Bouy Bird How To....

Mark Vanderhoof

Active member
Since posting some pictures of some bouy birds recently, I received alot of emails with questions on how to construct them. So here is a step by step- how to on how I make them. First off, credit must go to STEVE SUTTON for turning me on to these types of birds. After hunting over some of steves bouy birds and seeing others in hand I had to make some. I learned most of this process from one of steves postings last year and made a few adjustments to suit my needs. The bouy is a 6”x13” carlon brand. I purchased mine from Hamilton Marine in Maine through mail order. A case of 35 cost me $90 plus $30 shipping. When cut in half you have enough to do 70 decoys. The wood silly is clear 1x8 pine stock. The width of silly stock is determined by the size and head postion of your pattern. For patterns, I drew my own. Coots are a simple bird. Once you have your standard head pattern its easy to make animated poses. I did a pattern for; standard head, tuckhead, drinker, preener, two different active-head forward and a double head. The body is 6” wide and 11” long. For finishing; I use exterior flat latex in black and white and testors red acrylic model paint for the bill detail. Eyes are red tacks with black pupils painted on and then coated with epoxy. Three coats of paint seems to be sufficient. Ill attempt to post the narrative first with the photos in sequence to follow.

Step1- Plan out a good, accurate pattern. The better the pattern, the better the decoy. But, don’t try to get a competition grade decoy out of this type of bird. They make great simple hunting decoys. If your picky with detail like me, then you will have to compromise with this type of decoy.

Step2- Cut bouy in two. The rope channel that runs through the center of the bouy varies in location from bouy to bouy so cut down through the middle of the whole as opposed to setting up the cut by the width of the bouy.

Step 3- Cut out your wood silly according to pattern. Knock off rough edges with sandpaper.

Step 4- Bevel the “keel” part of the silly to make for a good fit into the rope channel.

Step 5- Establish a center line on the top side of the bouy. Using a heavy grade paper, make a template of your top view body pattern. Tack template along center line and cut out the body on the bandsaw by following the edge of template with the bandsaw blade.

Step6- Using your pattern, measure the distance from the front-most point of the chest to the back of the head/neck. Mark on the bouy and cut out the notch.

Step7- Using your bandsaw, knock off the edges of the body and do some rough shaping. Be VERY careful when freehanding on the saw. No matter how much I do it, I never feel comfortable with it. It is dangerous but it’s a good/fast way to remove stock.

Step8- Using a fine tooth rasp(the Stanley shur-form is too coarse in my opinion) and a sharp knife, do the final shaping of the body. Don’t leave any smooth spots as those areas wont hold paint as well.

Step9- Drill two holes in keel for line attachment and two holes for 3 1/2” deck screws which fastens the silly to the body.

Step 10- Glue the silly to the body and install deck screws(don’t tighten much at all). I use Gorilla glue, but any poly glue will work fine. In a couple hours, you will have a decoy that is ready to paint.

Step11- Install some sort of lead ballast into the keel for proper flotation. I drill holes in the keel and pour molten lead directly into the keel. Small keel weights or spoon weights will work too but they will have a tendency to dent and mar other decoys if you stack them in a boat like I do.
Im sure ive overlooked some things here, so fire away with any questions. Not only are they a lot of fun to make, but they are very easy to make once you are set up. Doing 4 at a time, I can get 4 decoys to the paint-ready stage in about an hour. Give them a try. Best, Mark
great job looking good now how many are you gonna make???we get them bouys free here after every storm go for a walk along the beach there they are just waiint to be decoys....
mark - i went to the hamilton website and saw nothing that resembled those bouys - are they listed under something other than mooring?

would appreciate any assistance
I got a bunch of plastic diver heads for a buck apiece, some used crap pot floats for free, and wanting to make some bluebills. I see no reason this wouldn't work, but I'd sure like anyone's input on this. Has anyone burlaped these to make them tougher? Thanks for the post!
it will work fine.
You can glue plywood bottom boards to the foam if you want a bit of a tougher base to attach the plastic head and keel to.

I hunt mine without burlap. They hold up fine. If it were up to me I would carve a real cork or cedar bird for the time it takes to burlap a foamer. JMOP. Worth what it cost.

Rustoleum flat black and white and you have your broad bill covered for paint.

A drop or three of black in the white gives the grey for the bill.
Here are a couple of pic's (sorry for glare but i think you can get the idea) of my buoy bird keel/neck/head. I used 3/4" pine. I didn't want to worry about breaking the head/neck by having the wood grain in the same direction so I made the keel, neck & head out of 3 pieces and assembled with biscuits. The biscuit joiner works great for this. It is fast, easy, and results in a strong assembly.

View attachment buoy 2.jpg

View attachment buoy 1.jpg