The Cape Cod Clam Decoy

Hello to my friends and followers;
Digging around in my nearly lost collection of “everything I’ll never use”, I came across the below, a tongue-in-cheek bit of literature describing the history of clam hunting.
This was the work of Timothy Jumper of Hingham MA. A very talented wood carver, and a man that wears many different hats.

I met Tim on the craft show circuit many years ago. I had a number of years behind me as a decoy artist carving shorebird, waterfowl & fish decoys. When I spotted a “clam decoy” on his counter, I was just blown away! I had heard of many different birds & animals being decoyed — but never a CLAM!
With a few questions to Tim about his clam decoys for sale, his answers led me to believe that I was being gulled — he then handed me a description note that he included with a sale of his hand carved clam decoys. Upon my first scan of this, I had a great laugh, and rereading many more times along with many more laughs.

Tim has graciously given me permission to use his wonderful work — I added a few photos & sketches — Enjoy.

Tim is now retired and,


The Cape Cod Clam Decoy 

The native peoples of North America were using decoys on their clam flats many hundreds of years before the coming of the first Europeans.
The Wampanoags of Cape Cod would set out empty shells, or clam-shaped stones painted white, to entice the wary mollusks out of the mud and onto the shore where they can be captured by camouflaged hunters concealed in blinds and wielding clam clubs.

Sketch by W. Ray Freden

In 1628 Miles Standish noted in his diary: “Ye Natives doe delite to pursue Clammes withe clubbes & Dequoyies.”
The colonists imitated this practice, but improved upon the decoys by carving them out of wood — typically white pine or cedar. This enabled them to more accurately imitate the features of this species being hunted, as well as to depict secondary sex characteristics — often exaggerated — which led to much higher bag numbers during the rutting season (January through December). They also began the practice of placing the decoys on sticks to make them visible from a greater distance.
Clams have almost no sense of smell and very poor hearing, thus clam calls, though sometimes tried, have never proven effective, but their eyesight is keen: A decoy on a six inch stick can be seen by an adult male clam on a clear day at sea-level from a distance of 40 rods ( one Furlong), provided , of course, that he is looking.
Although clamming with decoys is highly efficient it is an occupation fraught with danger, and it is owing to its perilous nature that it came to be replaced by the safer but more arduous method method of digging.
Clams have a great deal of pride, and though usually docile they become irate and wrathful when they realize they have been gulled and made to look foolish.
From 1680 to 1889, over 2500 Cape Cod clam hunters were killed outright or permanently maimed by clams enraged to discover that they had been lured out of the comfort of their mud by a bit of painted wood.

Sketch by W. Ray Freden

In May of 1756 two Chatham men were victims of an especially vicious clam attack: Their hideously mutilated corpses were found stuffed headfirst, inside their hip boots. The ever-increasing risk of such attacks—- called ”shellings” —- served to scare off all but the greediest and most foolhardy clam hunters, and by the end of the end of the 19th century even those few had abandoned their decoys, or died using them.

The clam decoy you have purchased is an authentic reproduction, intended for decorative purposes only. Wooden Images disclaims any responsibility for death or bodily injury resulting from the use of this product for the hunting of clams.

Tim’s Clam Decoy’s, two hen’s and a Drake
Photo by Tim Jumper

Story by  © Tim Jumper
Hingham MA


Revived and added to by W. Ray Freden
Down East Maine
“The way life should be”



2 Replies to “The Cape Cod Clam Decoy”

  1. Hi, Ray: Thomaston Auctions in Maine is selling a piece created by Tim Jumper and I was Googling him when I found your blog and the hilarious clam decoy story. The great cartoons put it over the top. I tried to find his website but came up blank. I would love to get some of the clam decoys, as would several friends I’ve already shared the story with. Would you have any ideas on how I could do this? I’d appreciate your help. Lynn in Maine

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