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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of William "Willy" McDonald with Brian C. Ballard, both holding duck decoysWilly McDonald and Brian C. Ballard
Photo by LuAnne Kozma

William "Willy" McDonald
2007 awardee, Delton (Barry County), Waterfowl Decoy Carver

Willy credits his grandfathers for his early experience in woodworking; he assisted them in their carpentry businesses and in making hay wagons for local farmers.

As a youth, he first tried his hand at carving after watching a street vendor carve and sell trinkets. He carved toys until he decided to study music, which led to a career as a professional musician and entertainer. In this profession, he was occasionally invited to Ducks Unlimited banquets as an emcee, which led to a love of duck hunting and decoys and rekindled his interest in carving. Today he is devoted to making working waterfowl, what he calls "carving for the hunt," and he maintains a large collection of hunting decoys dating from the 1800s that documents the evolution of carving techniques.

Although primarily a self-taught decoy carver, Willy was greatly influenced in his waterfowl carving by Ken Krum and Jim Wicks, earlier recipients of the Michigan Heritage Award who were recognized for their superb duck decoy carving and dedication to making working decoys. With plastic decoys becoming more prevalent, Willy is doing his bit to keep the tradition of hand-carved and hand-painted decoys alive. For some twenty years, Willy has conducted classes on aspects of painting and carving decoys all around the country. In 2003 he worked with an apprentice, Dwane Ong, to pass on his knowledge of making traditional, durable hunting decoys. He frequently writes articles on carving decoys for hunting for the national magazine Wildfowl Carving and speaks on a regular basis to service clubs and historical societies. Today, Willy and his wife, Diane, have The Duck Blind, an online store, "offering carving and art supplies, videos on decoy carving, live waterfowl references, and articles by Willy.

Willy McDonald, nationally known carving educator and waterfowl expert, is recognized with a 2007 Michigan Heritage Award for his work to preserve and perpetuate the tradition of hunting decoys and for his excellence in waterfowl carving and painting.

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