Guest essay by Travis Bryant
This Harvey Stevens Bluebill Sleeper was the very first Stevens Decoy in my collection. It came home with me in 2016 and is very unlikely to ever leave my collection. This decoy is obviously not appealing for its fine paint as many other Stevens decoy showcase, but it does have exceptional form and no structural damage. I want to point out the fact that I absolutely love the worn paint on this decoy and the stories it could tell. I feel blessed that decoys like this are out there at a more affordable price point. What really makes this decoy special is the unique bottom as well as how it emerged. This decoy began its life at the hands of Harvey Stevens in the early 1890s. Harvey began carving his sleeper decoys in the 1880s until he passed away in 1894.
After being hunted over for what looks like many years; shown by the shot holes and extreme wear, this decoy resurfaced in the 1970s. A Central New York Tavern owner had found this decoy in a nearby swamp and was happy to sell it to a decoy collector for $50. Now lets talk about the bottom of this bird. Of all the documented Stevens decoys this is the very only one with a 5/8" hole in the bottom vs. the standard 7/8" drill size. There have been several found with no holes at all, which is likely how this decoy was sold to the hunter. This decoy was later rigged in a similar fashion, but smaller than the standard. The recessed staple hole designed by Harvey Stevens had an ingenious purpose and was designed to prevent damage to other decoys when stacked. Harvey Stevens also invented the removable/adjustable decoy head as well as the recessed lead weight. This decoy is featured in the book "The Essential Guide to Stevens Decoys - Collectors Edition" by Shane Newell.