Caught in the Net 

Captured at www.tfb.com/-rharper/npca.html

Pig Decoy Carving

The National Pig Carvers Association

Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of pig decoy carving

The actual date when pig decoys were first employed in the hunt for the wily wild pig is not known. We do know that over the years pig decoy carvers had become so highly skilled in their craft that the poor pigs stood virtually no chance against the hunters. The survival of the wild pigs was so jeopardized that Federal legislation was adopted banning the use of pig decoys in a hunt. With a major market for their work abolished, the pig decoy carvers were forced to turn their attention to more lucrative endeavors. As a result the skills necessary to produce a truly fine pig decoy almost vanished. Now, thanks almost entirely to the efforts of the National Pig Carvers Association, the art of pig decoy carving is flourishing.

The Museum maintained by the N.P.C.A. houses one of the world's finest collections of pig decoys. This collection, Pig Decoys Through the Ages, vividly demonstrates the advances made in this unique art form over the years. At several points knowledgeable people have declared the peak of pig decoy carving has been achieved. Yet the decoy carvers continue to press the edges of the pig carving envelope.

A Brief but Factual Account of the Development of Pig Decoy Carving

The first decoys were constructed with whatever materials the hunter had at hand. If available, water reeds were popular for the body for they could be bound together in a bundle which, at a distance, did give the appearance of a pig body. But if reeds were not available bundles of brush were utilized. Or corn husks. Or palm fronds. Anything that happened to be handy. Branches were thrust into the bundle for makeshift legs. The head was sometimes nothing more than a bag filled with rags affixed to the front of the bundle. Others tried using a piece of log to pass for a head. Some would simply utilize a round rock. These decoys worked, after a fashion, but were not wildly successful. It was then that some enterprising hunter turned to a woodcarver for assistance.

Fortunately for the pig population, as hunting passed from a necessity to a sport, the gentlemen of that era considered the use of pig decoys as unsportsmanlike and refused to employ them in the hunt.

Given those circumstances it comes as no surprise to learn the art of pig decoy carving fell in a sharp decline. A few of the master carvers of the time were willing to share their knowledge and skill, but few indeed were the young carvers who were moved to commit the time and effort needed to successfully master the difficult art of pig decoy carving. Now, largely due to the efforts of the National Pig Carvers Association, pig decoy carving is enjoying renewed attention.

Caught in the Net welcomes interesting flotsam culled by its readers. Send E-mail to netfishing@chicagoreader.com. There's a T-shirt in it for you if we print it.

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