Deeking Out Over Decoys

A metal ring in the base of the decoy holds the bottom open on the way down and then keeps it underwater, so the air can’t escape.

No Ordinary Rubber Ducky!

One of my earliest memories is being in the bathtub with my brother, Rick, and playing with inflatable ducks. That’s right, rubber duckies. But not just any rubber duckies. These were life-sized, and they were painted with life-like colors. Years later, it finally occurred to me to ask where they came from. Mom informed me that they were samples that my father used when they lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. Intrigued, I went to eBay to see what the antique deeks might be worth.

Not much, as it turned out, but I did discover something worth more than mere dollars. Our duck-hunting legacy had a name – Deeks. Armed with this bit of trivia, I did a Web search, but there the trail went cold. The Internet revealed nothing about our childhood bath toys. The next time I saw Rick I gave him half of the Deeks and hung the other three in my office.

A few years later, I found myself in need of a sheet of nice writing paper. I was out of my letterhead but remembered that when Rick and I cleared out Mom’s apartment I kept a box containing an odd assortment of stationery. I pulled it out and as I sorted through the contents came across four sheets of pristine Deeks letterhead. My curiosity once again piqued, I did another Web search that led to a surprising treasure trove of information on the ISA Corporation’s website.

ISA is the direct lineal descendent of the Intermountain Rubber Company, which began making Deeks decoys in the 1930s. Competition from manufacturers in other countries prompted ISA to discontinue Deeks production in the 1960s, but ISA is making Deeks once again. Even more interesting to me was the fact that ISA had put a bunch of historical information about Deeks on their website. Far and away the coolest thing on the website is a segment from the old “Industry on Parade” television program showing how Deeks were made. Seeing how much ISA valued its history, I contacted them and asked if they would like to have a couple of sheets of the old Deeks stationery. They accepted the offer and kindly sent me a dozen Deeks to show their appreciation. Their greenhead mallard model was out of stock, so they sent black mallards instead. It turns out they are a perfect match for those I played with six decades ago!


As an avid duck hunter, I could hardly have been more pleased with the arrangement. When I injured my back a few years ago, I sold most of my 200-plus decoys and replaced them with a dozen high-quality, flocked-head decoys from Cabela’s. I was hoping that quality could replace quantity. The notion has proved out pretty well, but there were still times when I wish for another dozen decoys. With my new Deeks, I have that extra dozen. Although the inflatables are far less credible to my human eyes, ducks don’t seem to notice the difference. Just last week I had a fantastic teal hunt over five Deeks and a Mojo Teal, and I used the full dozen Deeks in combination with my flocked-head Cabela’s decoys to good effect last year.


Setting out Deeks is simple. A 4-inch steel ring holds open the bottom hole, and you simply drop them so they catch air on the way down. The weight of the ring holds the opening underwater, keeping it inflated. The chest of each decoy has a small pocket into which you insert a glass marble, and you tie your anchor line around the outside of the marble. Deeks are dramatically more compact than other decoys. The steel, marble and rubber add up to four or 5 pounds per dozen, making they significantly lighter than plastic decoys, and a far lighter than my foam flock-heads.

Lightness translates into more motion in light wind, which is a good thing, however, it also means that a brisk breeze can tip they far enough onto their sides that they lose air. ISA solved this with rubber caps that slip over the outside of the steel ring, holding air in.

When I’m too old to hunt ducks or remember my name, I hope the folks at the nursing home let me take a couple of Deeks in the tub with me!