things on them. Then I paint from there.”
Some other decoys are what Feucht calls slicks. “Usually, I make one slick every year for my grandchildren for Christmas, and they draw for it,” he stated. “A slick is just the shape of the bird. I don’t carve the feathers, burn it, or anything. I just paint it. There’s no detail on it, but it comes out nice. It’s just not as pretty as a bird that has been detailed.”
While his decoys are just for decoration, Feucht said that the duck decoys that he uses to hunt are very productive. “You’d have a hard time killing ducks without them,” he stated. “We use them a lot. We might put out a couple hundred of decoys. The ducks respond well to them, and the manufacturers now have gotten so good at making these decoys. They really look real. They’re made out of plastic, but the manufacturers do a good job of making them.”
Aside from making decorative duck decoys, Feucht also carves other kinds of birds. “My wife Bobbie Sue kind of got me started into the birds,” he expressed. “I was just doing ducks for a while, and she got excited and asked why I didn’t do some birds. So, I did a few birds, and she liked them.”
Some of the birds that Feucht has made are blue jays, cardinals, robins, and doves. He said, “(My wife) hadn’t asked me to do anything else, so I guess I’m probably going to stop right there.”
For Feucht, carving these decoys and birds has become a part of his life that he loves. “At my age, I don’t do a lot of things besides this,” he said. “I fish, but I can’t fish all the time. Like on a hot day like this, I go in my shop and carve. It’s a blessing to have that. I thank the good Lord for that all the time because I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that hobby.”