Crafting a Legacy
Inside Cedar Run Decoy Company
As the door swung open, the rich aroma of cedar escaped into the crisp fall morning. The familiar scent, as warm and welcoming as the shop's owner, hinted at the collection of wooden treasures inside. In Corey Lucas' Southwest Michigan workshop, history mingles with craftsmanship, setting the stage for a tale woven in waterfowling traditions.
Established in 2019, Cedar Run Decoy Company embodies the heart of classic waterfowling, reflecting an old-school approach to the sport. In a world cluttered with mass-produced imports and impersonal retail spaces, Corey chose a different path. His vision? Hand-carved decoys and meticulously crafted gear meant to endure the rigors of the hunt and designed to be passed down for generations. At Cedar Run, it's not just about products; it's about fostering a profound bond between a hunter and their tools. For Corey, it's about reviving the spirit of the good old days.
His process begins with the raw materials - a sheet of cork for the body and a block of basswood for the head. Guided by seasoned hands and knowledge from his days as a wildlife biologist, every cut, curve, and detail is precisely crafted with attention to symmetry. Using a blend of traditional tools like draw knives, rasps, vises, and hand sanders alongside modern power carving techniques, each duck body takes form according to its species and size. The process, a careful dance between artistry and design, involves hours of carving, sanding, and detailing.
With drying times, each deke is a three-day project. From the initial shaping to the final strokes of iridescent paint dry brushed on the mallards' green heads, no detail is spared in the pursuit of authenticity. Added texture is dabbed on with a sponge to simulate the vermiculation in most male ducks. Hand-painted glass eyes display a skill learned out of necessity during the pandemic when supplies were nonexistent. And a personalized cedar keel is the finishing touch to a rugged piece of working art. Every decoy is a testament to Corey's commitment to genuine craftsmanship and ensuring each piece captures the true essence of the wild.
Initially a whitetail hunter, Corey was lured into waterfowling by his buddies over a decade ago. Disappointed by the lack of realism in plastic decoys, he found some old carving books in the basement of the university library and tapped into his background as the son of a woodworker to try his hand at a homemade version. He carved his first vision into reality inside his dad's workshop, starting with a blue-winged teal. It began as a weekend hobby, a way to let off steam after long days as Operations Manager at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, an environmental education center and biological field station near Hastings, MI. But with each new carving over the next ten years, Corey's passion slowly took flight. And what began as a project to carve his personal rig soon transformed into something more significant.
In 2019, driven by his wife's encouragement and joined by his friend Boyd Culver, Corey ventured into the entrepreneurial realm. Despite launching just six months before the pandemic, fate smiled upon him. Reliance on digital connection and a renewed interest in the great outdoors brought a surge of new hunters to the waterfowling market. After one pivotal order in 2021, Corey left his day job for good and went all-in on his dream.
With a spirit of innovation, Corey intentionally carved a niche, steering clear of the standard offerings to focus on elusive treasures like King Eiders and Harlequins. His sea duck dekes became an Atlantic and Pacific Coast sensation, outselling even mallards last year. With a promise of a free repaint at any time, Corey's refreshing brand of customer service resonates with a community that digs old-school values.
Corey teamed up with his longtime friend Kaj Carlson to launch the Corey and Kaj podcast to support and spread the word about his new venture. This show allows the duo to discuss hunting culture with various guests from the industry, including the team at BOSS Shotshells. Kaj, an early friend of BOSS, turned Corey on to the shells during a 2020 hunting trip to New York. A natural kinship between the two homegrown businesses quickly formed, spurred by a shared love of craftsmanship and conservation.
At BOSS, we know personal connections drive independent small businesses. That's why we'll be using a Cedar Run rig at Duck Camp this season. And it's why we visited his woodshop last week, to gather some new gear like a non-toxic anchor line and a custom-built decoy bag. Traditions run deep in this business, as do friendships between folks trying to do it the right way.
Amidst today's digital showcase, Corey advocates for a return to the simplicity of hunting, emphasizing community, land stewardship, and cherished moments shared with loved ones. In his eyes, carving decoys is about reconnecting with the essence of hunting and ensuring its legacy for future generations. And that's something we can get behind.