Hammes has spearing, carving in his blood
Staring down into a spearing hole gives a fellow plenty of good ideas. Adam Hammes took up fish decoy carving as a hobby and is parlaying it into a part-time business. The 29-year-old Wadena man's only regret might be that it is keeping him away ...
Staring down into a spearing hole gives a fellow plenty of good ideas.
Adam Hammes took up fish decoy carving as a hobby and is parlaying it into a part-time business. The 29-year-old Wadena man's only regret might be that it is keeping him away from the darkhouse.
Adam developed his love for spearing from his dad, Mike, and has followed in Mike's footsteps as a decoy carver. He starts with a one-foot block of basswood. He knows he wants a decoy that can be used for spearing or as a collectable.
"All of my decoys are working decoys," said Adam, who started carving for the same reason his dad did -- he wanted something that would bring fish into the hole.
While Adam can take four decoys out of a chunk of basswood, he does not know exactly what the decoy will look like when he starts. He does not consider that a problem.
"The wood will tell you," Adam said.
Adam has slowly been building up an inventory of his hand-carved decoys. He has made around 40 and would have more for sale if it was not for his dad, who has been his best customer so far.
"I will make one and my dad will say 'yeah, I want that one,'" Adam said, laughing.
What does an Adam Hammes decoy cost? The price tag is astonishingly modest for the amount of time he puts into a decoy. When you consider that one hand-carved decoy takes three eight-hour days to produce, Hammes is working for just over $1 an hour.
Hammes started accompanying his dad on spearing trips when he was 6 or 7. They would sit side by side in a 4-by-6 foot dark house looking down in the spearing hole and anticipating the sudden arrival of a northern pike. Their wooden decoys and perhaps a live sucker minnow would bring the pike into the hole. What Adam learned about spearing from his dad, Mike, his dad learned from his pop, Joe, who at the age of 83 is still out on Stuart Lake spearing four or five days a week.
Hammes has a night job so many of his daytime hours are spent at his father's place just outside Wadena. The two men share a shop where Adam creates his decoys with a micro-plane, Exacto knives and a sure-form.
Once the decoys are carved they have fins and eyelets attached and melted lead is poured into a hole on the bottom.
While the decoy has to be properly balanced, the color scheme is equally important.
"I will usually paint one a base coat and however it looks I go from there," Hammes said.
Hammes' decoys are a kaleidoscope of colors. He even has decoys that glow in the dark.
"I like the bright colors and the flashy stuff," Hammes said. "A lot of the carvers nowadays are going strictly with a northern, or a walleye or a perch-looking decoy and that is what you see. I kind of wanted to bring back that flashy look. Northerns like the flash, that bright color, something that intrigues them."
Hammes has only been carving decoys to sell for about a year. He does 4-6 at a time.
Hammes used to visit stores looking for spearing decoys but he was usually disappointed with the selection. Darkhouse spearing requires a variety of decoys -- depending on the amount of light and the water clarity.