A Decoy Corner Article
By Bruce Urben, President
Grayson Chesser was born in 1947 and lived most of his life on his family farm on Virginia’s East Shore. He was the son of a game warden and spent his childhood duck hunting in the marshes around Chesapeake Bay. Grayson attended Old Dominion University and graduated with a degree in Business Management. After graduation, Grayson returned to the family farm and eventually followed his father’s footsteps and became a game warden himself.
As a young man, Grayson was unlike most kids who dreamed of being an NFL Quarterback; instead Chesser dreamed of being a decoy carver and a goose hunting guide.
There were very few young carvers in those days, but fortunately the Virginia East Shore had a number of experienced and successful carvers to learn from. Grayson connected with several well known carvers living in his area, including Cigar Daisy, Miles Hancock and the Ward Brothers. Being eager to learn, these old carvers were willing to share their skills and time to teach. Grayson starting carving decoys in the late 1950’s and still carves to this day.
Grayson, now “retired”, owns and runs the Holden Creek Gun Club in Sanford, VA, with his wife, Dawn. Grayson Chesser became a Master Carver himself and wrote his first book in 1995 about Carving titled; “Making Decoys the Century Old Way”.
Grayson hollow carves his decoys in white pine and paints exclusively with oils. Most of his decoys have a lead cast weight attached to the bottom of each. The lead weights are unique as they are cast from the bottom of a muffin pan!
His decoys all have flat bottoms (which, during the time was contrary to many East Coast carvers) and float high in the water. He has carved most species of ducks, including Brant, geese and crow decoys. All of his decoys show his classic expression in the detail carving of the head and neck.
Grayson Chesser is one of the most respected decoy carvers of his generation, being trained by the likes of Cigar Daisey and the Wards. His decoys are highly valued on the collector market, some selling for $1,000 or more!
As a Master Carver, exceptional artist and conservationist, Grayson is very available to talk to anyone about carving, giving something back to new carvers, just as he was treated by the carvers who took the time to train and teach him. I had the pleasure of talking to Grayson several years ago when I was carving a crow decoy and had some questions about his paint “burning” technique. What impressed me most was his down to earth demeanor and willingness to help anyone to become a better carver. I will never forget our conversation when he told me to “be careful” burning the fresh oil paint to give it instant patina. He told me the first time he did it was inside his house and he burnt a hole in the linoleum on his floor from dripping paint… Do It Outside!
Grayson Chesser is a 72 year old Master Carver living on the eastern shore of Virginia and still doing what he loves, guiding patrons at his Gun Club every day and carving decoys using the “Century Old Way”. He is living the good life and being with nature everyday. While you may be on the long list to purchase a decoy from Grayson, you can contact him at his Holden Creek Gun Club and talk with a Master Carver, and a Virginia Original.
Hopefully some day I will be fortunate enough to own one of his decoys, and admire the work of a Master, or maybe event hunt with him at Holden Creek!