Inventor expands products
From turkey decoys to other animals
By James Card
Darrell Bartel, a retired Waupaca Foundry foreman, graduated on Aug. 27.
He completed a 13-week course at Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center. He studied small business entrepreneurship, website building and finance.
During his course, he had to come up with an elevator pitch: “I’m Darrel Bartel from Flatline Your Bird Series Decoys. All of our decoys are flat, only a quarter-inch thick. They all turn in the slightest breeze. Are you tired of carrying large bulky decoys to and from the field? And also storing them in the off-season? Ours are made of HDPE plastic and you can throw it off a wall and it won’t break.”
His study was to better master his next challenge in life: to make, market and sell his inventions.
Bartel worked at the foundry for 27 years and he retired last year in May. In the years leading up to his retirement, he built a small side business called Flatline Your Bird (www.flatlineyourbird.net).
The idea came many years ago when Bartel shot his first turkey. He bought a tail-mounting kit that was not very good and the instructions were confusing.
The next turkey he harvested, Bartel made his own wall mounts out of birch wood pucks.
Later, he was hunting with a buddy who used the mounted turkey fans as decoys. This was a new technique to Bartel but it was a decoy tactic that old-time turkey hunters have been doing for decades.
The wooden mounts worked fine but he wanted something more durable.
In 2003, he purchased high-density poly ethylene (HDPE) plastic blocks and matched it with galvanized steel stakes. This worked better than the wood mounts.
“In a high wind, they don’t sit and spin but rather acts like a weather vane,” said Bartel.
Bartel believed he was on to something and in 2015 he formed an LLC and in 2015 he applied for a patent. In 2018, he was granted a patent for his dual-purpose wall mount: the turkey fan is displayed on a wall and when ready to go hunting, pluck it off the wall and take it to the field for use as a decoy. It is the only product of its kind in the world. It’s called Jake’s Tail Holder II.
The wall mounts come in different colors, come with a bracket and have inserts for adding turkey wings for further realism.
More birds, more business
In 2019, he acquired three trademarks related to his enterprise and he submitted another patent that is now in the patent-pending status. It is similar to his original product but it allows for inserting silhouette decoys.
The verbiage in the patent covers a wide array of game birds and animals but also for sale signs and holiday decorations.
Bartel builds the silhouettes himself in his workshop and with a CNC machine (he is self-taught); he cuts the outline of the turkey from sheets of quarter-inch HDPE. He then buys usage rights to print photo-quality images of turkeys and these are printed on the silhouettes at Spectra Print in Stevens Point.
Bartel is growing his business slowly and has been promoting his products at sports shows in the Midwest. With the CNC machine, he can manufacture everything in his own workshop.
“I’m zero debt. I paid for this out of my savings. Never borrowed anything. As you can afford it, you buy it. The toughest thing is materials. It’s gone up in price this year,” he said.
Bartel tests the decoys in his backyard along the Waupaca River. His turkey decoys move gently in the breeze and are easy to pick and transport. Also out there are prototype Canada goose decoys.
“I’ve got guys that have field-tested ours and he said he’d give them a nine out of ten,” said Bartel. Also he makes an owl silhouette that turns in the wind – it’s like the kind people can use as a scarecrow in gardens.
Bartel also keeps his CNC skills sharp by doing custom engraving work. Already he has orders from local businesses and individuals for signage in both wood and HDPE plastic.