By François St-Onge*
The oldest of eight children, Marcel Dufour was born on April 8, 1939, in La Malbaie, a little town on the north shore of the St.Lawrence River, east of Quebec City. At the age of 17 he left his family and his home to work in Montreal for Canada Steamship Lines as a deckhand and sailed the Great Lakes for six years. In 1963, he bought a house in LaSalle, Quebec, and worked for Air Canada until he retired in 1999.
His good friend, Paul Daoust, introduced him to duck hunting near Windmill Point, Ile Perrot, on Lake St-Louis. Dufour bought his first hunting decoys in 1965 through ads in the local newspaper, but not satisfied with the results he started carving his own.
Dufour purchased pre-cut white cedar blocks from Jean-Paul Pilon, another Quebec carver, for a dollar a piece and made a rig of 27 whistler drakes. These decoys had detailed wing carvings emphasis in the shoulders, painted tack eyes and basic paint patterns. His carving tools consisted of a Rodgers pocket-knife, a one-inch carpenter's chisel, and sandpaper.
Later on, Dufour made larger decoys with even more elaborate wing carving. The heads were made from three one-inch pine or mahogany pieces laminated together for additional strength. These models had glass eyes and keels were added for more stability on the water. He finished them in Herter’s paint. Most of the decoys are stamped under the tail with his initials and with the year they were made.
Dufour carved a total of 150 decoys for his personal use. He made drake canvasbacks, mallards, black ducks, pintails, common and barrows goldeneyes, and bluebills. The only hens in the rig were bluebills.
In 1974, Dufour entered a carving competition at Place Bonaventure in Montreal and won many ribbons for both decorative and working decoys, including Best of Show. He also won awards in contests in Toronto, Ontario, and Pointe Mouillee, Michigan.
In 1982, Dufour began to teach decoy carving for the Laval carvers association, and in 1990 he became co-founder of the St-Eustache carvers’ club. He still teaches carving from his home in St-Eustache.
Hunters and collectors can still order decoys from him, although most of his production is now concentrated on miniatures that sell in stores in nearby Quebec and as far away as France.
*For the complete story, please see the March/April 2003 issue of Decoy Magazine.