Troy resident's duck decoys win awards

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 20, 2014

 Robert Gohl paints a fish to go with the decoys.

Robert Gohl paints a fish to go with the decoys.

Photos by Patricia O’Blenes


Troy resident Robert Gohl, 52, is on a winning streak. He’s hunted ducks for 40 years, painted them from foam and plastic models for 35 years, but only started cutting and carving the decoys himself two years ago. And he’s bagged best in show as well as first, second and third place with his duck decoys at the St. Clair Flats Decoy Carving Show this summer.

He attended the Center for Creative Studies, studied graphic arts and always painted. His day job was painting and wallpapering homes.

“My dad took me hunting as a kid; I kept going and got hooked on waterfowl,” he said. “I’ve seen so many ducks in my days.”

He uses balsa wood for the bodies and pine for the head, and he glues the pieces together, using a screw to hold the decoy together.

He first cuts the wood on a band saw, then carves it by hand using birds he’s hunted over the years and had stuffed as models.

He draws and then traces his own patterns on the wood before he paints the ducks.

Before he started making his own decoys, he collected decoys and amassed dozens that he keeps in his garage, including a Harry Ackerman collection from the 1940s.

His son, Trevor Gohl, 20, has tried his hand at carving fowl, but he said, “I’m nothing like him. I like watching.”

Gabriel Gohl, Robert’s daughter and a junior at Troy High School, supported her father with a duck pendant that she made in metal shop class.

Gohl’s decoys may be used or displayed with easy removal of a part that fits on the bottom of the fowl. He recently donated the proceeds of a Blue Bull duck to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which aims to build awareness of breast cancer.

What started as a hobby has grown into “the main thing I’m doing,” he said. “People want ducks.”

For more information on Gohl’s decoys, visit