MiVT: Starr Decoys

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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WEYBRIDGE, Vt. (WCAX) - Gary Starr has a job that’s certainly no “bird-en.”

“I carve and paint birds for a living,” he said.

It’s a continuation of the family business Starr Decoys that goes back to the mid-20th century.

Starr learned the art of making decoys from his father, who picked up the hobby in 1947.

The decoys were used by hunters to attract ducks.

“By the time he died in 1978, he had over 2,300 duck decoys and had written a couple of books on them, and was featured in National Geographic,” Starr said.

That iteration of Starr Decoys was based in Massachusetts but sold products to Abercrombie & Fitch when it was still a sporting goods store.

This one, with the same name, is in Weybridge, though Starr doesn’t make decoys anymore due to a loss of depth perception. Instead, he makes little wooden bird ornaments for people to enjoy.

“My wife, Kathy, and I are international bird watchers, basically,” he said. “I just love birds and love the look of them and when you’re carving them, the feel of them.”

They’re all based on birds Starr has seen in real life. He keeps a detailed notebook of each one for accuracy.

“I think my ornaments give a real impression of what the birds look like. And people know they’re buying something, each one is a little bit unique,” he said.

Starr makes every bird by hand. He says because of the detail, he probably handles each one more than 30 times, sanding, burning, branding and painting.

“What I’m trying to do is define the different feather groupings,” he explained.

He mostly does it by himself with Kathy helping out with logistics and whatever else Gary needs.

“When I started this business, because it was a family tradition, I decided that I wasn’t going to have any employees. I said I was going to do it all myself, I was going to put my name on the back,” Starr said.

And that’s exactly what he does, carrying on a family tradition that’s hardly for the birds.

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