The G&H decoy factory and showroom is located in Henryetta, Oklahoma and has been in continuous operation since 1934. Today this family-owned and -operated business, now in its third generation, is the last major American-made decoy company.
It’s easy to spot. Just look for all the duck and goose decoys spread across the front lawn.
The G&H showroom is like a tour of American waterfowling history. Duck and goose mounts adorn the walls, as do vintage decoys and waterfowling items.
This goose shell is one of the oldest pieces in the collection. Made sometime in the 1930s, it was part of a spread of goose decoys that was still being used when the owner came into the factory looking for a few replacement heads. “I traded him some new goose shells for it,” says owner Dick Gazalski, who goes by the appropriate nickname “Duck G.”
That’s Duck G, third-generation owner, retired Marine and Korean war veteran, and master of all things duck. Duck G is holding a mallard decoy with one of G&H’s newest innovations, the Transformer stake and adapter, a system that snaps over the keel of floaters and allows them to be turned into field dekes.
Everyone in Henryetta knows who Duck is…
This wall displays a portion of the G&H decoy line. But to get to these, you have to start with…
…this. G&H uses three manufacturing techniques for its products: blow molding for the floaters, thermal forming for the shells and injection molding for the stakes. Here is the raw product, granulated plastic pellets, for the floaters.
Here’s a broader view of the factory floor. G&H employs approximately 100 people.
Here a worker operates the blow-molding machine for a floater decoy. A hopper above the machine feeds plastic pellets into the mold where they are heated, melted and then blown into the mold within the machine.
Here is the finished mold. It’s ready to be trimmed, painted, keel-filled and then it will get its head attached.
All of G&H’s decoys are painted and assembled by hand.
“We’re famous for our decoys’ paint adhesion and durability,” Duck G says. “We have a proprietary paint adhesion process and the plastic we use has an additive that lets the plastic stay pliable in cold weather. We have absolute paint adhesion and our decoys won’t crack.”
“Sometimes I think our decoys actually last too long,” he says. “We have tons of second and third-generation hunters using the same decoys their daddies and granddaddies did.”
As good as G&H decoys are, however, the company isn’t resting on its laurels. “We’re coming out with new and updated paint designs and schemes, increasing the metallic sheen on our wings, and all new G&H floaters will have a new keel design that allows hunters to snap our Transformer stakes directly to the keel.”
Here’s a close-up of the new keel design.
The manufacturing process for goose shells is a bit different than floaters, as is the material from which they are made. Here’s how a goose shell starts out, as a flat piece of plastic.
A worker then places the sheet into a special machine that first heats the plastic until it’s pliable.
Strapping the sheet into the carrier.
Then contoured wooden blocks press the heated plastic sheets down into the molds.
The sheet is allowed to cool a bit in the mold…
…and is then taken out of the mold, trimmed, stacked…
…and sent along to the paint section.
A just-molded stack of shells ready to be trimmed.
More raw materials for the mold machines.
Racks of goose shells ready for final painting and head attachment.
Just painted goose heads drying on the racks. “Flocking is a big thing on decoys now, but it’s fragile,” says Duck G. “We’ve started using a newly-developed ultra-flat black paint that achieves the same result as flocking but without the maintenance and wear problems flocking has.”
Finished decoys awaiting the final weighting of their keels and packaging.
Filling the keels is the last step before packaging. Once the keels are filled and sealed the decoys move along to…
…the final packaging, where they’re sorted by size, species and sex.
The finished product, ready for shipping, and ultimately, the duck marsh.
Although G&H has been a waterfowling icon for over 60 years, the company is also branching out into other areas as well. Here, Duck G looks over a prototype turkey decoy the company is currently working on and hopes to have on store shelves by this spring.
A t-shirt in the showroom sums up the G&H marketing philosophy. “We can only compete with the Chinese-made decoys on quality, because we can’t compete on price,” Duck G says. “I pay my workers a living wage, I can’t give ’em 50 cents a day, and it’s tough to be competitive with that, but I think as long as there are American hunters out there who want a quality American-made decoy that their children can someday hunt over, there’ll be a market for what we make.”
G&H decoys in Henryetta, Oklahoma has been producing legendary waterfowl decoys since 1934 and today this family owned and operated business, now in its third generation, is the last major American-made decoy company. Join Chad Love for a tour of the factory floor to find out how G&H’s famously durable decoys are made.