Legacy of the American Duck Call
Howard Harlan Jim Fleming Contributing Writers
Wayne Capooth Jay Foster Editors
Debra Petty-Hickerson Jimmy Fleming Kathy Fleming Director of Photography & Design
â€œEnglish MIKEâ€? Harris Contributing photography
Donna & Joe Tonelli Jim Fleming John Arrilla Scotty Hayes
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012919625 Printed in the United States Copyright 2012 by HARLAN ANDERSON PRESS, Nashville TN All Rights Reserved No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without express written permission of the authors.
To honor this true American form of Folk Art. The authors choose to use American dollars for American jobs. This book was proudly printed and bound in the United States of America by skilled the craftsmen in Nashville Tennessee.
To Our Friend:
Jay Koetje of Mount Vernon Washington A crack duck-shot and an Honorable Man This book is Respectfully Dedicated by
Jay Koetje with hunting dog Coo.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Callmakers & Collectors Association of America
On Friday, September 11, 1987 an informal gathering of 32 of the countryâ€™s foremost callmakers and collectors met to create an organization to promote interest in and exchange information about this truly unique form of American folk art. With little debate and much enthusiasm these 32 people quickly organized themselves into a cohesive group and voted to associate themselves to further promote interest and knowledge of the history of game callmaking and collecting in the United States. It was decided that an annual meeting and show would be held and to conduct a call auction and contest and encourage members to set up exhibits and displays of calls and collections. Also we will provide for regional quarterly swapmeets and to hold these quarterly meetings in several locations around the country. The annual meeting and quarterly meets will be conducted in close proximity to and with a waterfowl decoy show. The quarterly swapmeets will be located in several locations and at different times of the year in order to provide greater visibility to call collecting and to ensure that a large number of our members will be able to attend a swapmeet and show with some regularity without experiencing unnecessary hardship and travel expenses.
(Above) James Bennett opens the 2012 C.C.A.A. Memberâ€™s annual Fancy Call Auction. (Left) Two entries from the auction.
32 Founding Members
Callmakers & Collectors Association of America
Howard Harlan, Nashville, TN Robert Christensen, Mt. Prospect, IL Jack Wilson, Flushing, MI Bob Gerat, Trenton, MI Vitus Barre, Little Rock, AK Ray Wright, Portage, IN Randy Moorehead, Winchester, TN Brian McGrath, Plano, TX Buddy Duke, Springfield, TN Gary VanKirk, Swartz Creek, MI John Braun, Kansas City, MO Tom Baskin, Winchester, TN Kim Clay, Rochester, IN Gary Krull, Montrose, MI Robert Hill, Wyandotte, MI Ed Bennett, Hobart, IN Mike McLemore, Huntington, TN Jim Hill, Taylor, MI Ken Martin, Olive Branch, IL Sam Cox, Gaffney, SC Johnny Weiss, Chandlerville, IL Rick Kagerer, Flint, MI Tom Cox, Portage, IN James Dean, Bloomfield Hills, MI Mike Pahl, Columbus, OH Jimmy Hunt, Port Jefferson, NY Jack Morris, Doylestown, PA Gary Rieker, Princeton, IL Mike Rieker, Alma, MI Roy Hudson, Wading River, NY Mick Lacy, Dunlap, IL Kip Smith, Dearborn Heights, MI
At our annual meeting and quarterly swapmeets, trade and display tables will be available to display collections, and new or old calls for sale or barter. Many old acquaintances will be renewed and many new ones formed. Much information and knowledge of game calls and their makers will be exchanged. A quarterly newsletter is published. Collectors and collections are to be featured as well as callmakers both living and deceased. A section will be reserved for classifieds and trading post items. Members will be encouraged to submit information on some feature of their collection or a particular favorite call and the history behind it. One section of the newsletter will be used to list and announce forthcoming decoy shows, wildlife art and other collector shows, calling contests and any happening (event) that may prove valuable to call collectors or makers. The editor needs input from all members, so please help by sending your stories, want ads and items of interest, etc. to the editor and secretary.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Acknowledgements ...............................................vii Introduction ............................................................1 Duck Call Education ............................................17 Stoppers .................................................................21 Evolution of the Tongue-pincher .......................25 Market Hunting ....................................................31 Arkansas ................................................................42 Illinois ..................................................................126 Louisiana ..............................................................208 Missouri ...............................................................226 Tennessee .............................................................250 Other Area Calls ................................................398 Unknowns............................................................ 452 Index..................................................................... 479 Bibliography......................................................... 480
Duck Calls: An Enduring American Folk Art (1988) was the first book that I wrote about duck calls. On that project I had the help of my good friend and fellow collector W. Crew Anderson. God rest his soul. For years people have told me that they love that book. In duck call collecting circles, Duck Calls: An Enduring American Folk Art has been used as reference material. Because of the book’s success in the years that followed its release, I was able to travel all around this great country promoting duck call collecting and meeting great new friends along the way. One of these lifelong friendships that I have forged has been with an amazing man named Jay Koetje, from Washington State. He is a fisherman by trade and a collector at heart. We have dedicated this book to him. Koetje
The cover of Howard Harlan and W. Crew Anderson’s first book about duck calls. Duck Calls An Enduring American Folk Art, originally printed in 1988. This is the Ducks Unlimited special edition cover.
is the main reason I decided to write another Duck Call book in the first place. This book, Legacy of the American Duck Call, started when I sold most of my duck call collection to Jay Koetje back in 2010. After receiving the collection, Koetje quickly jumped on the phone with his photographer, John Arrilla, who sat down and took a photo of every call Jay Koetje owned from my collection! I was very excited to see the photos; few of the calls had been photographed since my first book. I remember using a little light box to take photos of all of the calls myself. Looking back, I wish I had hired a professional photographer. Over the next few weeks we received about 30 boxes. Inside each box were prints and disc’s from Koetje’s photographer. There were over 2,000 photos of calls from my collection. Koetje knew exactly how to get this book off the ground, these photos were inspiring. Around this time, I asked my good friend and coauthor, Jim Fleming, to help me write about each one of these calls. Jim had already written two books about contemporary duck calls and was very well versed in my published works. The original project plan was to take these photos and make a simple photography style coffee table book. Fleming spent weeks inventorying the calls and creating a data base with of all the photos. When we had everything ready, I sat down with Jim and his children, Jimmy and Kathy Fleming, and dictated my knowledge about each particular call and the world of duck calls. Somewhere along the way, nobody ever told me to stop. Thanks for your patience, Jimmy and Kathy. We couldn’t have done it without you. We soon realized that we had a lot more to say then we could do with a coffee table book. Since my first book in 1988 we had learned more about the history of call making and felt
Legacy of the American Duck Call
we needed to expand the content. Over the years I received a lot of information from folks all over the country. Fortunately I kept all of it in boxes and stored them at home and at my office. Fleming and I rounded up all my boxes of letters, catalogs, articles, and magazines. Searching through those boxes of paperwork really brought back a flood of good memories. As quickly as we would finish with a box we would have everything scanned for future use. This process took several months, and inspired much of the content in these pages. Several more sessions with Kathy and Jimmy taking dictation from Fleming and I and we were finally finished. I had talked a little about each call that I knew and Fleming’s children had written it down. Now it was time to put it all together. I felt like we were on a great start. I let Fleming take over the assembly process since he is a veteran in the Nashville printing industry. Fleming took the photography and text to Al Thomas, Fleming’s personal friend and typesetter. We asked Al for design and layout ideas and he gave us the great idea to mask every photo. Masking is the process of taking the background out of a photo. Great! Now to find a person that is willing to edit a box of 2,000 photos of duck calls... It was such a great idea we had to do it! It was about that time that a young man that was looking for work, came into Fleming’s print shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He told Fleming his name was Jay Foster and he could handle the job, So we decided to test him. We gave Foster ten calls to mask and bring back. Foster spent about thirty minutes on each photo, and within a couple of days he brought back his work. Now this boy wasn’t lying when he told us that he could handle the job. However it was just going to take too long to mask all these photos. Foster who is a talented photographer in his own right told Fleming that he could reshoot the calls we picked out for the book. His plan was to use a white background -viii-
Koetje’s Washington home.
which would make the masking process fast and much less complicated. This would allow Foster to concentrate on the creative side of the book much quicker. Foster was hired on as photographer and creative director. Fleming, Foster, and I traveled back out to Koetje’s home in Mount Vernon, Washington to retake photos of the calls, and the journey ensued. Foster worked for four days straight taking photos of more than 1,600 calls. Fleming, Kotje, and I stepped out to enjoy the marsh with Kotje’s hunting dogs Brandy and Coo. Coo is the black dog pictured with Kotje a couple pages over. It was out in the marsh, talking about the book that we decided, to make the calls printed as close to full size as space would allow. Throughout this book we tried to keep the call size at about 80% of full size. We want you to be able to see every detail in each one of these calls. They are beautiful pieces of our American history and we want to do is try to honor them in their full glory.
Just one of the hundreds of items from my sport hunting collection. You will notice buttons, patches, old photos, advertisements and postcards throughout the entire book.
Howard Harlan showing Joe Tonnelli the beautiful opening for this book, written by Dr. Wayne Capooth.
Photo of Howard Harlan and Spence Wilson, taken during a duck call photo shoot held in Memphis, TN.
were there to give me there expert opinion on some call makers and the current state of my project. Donna Tonelli has written several books on decoys and sporting collectibles that are absolutely beautiful. Joe and Donna are two of the most knowledgable people on the subject of Sporting Collectables. While attending the Guyette, Schmidt, and Deeter Auction there we saw a beautiful Beckhart call that was scheduled for their next auction. Jay Koetje purchased that call for our book at the GS&D auction in July of 2012, setting a record price for a duck call at auction. Our next travels brought us down to the Reelfoot lake area of Tennessee. We met up with our friends Russell Calwell and Harry Easly. They let us photograph calls from their beautiful collections and told us some amazing stories. I stopped by Scotty Hayes’ house and he gave me hundreds of photos, several that I have included in this book. Every photo came from the family members of duck call makers around the Reelfoot lake area. Sometimes you just fall into luck. On the way back to Nashville we met up with Spence Wilson at a Holiday Inn and photographed his collection. I knew what was in his collection because I had owned a lot of the pieces myself, at one time. It was good to hear the old stories and see the old calls I hadn’t laid eyes on in years. It’s that feeling of fondness and memories that draw some of us to collecting. -ix-
When we arrived back in Nashville, Fleming and Foster started assembling the book. I started digging through my collection looking for anything else that we could use. Old photos, buttons, hunting patches, hunting licence’s, Game Warden Badges, you name it, if I had it I brought it to the table. Fleming micro managed the project and saw to it that each part of the book was complete. Since the mid 1980’s Fleming and I have been painstakingly gathering small bits and pieces of call maker facts and history in order to connect the dots that link these craftsmen to the art of call making. Due to the passage of time, we may never be able to connect all the dots, but the picture is getting clearer with each passing day. As call collectors research their favorite makers we have been able to give these “Trumpets of the Marsh” their place in waterfowl lore. We realize that duck call history is an oral tradition. People tell the stories out in the marsh and in the field, they are remembered and told to the next generation of sportsmen. We set out on the road for more information that we thought was important, and were able to photograph many more exceptional calls. I would like to thank Jeff Milligan for meeting me at my truck leasing company in Alabama. He provided me great information on Vernon Taylor. Then Bob Pitts, Jim Fleming, Jay Foster, and I took the book, in its first draft state, to the 2012 auction at the Pheasant Inn in St. Charles, Illinois. Joe and Donna Tonelli
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Authors Howard Harlan and Jim Fleming sit at a table with friends to talk about this book, The Legacy of American Duck Calls.
I would like to thank several of our friends that live or came to Nashville and brought their calls by Fleming’s print shop. Bobby Pitts, you not only brought your beautiful calls by you gave us some one-of-a-kind flair to add to the descriptions. Thank you for all of your input. You’re a good man and someone needed to keep all of us in line! Bernie Forte brought several things by the shop along with some calls for us to photograph. Bernie is a local call maker and collector. Bernie’s wife Sharon Forte sketches portraits on the calls that Bernie makes. We like them and their work so much we put a couple of their callss in the pages of the book. Check out Johnny Marsh’s section on page 339 to see an example. Jim Thompson, I would like to thank you for lending your helping hand to the 2012 CCAA auction and allowing us to photograph your collection. Also, thank you for all of the information you provided. Dr. Wayne Capooth provided a wealth of waterfowling history for our introduction and Market Hunting section. Dr. Wayne Capooth is from Memphis Tennessee and has written books on the subject of waterfowling. I am very thankful to Dr. Capooth for contributing so much of his time. We would like to thank Debbie Petty Hickerson, M. Kathy Fleming, and James J. Fleming for editing this book for us. Without there help this book would have been full of incomplete sentences and thoughts. Thank you for the hours that you put into making our project everything it could be . -x-
There are so many friends that have added information over the years that it is difficult to know where to begin. We enlisted the help of many of the country’s leading duck call authorities to sort out some of these wild stories that we would hear; their knowledge has proven to be invaluable: Biff Morgan, Bob Christensen, Darron Fontonot, Len Guldman, John Fleck, Tom Barre, Scotty Hayes, Bill Ahrenkiel,Russell Caldwell, Harry Easley, Spence Wilson, Steve Turpin, James Bennett, Joe and Donna Tonelli, Doug Lodermeier. Dean Dashner, Ross Distefano, Ray Carroll, Tommy Whittington, Elmo Casto, Jack Wilson, Lynn Woodward, William Bailey, Hugh Chatham, Dr. Sam Hoeper, Jeff Hedtke, Russ Mumford, Brian McGrath, Jim Newell, Jimmy Hunt, Rick Kagerer, John Braun, Mike Pahl, Chris McDonald, Randy Moorehead, Mark Warmath, Larry Simpson, Stan Van Etten, H. I. Gadfy, Jim Young, Larry Simpson Michele McFarland, Keith Hahn, Frank Phelps, James Crooks, Don Johns, Ray Wright, “English” Mike Harris, Don Ansley, and Buddy Duke. Many of our collecting friends that were a big help in this work have gone on to their great reward. We would like to give them their recognition here as well: George Campbell, Larry Hickerson, Bill Barnette, Terry Norris, Harry Warner, Joe French, Thurman McCann, Bog Pettibon, Guy Roderrick, John “Son” and Bonnie Cochran, Johnny Cochran, Charlie Metendorf, and Dr. James McCleary, We feel blessed to have so many friends that were willing to unselfishly share their knowledge so that you the reader could benefit from their years of diligent study of The Legacy of the American Duck Call. This book wouldn’t have come out the way that it did if we didn’t have amazing people like you in our lives. If we forgot anyone we are very sorry.
Duck Call Terminology
Allen Style A type of duck call that has an insert comprised of a retaining tube into which is placed a flat-surfaced tone board, a metal reed, and a wedge. These components are inserted as an assembly into the barrel.
This is an example of an Allen style call.
Arkansas Style A type of duck call that has an insert comprised of a combination stopper and tone board into which a slit has been cut to hold both a reed and a wedge of wood or cork. This insert is then inserted as an assembly into the barrel. Band A metal strip used to encircle a call barrel or stopper, originally used to keep wood from splitting, now chiefly used as an adornment.
Bits The two mouth pieces that are extensions of the tone boards in a crow call. Also called â€œlips.â€? Checkering A decorative cross-hatch pattern consisting of a series of parallel intersecting lines or shallow grouches carved on the barrel or stopper of a call. The more common pattern used on duck calls is comprised of three or four triangular-shaped checkered panels. Double-Reed Call A duck call that employs two reeds, one on top of the other, which vibrate simultaneously in order to produce a raspier sound than a single vibrating reed. Some double reeds have a brass rivet in either the top or bottom reed that separates them. It is usually towards the end of the top reed. Glodoâ€™d A call barrel whose bore is first drilled the entire length of the barrel and then the inner sections of the bore are enlarged using a boring bar with a hook to create a larger diameter chamber in the center of the bore, acting as a tone chamber, and helps resonating the quality of the call. Glodo Style A type of duck call that has a flat tone board stopper, a curved metal reed, and a wedge block. One form of this style is referred to by some collectors as Reelfoot style.
This example of a Banded call was made by Howard Amaden.
Barrel A tube or cylinder of wood, metal, hard rubber, plastic or similar material into which a stopper is placed to make a modern duck call. -xi-
Duck Call Terminology
The following is a list of terms we diehard collectors and hunters use day to day, when referring to duck calls. We know it is a little out of the ordinary to have a glossary of terms at the beginning of a book. In doing this, we hope it improves your reading experience.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Gutta-percha A substance, resembling rubber, that comes from the latex of several Malaysian trees.
Lanyard Groove A relatively deep turn in a call barrel designed to hold a lanyard and prevent it from sliding up or down the barrel.
Hedge The wood of the osage orange tree, also known as Bois D’arc.
Louisiana Style A type of duck call that has an insert comprised of a retaining tube into which is placed a curved tone board, a reed, and a wedge. These components are fitted together and inserted as an assembly into the barrel.
Inserts (Plugs, Stoppers, Butt Piece, & Lugs) These are known as the business end of a duck call and all follow the same basic principle. A reed of metal, hard rubber or plastic is secured in place against a tone board, and vibrates when air is forced under the reed. The vibration is controlled by the operator’s breath. In the hands of a seasoned caller this vibration can imitate the vocalizations of the mallard hen. There are several variations on how the reed is secured to the insert, as well as variations as to the construction of the toneboard and tone channel. Laminating The process of gluing several woods together that creates a contrasting, decorative geometric pattern. What a perfect example of a laminated call. This was a display that Bill Clifford would carry around with his calls. He would use this half of a barrel to show how he laminated his. Thank you Jeff Milligan for showing me this, I had never seen one of these before.
Lanyard A cord, string, wire, or chain, one end of which is attached to a call, the other end of which is either worn around the neck or tied to the operator’s clothing. -xii-
Mouthpiece An abrupt increase in outside diameter of a call barrel at its mouth end designed to make the call more comfortable during operation. Also called a mouth-guard, lip-guard, or lip-rest. Modern Duck Call A sounding device that employs a vibrating reed enclosed in a barrel, used to attract ducks through imitation of their voices. Modern duck calls are more commonly being made out of hard to find or expensive materials. This duck call is made completely of elephant ivory and was carved by Kent Freeman, a famous duck call carver from southeast Missouri. This call was turned on my lathe using my competition jig, and then sent to Mr. Freeman to embellish with his fine carving ability. This is a perfect example of a modern duck call.
Reed A thin, flexible wafer of metal, plastic, hard rubber, or other material that vibrates inside the barrel of a call to imitate the sounds of ducks, geese, crows, or other game. Also called the “tongue.”
Reelfoot Style Often used interchangeably with Glodo style, but to many collectors, this term suggests a metal reed Glodo-style call of relatively large size. Smooth-Barrel A call barrel with no carved or checkered adornments.
Step-drilled Barrel A call barrel whose interior bore is formed first by drilling the entire length to one diameter and then by using a larger diameter bit to drill a portion of the previous bore to a slightly larger diameter, creating an expanded chamber within the barrel in which the reed vibrates. Stippling A decorative pattern consisting of dots, often formed by denting a call barrel with repeated shallow impressions, usually made by striking a punch, nail, or similar instrument with a hammer. Stopper The portion of a (Left) This Doc Taylor call displays stippling around the shape of a football.
Illustrations by â€œ Englishâ€? Mike Harris.
call that is inserted into the barrel, including the reed, tone board, and a wedge or wedgeblock. Other names that have been used for this part of a call include plug, tonal plug, horn, bell, stem, butt piece, and insert. Tone board Part of a stopper that contains the tone channel and surface upon which the reed rests. Also called sound board or tone block. Tone channel The trough created in the tone board that carries air under the reed to make it vibrate. Also called a sound trough. Tongue-pincher The earliest known form of artificial duck call that used a reed and tone channel concept. This form is now obsolete. Wedge in an Arkansas- or Allen-type insert, the piece of cork, wood, hard-rubber, or leather that holds the reed to the tone board. Wedgeblock in a Glodo-type call, the piece of wood, cork, hard-rubber, or other material that holds the reed to the tone board while simultaneously holding the stopper in the barrel. -xiii-
Duck Call Terminology
Squawker The earliest form of duck call that has a barrel and a stopper. Easily going out of adjustment whenever the stopper was removed for cleaning, this form is now obsolete.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
The modern era of call maker, and our industry giants products to their lines, from calls to clothing, and everything in between. We would like to acknowledge and thank these fine men for the contributions they have added to our craft, and for taking the time and effort to develop a complete industry of products and entertainment around a simple game call (Above) An early Knight and Hale Tube Goose Call business. Next time you place an order for one The way calls are constructed today has of their products, we hope you will reflect on changed very little since F.A. Allen turned his where they started and the contributions they first calls. The game call industry has made have made to the hunting massive changes since Allen’s time. community. The popularity of outdoor programming has brought many of our nations top call makers to the forefront of outdoor entertainment industry. Many of the multi-million dollar companies we see today on our television screens were born from a simple game call company. Men like Will Primos, Phil Robertson, Mark Drury, Harold Knight and David Hale took this cottage industry, and turned it into unbelievable success stories. They all pretty much started the same way; building calls in their garages, back yard woodworking shops, and basements. They took their cues from companies like Herters, Lohman, Greenhead, P.S. Olt, Yensen and others to bring affordable calls to the masses. Not wanting to settle for just a call company, these men branched out to include complete line of game calls, from Ducks to Elk, as well as many other products for the outdoorsmen of this country. We are very proud to bring to your attention that many of today’s biggest names in the outdoor industry started as call makers. They are the new breed of game call makers and strive to keep adding new Left: an Early Phil Robertson Duck Commander call. Center: Will Primos “The Wench” duck call. Right: Mark Drury’s Deer Growl call.
A History of the Duck Call in America by Dr. Wayne Capooth
A Wild Duck Shooting
these old prints, including the Currier print, the object in the breast pocket is not that of a tonguepincher, or any call for that matter, but rather is the end of a shot pouch or powder flask. Incidentally, one will notice that there is not a lanyard to be found in any of these prints. Hence, the earliest duck call of the tonguepincher style that has been accurately dated is the one Elam Fisher, of Detroit, patented on May 10, 1870 — the earliest patent found for a duck call. His patent stated he “has invented a new and useful improvement in duck call.” These calls, or ones similar, were sold from the 1870’s through the 1930’s. Some people have speculated that its main purpose was for calling Elam Fisher Tongue-pincher diver ducks. However, Southerners used them when one wanted to find contented ducks in timbered waters or wanted to alert call ducks that it was time to call. In clarify about the beginning of call making, Howard remarked in his book, Duck Calls, An Enduring American Folk Art: “Using -1-
Waterfowlers who made their living in the bygone days shooting waterfowl knew that a duck call was of the greatest benefits to the hunter shooting over decoys. In most, running from their upper pocket of their coat to the nearest buttonhole was a lanyard. On the end of the string was a “squawker.” They wore them year round, as much a part of their apparel as the coat itself. No one really knows who invented the first duck call or when and where it was invented. Many have stated that the earliest representation of a duck call appeared in a Nathaniel Currier print, entitled “Wild Duck Shooting. A Good Day’s Sport.” This print, dated 1854, shows a gentleman fowler recharging his muzzleloading shotgun, alongside retrievers, decoys, harvested ducks, boat and a primitive “tonguepincher style duck call,” tucked in the breast pocket of his hunting coat. However, this is not the only illustration that shows a similar object partially hidden away in a breast pocket. Upon close examination of
Legacy of the American Duck Call
1854 as our benchmark [the date of the Currier print], we have uncovered no reliable information on calls from that time until 1863” when Fred A. Allen claims that he made the first calls. He is deemed by many to have created the first modern-appearing duck call, consisting of a barrel, stopper and internal reed assembly.” Howard continues, “Allen was followed by C. W. Grubbs in 1868, Peterson in 1880 (later Dodge calls) and possibly Charles Ditto (1905). . . . All of these types were characterized initially by half round cork wedge blocks, straight tone board, curved metal reed and barrels (radically different from the tongue-pincher with its curved radius dual tone boards, straight reed, and no barrel). F. A. Allen must be given credit for placing the barrel on the duck call, a development that cannot be over-emphasized. The Allen nickel-plated duck call is considered a major step in the evolution of the duck call. These calls we have classified as the Early Illinois River Type.” Ditto and Allen were good friends and often hunted together. Ditto always lived along the Mississippi River at Keithsville in Mercer County. He was an early market hunter on the river. Fred Allen’s nickel-plated duck call was the first commercial call to employ a barrel that contained a wedge, metal reed and straight tone board, all held in place inside a cylindrical metal insert that went into the barrel. The feature that became the identifying characteristic of the modern duck call was the barrel, which sets it apart from the tongue-pincher duck call. Allen placed the earliest known commercial announcement for Fred Allen Metal Call modern duck calls in the August -2-
5, 1880 issue of Forest and Stream: “We make the most-natural toned and easiest blowing duck caller in the world,” it read. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, November 28, 1838, Allen moved to Monmouth, Illinois in 1859. A member of the Monmouth Gun Club, he did most of his hunting at New Boston, where two miles of lowlands were on either side of the Mississippi River, which furnished some of the best waterfowl hunting in the country. Another call maker who claimed to be the first commercial maker of modern duck calls was Charles Grubbs. Born in Clinton County, Ohio in 1848, his family moved to Putnam County, Illinois, where he married Amanda Hawkins, in 1872, and settled on the shore of Lake Senachwine. In 1869, Grubbs was working at the lake as a mechanic. Seven years later, he was clerking at the Harry Janey store on the lake. To the north, south, and east of the lake were marshes filled with wild rice and celery, while on the west were high bluffs. The ducks included an abundance of mallards, canvasbacks, redheads, as well as teal, and blue bills. In 1880, Grubbs leased land at Lake Senachwine and was proprietor of the Undercliff Hotel and Summer Resort. It could accommodate up to 16 hunters, with guides, decoys, and boats available Charles Ditto for rental. During spring and Combination Duck & Goose Call fall migration seasons, Grubbs
He was the first we know of to put a barrel on a duck call.” However, the question must be asked, “Was he actually the first to place a barrel on a duck call?” The earliest known written reference to
acted as a guide on Lake Senachwine. In later years, he was also a guide for the Hennepin Shooting Club. In 1882, a new hotel opened at the lake which hurt Grubbs financially so he moved to Chicago, working for Von Lengerke & Antoine—a high-end sporting goods store. He also worked at The Fair, a department store which was founded by E.J. Lehman in 1875. The Fair was considered by many to be the forerunner of the modern department store. The store’s philosophy was summarized by the motto, “Everything for everybody, under one roof, at a lower price.” Grubbs’ twentiethcentury ad stated, “We made the first commercial duck call that was ever placed on the market—this was in 1868.” Yet the earliest known advertisement of a Grubbs unproven Illinois Grubbs’ call was in an 1889River Duck Call 1890 Montgomery Ward catalog, which illustrated a metal-banded wooden duck call. Like Allen’s earliest calls, there are no known examples of his earliest calls in any collection. As one can readily see, competition existed between Allen and Grubbs because each claimed ownership as the first to market a commercial call. In Howard’s opinion, there is no confusion. He stated, “He [Allen] was the earliest of the Illinois River call makers. He was the first to use a new tone board design after the tongue-pincher style. He was one of the most significant callers of all. He was the innovator.
(Above) Letterhead from the Hotel Undercliff during the time it was managed by Charles Grubbs.
artificial duck calls, other than tongue-pinchers, yet found is from Joseph W. Long’s American Wildfowl Shooting, 1874, in a chapter entitled “Mid-Day Mallard Shooting—Fall.” Long gives instructions on how to make a “squawker:” “I like ‘calling by mouth’ much better than with a squawker, especially if the ducks are passing reasonably close. I will try to explain to you, though, how to make a squawker . . . First a tube of wood or metal (bamboo cane is chiefly used) is to be provided, about three-quarters of an inch inside diameter, and from four to eight inches long; a plug about three inches long is fitted to one end, and after being split in two, onehalf is grooved to within a quarter of an inch of its smaller end, the
Tom Turpin Cane Call
Legacy of the American Duck Call
groove being perhaps a quarter of an inch wide and of the same depth. The tongue is simply a very thin piece of sheet copper or brass, which should be hammered to increase its elasticity; it should be about two and a half inches long and from three-eights to half an inch wide. At one end, which should also be thinner than
Shooting Canvasbacks From A Blind
the other, the corners should be rounded. The tongue is then placed over the grooved half, the round end nearly to the extreme smaller end of the plug, and the tongue completely covering the groove. The other half of the plug should be shortened about an inch and a half from its smaller end, and then being placed on the grooved part, thus holding the tongue fast, both should be pushed firmly into the tube. By blowing in the other end of the tube, the call is produced; the tone, degree of fineness, and so on, of which is regulated by the shortened half of the plug—moving it in or out as a finer and sharper or lower and coarser note is required.” On reading this, Bob Christensen, author of Duck Calls of Illinois, remarked, “These instructions describe the construction of the early all-metal F. A. Allen calls if you were to remove the metal bell portion of the call. It would seem that Allen, or some other early call maker, added this metal retaining sleeve so the reed, wedge, and tone board could be assembled before being inserted into the barrel.” This early reference would lend some -4-
Guts of the F.A. Allen Duck Call
credence to the theory that duck calls were around for quite sometime before they were available on a commercial basis. Exactly how long is still open to debate. Perhaps researchers should look toward Louisiana or other southern states where bamboo cane can be found for further information. Another early written reference, Forest and Stream, November 28, 1878, was from “R. T..... M.. of Ithaca, New York,” who stated, “The duck calls sold in the stores are very good indeed for calling black ducks and mallards, and also teal, if you are in a locality where these species have been in the habit of feeding together.” In American Game Bird Shooting, 1882, John Mortimer Murphy remarked, “Others who are not so highly gifted [at mouth-calling] in imitative power use squawkers, but, unless they have some experience, they are more likely to scare the birds away than to bring them within range. One of the best callers is made of a tube of bamboo, about seven or eight inches long, which has a short tongue of brass at one end
town of Henry, I found the inventor and sole manufacturer of what, in my own opinion, is the best duck call made. An inventive carpenter by the name of Sam Horner, whose only capital in life would seem to be a wife, several children, a turning lathe, a tamed wild mallard, and a genius for tinkering, brought me out a whole boat full of the calls, some tuned and some untuned; and among these, I hunted for one which should seem to me more seductive, so to speak, than the others. There were hardly two of the calls alike in outward appearance, but
Big Lake Shooting Club being rebuilt.
each in general was simply a round cedar stick about five or six inches long, with more or less simple ornament lines cut in with the lathe. The hole through the call is large. The reed is made of thin German silver, and is fastened in by a perforated plug at the greatest possible distance from the mouthpiece. That is all there is to it; yet it is, as before remarked, the most perfect duck call I have ever happened to see. This is simply the result of constant experimentation by the maker. I don’t suppose anybody else could copy one of these calls any more than he could copy a Stradivarius violin. The tone of a duck call is all there is to it, and the tone is what the individual master’s spirit, art, genius, faculty or what you like, must impart to the humble duck call. Mr. Horner told me that he tuned his call to a wild mallard which he had in his yard. The call was new to me, and I could not get very good results at first, but Horner could take one -5-
and a grooved plug at the other. This is made to order by dealers in sportsmen’s goods, if it is not in stock.” In Wild Fowl Shooting by William Bruce Leffingwell, 1888, he noted, “The majority of hunters invest in a duck call. The best artificial calls I have seen are those made by Fred A. Allen. If one is apt, he can readily learn to blow them, but bear in mind, the secret of duck calling is the right call in the right place, as the birds call in their different flights and resorts. . . . Use your duck squawk frequently whether you see birds or not.” During this time, Emerson Hough contributed occasional articles on hunting and fishing to George Bird Grinnell’s Forest and Stream sporting journal, beginning in 1882. In 1889, he became its western representative— editing the “Chicago and the West” column for fifteen dollars a week. He resolved to become “the best posted man in America engaged in the journalism of outdoor sports.” Throughout the hunting seasons, he hunted in most of the waterfowling clubs in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, becoming very familiar with all sections of Illinois and well acquainted with many market hunters and sportsmen. In addition, he traveled extensively and hunted at length in the South—Louisiana, Texas Gulf Coast, and especially, the mid-south. During the 1889 season, he visited the Hennepin Shooting Club and Swan Lake Club, whose marshes were between the towns of Hennepin to the north and Henry to the south. Afterwards, he wrote, “I learned a point or two further about duck shooting. Some of the best duck shots in the country visit or live on those marshes, and it is a high recommendation that nearly all of these use what is called the ‘Illinois River duck call.’” I had heard and seen a great deal of this call before I visited that country, and being upon its native heath, I investigated its origin and place of production. In a little crowded cottage in the
Legacy of the American Duck Call
and produce a note not distinguishable from that of the wild mallard, and could also give the redhead and bluebill call very perfectly. He said he made a few calls of black walnut, but that such a call always made the lips sore. He also stated that the length of the tube seemed to make no difference. The tone is quite free from all reediness and metallic quality. There is no other call used in that locality, but the article is not on the market. Horner could have sold six hundred dozen at one time, but declined the order. He is rather an odd genius. He doesn’t have any regular price for a call, but just charges what he takes a notion. He wanted $3 for the big call.” The Woods brothers, old market hunters of the Illinois River, are well-known characters in that locality. Tim Wood has reformed and is now steward of the big Swan Lake Clubhouse. He was showing me one of these duck calls, such as just described, which he always uses, and which is so natural that it has green feathers on its neck. Then we got to talking, and he told me that his brother, Frank Wood, invented the first duck call ever seen in that locality, when he was a boy only eighteen years old. That was in 1870 or thereabout. This primitive call was made of a piece of cane fishing pole and the reed was cut out of an old “tin type” picture.” [Forest and Stream, Jan. 31, 1889.] The Hennepin Shooting Club was organized in 1887 and disbanded in 1914 when Hennepin Lake and its watershed were drained. The club members afterwards merged with the Undercliff Sportsmen’s Association to form the Senachwine Gun Club in 1911. The association was chartered in 1902, with the members hunting on 4,000 acres of leased bottom lands around Lake Senachwine, on the opposite side of the Illinois River from Lake Hennepin and Swan Lake. Grubbs was a charter member of the merged club as were many members of the Swan Lake Club. -6-
Previous to the Hennepin Shooting Club’s formation, the surrounding marshes were the home of market hunters. In 1882, seven boats brought in 580 ducks, while one year later Tim Wood and I. R. Long shot 390 ducks in one day. In 1886, the Woods boys, Fred Kimball, and a Mr. Marsh harvested 444.
Hennepin Duck Boat by George Cunningham
In the November 28, 1889 issue of Forest and Stream, Hough remarked, “I wonder how many people know how to blow a duck call. A lot of us were together on the [railroad] cars the other day, on a little trip, and each fellow fished out his duck call and began to play, the total result being very melodious but hard on the window glass. There were more of the Monmouth metal calls than of any other make—I presume there are ten of those Fred Allen calls in use to one of any other make, and there is none better if you will follow directions, or listen to Fred Allen play on one of them. Charley Burton could beat any of us, and he used one of these calls. ‘You don’t want to give a long yowl, and then a lot of short squawks after it when you are calling mallards,’ said he. ‘That’s the alarm call. If you want to simulate fat, lazy, contented mallards in complete harmony with the environments, you want to make each note of about the same length and with a rich, unctuous fullness to it that speaks of good feed and plenty of it. This is the way it goes—‘Haw! haw-haw-haw-haw-I’m
effective, although in those days ducks were not so highly educated as they are now. Billy Griggs, the famous market hunter, told me he thought the best duck call made was that turned out by Nick Glodo, of Paw Paw Junction, Missouri. Glodo now wants $10 for one of his calls, even though he used to get $5. The legitimate trade price of the duck call is about $1. Bill Haskell has taken a sudden spurt of energy and is now manufacturing 500 duck calls which he intends to put on the market one of these remote days. There are a dozen different varieties of duck calls ready for purchase in the sporting goods stores. Nearly all of these need retuning, and some of them can be made to do service in the hands of an expert caller. Abe Kleinman says that one of the best duck calls he ever saw was made out of the handle of an old tin dipper. It had a loud but accurate note. As for himself, he used to call ducks with the unaided mouth, but he says this is very hard work if one manages to produce a loud note. I have heard several market hunters along the Illinois River produce a very good imitation of the mallard call, and with the unaided mouth. The probabilities are the artificial calls for wild ducks, like those for the wild turkey, predate the hunters of this generation. One imagines that the first call was made by the A Victor Glodo call southern hunter, out of a -7-
so happy!’ That’s what knocks. The other ducks look on this as a plain invitation to dinner.’” Twelve years later, November 16, 1901, in the same journal, Hough sheds further light on the origin of the modern duck call: “There was a big argument at the Wishinine Club the other day about the original invention of the so-called Illinois River duck call. Bill Haskell claimed that he was the first man who ever made a round barreled duck call with the tongue fixed at the bottom of the call. There were about a dozen who challenged his statement promptly.” Mr. W. L. Wells stated that he had a duck call in his possession made by Fred Allen more than 30 years ago. Fred Allen himself, as I understand it, does not claim to be the originator of the duck call, but only the first extensive manufacturer. Yet another gentleman thought that Tim Wood, of the Swan Lake Club, was the first inventor, and this is perhaps closer to the mark. Abe Kleinman says, and his experience dates back to the early days of duck shooting, that Horner, a brother-in-law of Tim Wood, made a duck call before Tim experimented in that line. Tim Wood told me that the first duck call he ever used was made from a section of cane, to which he fastened a brass reed. Then he got to wrapping these canes with twine, and then to making them of wood. The earliest duck call of which the writer has any recollection was made of wood with a bell-mouthed horn mouthpiece. The barrel was sawed completely through longitudinally. This call I remember to have seen previous to the year 1870. It was not very Old Bill Haskell Call
Legacy of the American Duck Call
of the sunklands around Big Lake, Arkansas, where he found an “Englishman by the name of Lord George Gordon,” who was accompanied by twelve men and lots of tents. He had four men to load and pass his muzzle-loaders to him. He shot from morning until night, day after day. He shot “thousands and thousands of ducks, often over three hundred in a day.” Fourteen years later, a merchant at Hornersville reported that in the winter of 1893-1894 the number of ducks sent to market Illustration from Lewis’ American Sportsman. from the region of Big Lake amounted to 150,000; four-fifths were mallards. During the section of cane, just as Tim Wood made his first 1880’s and 1890’s, more ducks were harvested call on the Illinois River. On the contrary, Abe for the market from the sunkland swamps Kleinman states that he began hunting in 1851 of southeastern Missouri and northeastern in the Calumet River country, near Chicago, Arkansas than any area that size in the country, and that at that time he had never heard of a and the professional market hunters were duck call. He seemed to think that the idea came undoubtedly aware of this. from somewhere south of us, perhaps the One of five brothers that were market Illinois River country. The consensus of hunters, hailing from the Calumet region opinion seems to be that Bill Haskell was near Chicago, Henry Kleinman, brother not one, two, or even eight in the invention to Abe (mentioned on the previous of the instrument above specified. page) stated in an 1890 issue of Forest Billy Griggs’ sobriquet was “The King and Stream: of the Market Hunters of all America.” “The best of mallard shooting may He hailed from Browning, Illinois, that sometimes be had in the timber of the great duck country that produced many Mississippi River. There will always be remarkable market gunners, but none ducks there, in a season of high water, more so than Griggs. Over a long span if there are ducks anywhere. I have had of nearly thirty years, beginning in 1871, great shooting near New Boston. If you he market hunted in the Dakotas, Illinois, find an open place in the timber where Iowa, Nebraska, southeastern Missouri, they feed, and put your decoys out in Big Lake (Arkansas), Louisiana, and the open and go to calling, it sometimes Texas. In addition, he feather hunted in seems as if you couldn’t keep the mallards Central and South America as well as the out. In the style of hunting down there, Gulf Coast states. where the ducks can’t see the decoys very For a number of years, Griggs, the far, you have to keep up your calling all “outlooker” for the millionaire Wirt the time, and it is sometimes funny to sit Dexter, traveled the country over looking on a log and listen to the different sorts for new shooting territory for Dexter, a of calls you can hear, apparently for miles Chicago attorney and real estate developer, on every side of you. Some of them make who was in the forefront of development very strange sounds, and I imagine some of Chicago after its great fire in 1871. of them don’t get very many ducks. In 1879, Griggs hunted the swamps Faulk’s Cane Call Sometimes on the Illinois River, you -8-
in Indiana. get timber shooting like that. Once I There has been speculation that found an open hole in the timber near call makers from Louisiana might Hennepin Lake, and put out a lot of have been the source of the first mallards from it. There was a road modern duck caller. Claude Gresham cut through the timber, and I put out sheds some light on this matter in his my decoys right in front of this road. article, “Louisiana Duck Calls,” written I got into a treetop nearby and went to December 1954, after he and Allen calling. The mallards began to come in Airhart had visited George Doescher, right along that road, and they dropped one of the oldest market hunters, to get in to the decoys at once, without any his take on the first duck call makers. warning. I killed 128 mallards in a Airhart was the owner and maker little while that afternoon.” of the “Cajun Duck Call.” Doescher Abe’s and Henry’s father, John, started making cane calls as a teenager settled on the banks of Calumet Lake about 1917. just south of Chicago. John was a Doescher lived in the Lake practical man and turned his hand Charles area, considered the duckto using the natural product of the call manufacturing soil. This was chiefly ducks in those capital of the Pelican days, and almost as long as Abe and State. Claude asked Henry could remember, their father Doescher, “What used to haul ducks to can you tell me the Chicago market, about their origin?” while John’s five boys “When I started shot on the marsh market hunting, and kept the wagon the Cajuns didn’t loaded with waterfowl. know what a duck Besides being excellent Victor Glodo call was. That was shots in the swamps, the boys were all exceptional in 1900 and I was 16 years trap shooters, belonging to the old. I patterned my call after earliest of trap-shooting clubs those some hunters from Illinois had.” in Chicago. The late Clarence “Patin” Abe remarked about his father, “The old gentleman Faulk, father of Dud, was expected about so many ducks perhaps Louisiana’s bestfor every pound of powder he known call maker. Dud gave us, and it paid us to double Faulk said, “We didn’t invent two birds to the shot whenever calls, we copied them from we could, and we usually could hunters who came south to hunt. It wasn’t until hunters over decoys.” Abe’s hunting was not came from the north to limited just to the Calumet River southwest Louisiana to hunt area and Lake Senachwine, but that duck calls began to be included most of the Mississippi used.” In fact, calls made Call attributed to P. S. OLT D-2 call Valley and the Kankakee River upcountry from the Cajun’s Nick Glodo -9-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
coastal marshes nearly all appear to be either Glodo- or Arkansas-style calls. In The Southern Workman, 1912, in speaking about Louisiana “pot hunters,” it was stated that “some of the ‘pot hunters’ build their ‘blinds’ on the edges of the banks of the bayous, or a short distance in the lagoons. Or, after putting out decoys, they hide behind the tall grass or in the reeds, and then sound their ‘call.’ The call is made of cane, but the Acadian puts into it a tone nearer that of the duck than any other hunter can imitate.” The Louisiana-style calls were unique. “The first were copied from the Philip S. Olt D-2 hard rubber calls.” The D-2 model, made by Olt, sold more calls than any other call ever produced. He began his business in Pekin, Illinois in 1904; he was the first to develop a one-piece insert with a straight reed resting above a curved tone board—at least on a commercial basis—just the opposite of the norm then, and he made his calls from hard rubber. Thus he set the standard for future call production, as most duck calls made today utilize Phillip Olt’s insert design by joining a straight mylar reed and curved tone board. When Olt’s calls began arriving tied to the lapels of visiting sports, Cajun craftsmen began (Below) This is the new Big Lake Shooting club, on the south end of Big Lake. This one was built after the old one burned to the ground.
copying them using whatever was at hand. The reeds were made by filing down the back of a hard-rubber comb, the barrel and insert from native cane and the tone board from cedar. Because cane easily splits, calls were frequently reinforced using the brass heads from fired shotshells. From Illinois, duck call making spread to Reelfoot Lake when Joseph Victor “Vic” Glodo, Jr., brother of John Nickolus “Nick” Glodo, moved there in 1891 after the countryside around Fountain Bluff in Jackson County, Illinois was drained, beginning in 1888, and a levee was built to control the Mississippi River. He created the Reelfoot call with its wooden wedge block, and he is considered by most experts as the one who gets credit The OK Duck Call. for establishing what a duck Olt’s earliest duck call. call would look like. Many refer to him as the “Father of American Duck Calls.” It was also during this time (the early 1890’s) when Nick Glodo (1847-1907) market hunted
in the “New Madrid swamps” of southeastern Missouri (or “swampeastern” as the natives knew it), close to the border with Arkansas. It was the home to countless market hunters. The swamps were created by the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, and were about 75 by 125 miles in extent. In addition to the local market hunters, many hunters from the Lake Senachwine/ Swan Lake area market hunted in the swamps of southeastern Missouri, including the Woods brothers in the late 1880’s. Moreover, many club members of the Lake Hennepin Shooting Club and the Swan Lake Club hunted there. Other known Illinois market hunters who utilized the depot at Paw Paw Junction, located near New Madrid, were Billy Griggs, Abe Kleinman and Fred Kimble. Griggs was a frequent hunting partner of Abe’s and it was through him that the former learned the art of market hunting. Paw Paw Junction (now Lilbourn) was situated about four miles west of New Madrid. The railroad junction was an important distribution hub for market hunters, who shipped their commodities from the swamps to New Madrid and then on to Memphis and St. Louis during the 1880’s and 1890’s. In December 1888, at the junction, twelve barrels and two sacks of mallards were waiting on the railroad platform for delivery to markets
in St. Louis. The previous night, nineteen barrels were shipped to the same market. The smallest barrel was marked “sixty-four mallards.” The New Madrid swamps were eventually drained, beginning in 1897, which then shifted more of the market hunting to Big Lake in Arkansas, located some 75 miles south of New Madrid and Paw Paw Junction. The same earthquakes of 1811-1812 changed the Big Lake area from a free-flowing river system to a lake and swamp ecosystem, making it a haven for wintering mallards and other waterfowl. Market hunters who lived near Paw Paw Junction during this time were Edward “Ed” and Upton “Bud” St. Mary. The St. Mary’s families were early inhabitants of the New Madrid countryside. Ed (born 1857) had been upon Big Lake since 1899, making a living by market hunting and fishing as had Bud. They were known for their market-hunting and duck-calling skills. This wasn’t the first time that the St. Mary brothers had market hunted at Big Lake. In 1893, the St. Marys were there, making their living market hunting. In 1900, the Big Lake Shooting Club was organized, with many members being from Memphis and Nashville. Immediately, at its formation, conflict developed between the club and market hunters. In 1903, Ed was employed by the club as guide and paddler, while Bud began his employment a few months later. In an ironic twist of Ed St. Mary duck call history, Nick Glodo’s -11-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
daughter, Sarah, married call, was one of the most John Ingram in Fountain effective calls ever used Bluff, Illinois, and in the timber.” He elaborated further afterwards the family moved to Big Lake in that “another call often 1897, where John market identified as a ‘Big Lake’ hunted as did their male call was the product of offsprings when they an able hunter named St. became old enough to Mary, resident of Manila, carry a shotgun. Nick Ark.” Beckhart passed his died in 1907. 1897 was the same call-making techniques year that James Beckhart to Claude Stone, who and his family moved to built several hundred Big Lake from East St. checkered calls before Louis, looking for a place he died in 1973. He, in to better their livelihood. turn, taught his son, Joe, the art, who later It is believed passed the callthat Ed and Bud making baton to were influenced Barry McFarland, by Nick Glodo of Hornersville. or the Woods Beckhart also had brothers when a great influence Attributed to Nick or they market Albert Glodo upon Pop Pickle, of around J. T. Beckhart Big Lake Duck hunted Call Jonesboro, Arkansas. Paw Paw Junction. In Forest and Stream, December Ed and Bud later 6, 1913, a sportsman, hunting in the passed on their call-making skills to Fountain Bluff area, mentioned Glodo James Beckhart, who became a famous but does not mention which one, as market hunter and duck call maker at Victor’s brothers also made calls. Big Lake and a friend of the St. Mary The hunter stated, “It was at the brothers. American Bottoms in 1882. The bottoms It could also be that the St. Marys were a great duck country, but are now and Beckhart were influenced by John drained into farms. Big Lake [not the Ingram and his wife Sarah, who might one in Arkansas] with its fifty miles have brought a Glodo call with them of shoreline was the main location for when they moved to Big Lake in 1897. (I shooting and sixty shooters made their have no information that John Ingram living and supported wives and children made duck calls.) from proceeds of game on and around it.” Nash Buckingham stated in an article They were skilled mechanics too at written for the Memphis Commercial this trade of duck killing, and unlike Appeal, March 22, 1936: “Some of the other places where the writer has been, greatest makers of duck calls were residents of the tri-states. The original Tom Turpin Early placed little dependence on decoys, Beckhart—then known as the Big Lake Experimental call relying almost entirely on their ability -12-
No matter what social class you belong to, you’re a hunter. These two gentleman met for the first time in the field and had no problems striking up a conversation. Illustration from Lewis’ American Hunter.
J. L. Melancon, Earl Dennison, G. D. Kinney, Johnny Marsh, Glynn Scoby, and many others maintained this original design and tradition. Turpin’s calls were in such demand that Nash Buckingham stated that “the duck shooting world was beating a path of its own to his door.” By the 1930’s, Nash stated that “the duck call making center was pretty well established in Memphis.” He also said that Memphian Ben Tyler was “an unequaled amateur woodcraftsman when it comes to ornate call shells. Captain Tyler, working in many lustrous woods, carves Benson and Roland Clark etchings thrown upon the wood surface by high lights. The results are exquisite—ducks and geese portrayed in familiar flight or lighting and feeding postures.” At Buckingham’s Sporting Goods Store in Memphis, the gathering spot for many of Memphis’ sportsmen, Turpin was always present. It was here, incidentally, that he met Perry Hooker and other Memphians that became call makers. It was here where duck calls for the retail market filtered in from Big Lake, Reelfoot, Illinois River, Cajun country, and other areas. At Turpin’s death in 1957, Turpin’s brother, Inman, took over the business until his death two years later; afterwards the call-making business passed to Inman’s son, Hunter. From Big Lake, call making spread to Mississippi, when, at an early age, R. “Mr. Mac” McPherson, (1911-1983), living outside Leachville, Early Chick Major Duck Call Arkansas, hunted ducks at -13-
at calling. There were men around Big Lake who could talk to the ducks as readily as to one another. Living within twenty yards of Big Lake was a man named Glodo, with whom I and my shooting companion, Fredericks, stopped. This man made a perfect caller, using a tongue of silver or brass and a body of seasoned walnut. Sometimes it would take him a week to get the right twang to a tongue, but when finished, that call would say everything a duck could and more besides. The bottoms at Fountain Bluff had ponds and large lakes—like Big Lake which was nearly five miles in width and covered several sections of land—scattered over its surface, so that a great part was usually covered with water. It was alive with waterfowl during the hunting season and was considered “a hunter’s paradise.” Following Vic Glodo’s death in 1900, Memphis call maker Tom Turpin refined and standardized the Glodo design by improving the reed design and adding a step-drilled resonance chamber to increase volume. Over the years, a host of large and small call makers, including John “Sundown” Cochran, Sonny Cochran, Perry Hooker, John Lykins, E. S. Stofer, Perry Wade, John Jolly, Bill Barnett,
Legacy of the American Duck Call
There is little doubt that brothers—Nick and Big Lake. He had heard of and seen some of the duck calls made by the legendary James Vic Glodo—had a major influence on the MidBeckhart and Claude Stone. While a young south, principally the call makers of Big Lake, man, he began whittling out a duck call from Memphis, and West Tennessee (particularly a stick of wood—Big Lake Style. Just before the Reelfoot Lake area), and, in return, that the start of World War II, the family moved to the Glodo’s were influenced by Grubbs whose Detroit. While living there, he made and sold calls are the first documented metal-reed calls a few duck calls—Arkansas style. After the of what is now known as Glodo or Reelfoot war, General Motors sent him to Greenwood, Lake style. Moreover, this writer believes that Grubbs was influenced by the Woods Mississippi, where he was the dealer brothers and/or Sam Horner. One thing representative for the state. During the seems certain, the Glodo’s calls set the 1940’s, he made just enough duck calls standard for every Reelfoot- and Big to satisfy a few friends. Lake-style call that followed. As the years passed, he began The most recent style in the evolution producing more calls, which he sold in of duck calls, the Arkansas-style evolved Greenwood at Delta Sporting Goods, from the Olt call, having a one-piece beginning in 1951. In 1955, Clayton insert with a straight reed and a curved M. “Son” Jordan learned the art of tone board. It was just what the Arkansas call making from Mr. Mac and others boys around Stuttgart needed—a call followed shortly: Speedy Tharpe (1927for flooded green timber—more mellow 2000) and L. L. Walker (1909-2006), and more duck-like sounding than a with the latter making calls beginning metal-reed call. They were the first to in 1958. All are dead now, except Son, experiment with this type of call in an octogenarian, who is still making a Arkansas. As the rice fields increased few calls. in the Grand Prairie, they got so good Mr. Mac and Son Jordan were friends with their calling that they could make it of W. C. Cross, of Greenwood, who won sound like an entire rice field was loaded the World Duck Calling Championship with sonorous mallards. at Stuttgart in 1957, blowing a Mr. Mac About the Stuttgart area, D. M. call. He repeated as champion in 1958, “Chick” Major championed this style, using a Son Jordan call. beginning in 1939. Chick had a major Brian J. McGrath in Duck Calls and influence on Mike McLemore and Butch other Game Calls, 1988, the first book Richenback, with the latter continuing devoted to calls stated, “Illinois is the Cajun Duck Call the tradition today. Chick’s famous Dixie history of duck call making.” Mallard Duck Call has won hundreds of Duck calls and duck calling varied in different sections of the country so the art of calling contests. Before him, Mark Weedman, call making took roots elsewhere. Nevertheless, of Little Rock, made this style of call, beginning by the twentieth century, the basic design in the late 1930’s. He was influenced by Andy for the development of contemporary calls Bowles, his friend and neighbor. Just like the Arkansas-style call, the was established, and further modifications were basically slight changes. Today, calls are Louisiana-style call is a modification of the Olt identified by collectors by their style or form: and the Cajun-style call is a slight alteration of tongue-pincher, Allen, Reelfoot, Louisiana/ the Louisiana-style call. Where the call making art evolved, we Cajun and Arkansas. -14-
will probably never know with certainty. However, the Swan Lake/Lake Hennepin/ Lake Senachwine areas may very well be the birthplace of the modern duck call. After all, it certainly had its craftsmen, inventions, and inventors—George Sibley, James Cunningham, Robert Elliston and Charles Grubbs—with these gentlemen turning out wonderful and functional Illinois River decoys, boats, and calls. Moreover, as to who made the first modern duck call, we also will probably never know, but unquestionably Tim and Frank Wood look suspicious as does Sam Horner. Regrettably, as far as it is known, there are no known examples of any call made by either the Woods brothers or Horner. If not for Emerson Hough, they would have gone unnoticed as they lived in relative obscurity unlike the makers who sought fame and fortune by commercializing their calls in the earliest of days. Whoever it was that made the first modern duck call, their followers through the years designed some beautiful calls—creating works of art on the same scale as collectible decoys. A few realized the beauty inherit in the craftsmanship that was uniquely American. One such individual was my good friend Howard Harlan, an avid waterfowler, who himself developed the skill of duck call making,
Illustration from Lewis’ American Sportsman.
Toling for Ducks. Just one of the many cunning ways hunters have caught a duck. Illustration from Lewis American Sportsman.
turning out some beautiful calls. The masters of the old-timers’ craft is what drives him to perfection in the calls that he makes. Not only that but he realized early on the value in this sorely American folk-art form and he, probably more than anyone else, sparked an appreciation among others for the sheer pleasure of the hunt for these treasures. Certainly, Howard’s earlier book brought a heightened awareness in collecting and preserving these old calls before they were lost or destroyed. If he did anything with his passion, he assured each of us that these treasures would not be lost and that by searching dusty attics and old cigar boxes we could possibly own one that belonged to an old-timer, and consequently, connecting us with the history and lore of waterfowling. As I think back over the years that Howard has devoted to his passion—promoting the art of call collecting and duck calling in its highest degree—I hardly can think of any person who has been engaged in any type of hobby that has so fervidly spread his passion nationwide as much as Howard has. A man with a generosity of spirit, he is an individual that legends are built around— writer of books,musician, consummate call collector, maker of duck-calls with the skills of a master craftsman, and perhaps, the most important of all—caretaker and recorder of an American folk-art form. He is no fireside sportsman. Years afield
Legacy of the American Duck Call
in quest of waterfowl has brought the crinkles born of greeting thousands of sunrises to the corners of his eyes. Howard had rather go shooting without the gun as without the call. The renowned nineteenth century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow summed up Howard’s life and passion when he said in his “A Psalm of Life:” Let us, then, be up and doing With a heart for any fate Still achieving, still pursuing Learn to labor and to wait. To Howard, life is real; he is up and achieving—a man full of life. Each tomorrow finds him farther along than today. He has most assuredly gotten the most out of the life that he has been given, and he has without doubt shared his life with us. As we look at this vast array of calls, I know that we envision puffing smoke of steamboats and rattling of cars on railroad tracks and wild rice fields along some shadowed nook upon some quite river’s backwaters or pin oaks flats in a flooded green timber reservoir or an Howard Harlan’s tribute to the cornfield great call maker J. T. Beckhart overflowed just waiting for cornon-the-cob mallards to answer the call from someone, somewhere, hailing them and luring them down with sublime indifference to a set of decoys suspecting no danger. With the first light, plainly we can see the -16-
Illustration of a sink. There is a box in the middle of the sink where the shooter lies concealed. A rim of shee-lead extending entirely around the box, to prevent the ripple from washing in on the shooter. Another hunter uses a motorized boat to collect the kill.
glistening bars upon their wings winnowing the air with lazy strokes, bobbing long green heads and outstretched necks, and the band of white upon their tails surmounted by dainty curls of iridescent green. It is pure poetry in motion. These calls bring back memories—of special moments—of untold stories—of calls that can be felt and heard. Treasure them all, for I know, if you are like me, these calls will awaken in your heart and mind a renewed sense of love and loyalty to our hunting heritage and a feeling of gratefulness to all the fowlers who have gone before us and passed over the Great Divide where we will one day join them to listen to their stories, and it is then that we will know who made the first modern duck call. In closing, a special thanks to Howard for allowing us to thumb through these pages and look through the kaleidoscope of history at the early call makers and their calls—for a job well done.
Duck Call Education
Duck Call Education
This is your standard duck call.
This is your standard reed and wedge block. A reed can be made out of many materials but mostly plastic or a metal. The wedge block could be made of wood or cork.
Mrs. John Kruesi of Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Winner of the 1949 World Duck Calling Championship, Women’s Division. She is displaying how to properly hold a duck call. Placing the stopper in your palm and blowing into the opposite end of the barrel.
Once the reed and wedge block have been set in place on the tone board, the assembly is inserted into the barrel. The barrel is what helps amplify the sound the reed and tone board make together.
The tone board helps air flow to pass over the reed, causing it to vibrate and produce sound. This is not your standard stopper. This one has a screw off top. Most tone boards are made of one solid piece.
Now I don’t for one minute profess to believe that I, or anyone else, could teach a beginner to call ducks by putting words down on paper, any more than you could learn to be a finished musician by taking a correspondence course and not having an instrument to practice on. But I do believe there are a lots of do’s, don’ts, and if ’s that will help anyone who wants to learn to call ducks. -17-
Legacy of the American Duck Call (Above) Sheet music from Earl Dennison’s “The Barnyard Call”. An educational record that taught you how to call like the pros!
The following is an instructional brochure from Otto H. Quetsch entitled LEARN TO CALL THE WILD MALLARD DUCK: Knowing How and When to Call Is Half the Sport in Duck Shooting. Here is your first lesson in mallard duck calling. A duck call is a sound instrument, like a cornet and is operated much the same way. REMEMBER DUCKS HAVE A LANGUAGE. Take the call in your right hand (unless you are a left-winger.) Place your upper lip inside of the call with you lower lip over the outside of the call and breathe the words or syllables TOO-ET into the instrument. This sounds the duck call QUA-ACK. Now take out or omit the hyphen and call rapidly the word TOOET and you have the call of the wild mallard quack. This is the mouth call. If you want to use the throat call, say the word OOET from the throat, which is the call of the wild mallard. Use your tongue against the roof of your mouth to make -18-
this sound. They are both the same except that the sound of one comes from your throat. The throat call takes more exertion and more steam. To give the feed call, say rapidly the words GET-A --- GET-A --- GET-A about seven times and you have the chuckle of the mallard hen calling others to feed with her. Learn how to muffle the sound of this call by opening and closing your three fingers on the end of your call. This gives a varied sound effect and should be used before mallards are swinging into the decoys. Quit calling when they are coming in close and are going to alight. When ducks have gone past you and you give the long distance comeback call, you will automatically use the mouth call and throat call on the last three or four notes. This takes some practice and the best way to get this call is to practice right out in the duck grounds. When ducks are coming in toward you, keep very quiet. Don’t move and don’t show your face. When they are directly over you or have passed you, they can not see down or in the back of them, but some old birds have the habit when directly over the decoys of twisting their heads sideways and looking down with one eye. If you must change your position, change after the ducks have passed you while making another circle to come in again. When mallards are circling to your decoys, you will notice the last circle before alighting to your decoys is usually a wider one.
Advertisement we found digging through some old Sports & Fields.
enough to hide you; or you can sit on a camp stool in the grass or brush somewhere with a few branches of foliage about -- and keep quiet. REMEMBER THE WIND CHANGES
Most duck callers can call better in the duck blind or grounds than they can in a room or any other place. You will notice a good caller always crouches and looks up without showing his face when calling ducks or giving calling lessons. This is a habit he has acquired to keep the ducks’ attention only on the decoys. Remember the female duck does all the calling and at times gets all the others in. This is a good lesson for women duck shooters to keep in mind. Don’t call or shoot on another fellow’s circle, if he has the ducks working on his decoys. Build your cloned away from open water -- not on the edge but back in with a natural background and foreground. In the timber there is really no use for a blind. The best place to shoot from is on the shady side of a tree sitting down on a box or camp stool. When the sun shines, move to the shade. A few branches of natural foliage are
(Below) Another diagram from Earl Dennison’s 1950’s education pamphlet on duck hunting. This diagram shows a “Pot Shoot Spread”.
Duck Call Education
(Above) Diagram from Earl Dennison’s 1950’s educational pamphlet on duck calling’s practical application, hunting! This is showing an A Spread.
Have the wind on your back or to the right or left of you, never blowing directly in your face. Place yourself where you’ll have a side shot, never a head shot. Since on your second and third shots, they will be too close or going over your head -- and if you are in a blind, you can’t turn around and shoot the other way. A good jack-knife or small camp ax and a folding camp chair painted a dirty gray are good duck shooting tools for the duck hunter in the timber. Remember the muzzle is the only dangerous part of the gun. Shoot only from one side of a pond if there are several shooters. NEVER from both sides.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Don’t shoot ducks sitting on the water-this is considered pot hunting. Don’t do all the shooting. Let the other fellow get a few shots; he may be a good shot. Pick your shots and don’t all shoot at the same bird. Get out after cripples in a hurry - be a sportsman. Don’t shoot a lot of shells; this burns out any good duck grounds. A box of 25 shells should get any average duck shoot a daily limit of ten ducks. Try sometime to kill two ducks when they are close or cross together with one shell, you will get a real kick out of duck shooting when you accomplish this. Don’t try to call ducks when shooting with others if you don’t know how to call (you’re out of luck). (You’d might just as well sing a hymn). Just listen to others if they know how to call, and you will gradually get there. There are eighteen different species of wild ducks that migrate through this section of out country -- every fall and spring -- divided equally in two families, divers and non-divers. If you know them all, know their call, flight and habits -- then consider yourself an ace among duck hunters.
(Above) This yellow card would have come in the box with a highly manufactured call, such as a P. S. Olt. The manufacturer wanted you to know the basics right out of the box!
Evolution of the Tongue-pincher Style Call
(Bellow) One of the first attempts of a squawker. This maker put everything inside the barrel. Too bad this style never caught on, it is very efficient.
“The Boy’s First Experience” a photo from Nash Buckingham’s book Mark Right. This is a good illustration of how young the oral tradition of hunting and duck calling starts. Its also a great way to spend time with the kids!
Evolution of the tongue-pincher
The duck call itself, in my opinion, developed from the tongue-pincher call imported into our country by the hunters and trappers of the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. These calls were referred to as tongue-pinchers simply because if you weren’t careful the reed would pinch your tongue. All contemporary duck and Unusual tongue-pincher that came goose calls began with from West Tennessee. this design. Tonguepinchers were made of two pieces of wood with a reed made of metal - sometimes brass or shot shells - or can strips sliced very thin. Sometimes a metal bell or turned horn bell was attached for added volume. The French and Germans, were probably the first to develop this game call which was surely the predecessor of our American calls. The grandfather of the American version of this unique device was a Detroit, Michigan manufacturer named Elam Fisher, who in 1870 designed and patented a copy of a French and English design. I’m sure other makers of American tongue-pincher calls were successful, but Fisher was the first that we
know of to patent his call. F. A. Allen and Charles Grubbs, whom I will discuss later, produced many calls on a large commercial basis in the decade before Fisher, but they never patented their product. Crow and hawk calls of this same design, as well as some of our early predator calls, Homemade arrived on the scene tongue-pincher. much later. Tongue-pincher calls began as double tone boards, perhaps later one of the tone boards was either lost or discarded because it wasn’t effective. Or maybe someone had an idea how to build a better duck trap, pun intended. After taking the top or bottom tone is an older board off and exposing the reed, This home made someone then decided to enclose tongue-pincher the reed and tone board with a that has been together by barrel. A little air blown into thesecured four slot screws.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
end of the tube or barrel, and we have Unknown tonguecall made from the American duck call. More ducks pincher bone and horn have ended up on American dinner tables through this device, accompanied possibly by corn and decoys, than any other invention with the exception of the shotgun. I collect almost any device that makes a sound that is caused by someone blowing or sucking air through an object made for that purpose. Duck calls, goose calls, whistles, tubes, yelpers, and other style calls have always been an interest to me because of the sound that can be made by these devices. In my early years of collecting sporting collectibles, firearms were of most interest to me. Some of the early gun cases from Europe, had pieces inside that were part of the kit. One of the gun cases that I found had a strange item included. This was first of what appeared to be a
This is a Squawker style duck call. The one on the left is assembled, while the one on the right is disassembled. The reed is tied in place with a string. Then, the barrel is fitted over the tone board.
Well crafted tonguepincher. Decorative turning at the end. The call is wrapped with a strong braided fishing line.
One of our favorite tongue-pinchers. The reed is actually made of a very thick piece of wood. This call is styled much more like a saxophone than a duck call.
This is a very primitive call from the Reelfoot Lake area of Tennessee. It measures 4 3/4â€?. A unique duck call that very likely represents earliest attempts at making calls.
Red Duck Calls: (left to right) unusual horn bell, two standard Red Ducks, wooden pincher; possibly a prototype from Red Duck or another craftsmanâ€™s attempt to duplicate the Red Duck style.
Evolution of the tongue-pincher
calling device. It was made of horn and wood with a brass or metal reed sandwiched between the two wooden halves. These calling devices were made in Europe and were brought to this country by the early call makers. Many of these were copied by the early call makers of that era. The tongue-pincher style call was patented by Eli Fisher of Detroit, Michigan in 1870. It was the first duck call to receive a patent number. I believe Mr. Fisher copied one of these early calls from England or Germany. Many other early tongue-pincher style calls were to follow Fisherâ€™s work. Some of these were Werner, Red Duck, B. G. I., Dodge, and others would make
Elam Fisher Style Tongue-pinchers
their mark on the early duck-hunting scene. The European makers were the first after the Indians and cavemen to evolve the instruments. The rest came later. All of these makers owe their skills to the early makers. A Reelfoot call is a take-off of these early tongue-pincher calls. Calls have not changed much from these. Who knows what will happen in the future with new technology and machinery. Who would of thought just fifty years ago a call would have been made on a C & C machine? One of the most important things that I learned in my early call making and collecting career was to never say never.
These are C. L. Werner tongue-pincher calls. The Werner calls can be differentiated from the early Elam Fisher calls in that Werner stamped a number on each of the lips. The two Werners pictured here are # 2 and 18.
We do not know a lot about C.L. Werner, but some new information surfaced just before publication of this book. We think Werner was a gunsmith from Rochester New York, born in Germany in 1851, he and his brother had a gunsmith business together there in 1873. There is no record of his patent yet, but we are still looking. Hopefully we will be able to gather more information on him and his call in the future. -27-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Hansen, Nels C. Nels C. Hansen was born in Denmark in 1867 and migrated to the United States at the age of nineteen. He was employed as a painter for the Thompson Buggy Company. In 1906, Hansen bought a farm near Elk Lake. It was while living at Elk Lake that Hansen made his first tongue-pincher duck call. He started out making calls for his friends, and it did not take long for the word to spread; orders started pouring in. Eventually, Hansen gave up farming and turned his full attention to the production of duck calls. By 1916, Hansen was turning out 10,000 calls per year. Priced at $1.00 each, these calls were the working manâ€™s standard for many years.
This is an advertisement for the Broadbill Call.
Hansenâ€™s calls are a modified tonguepincher style call. This design completely encased the reed, which solved the problem of the reed biting the user. Hansenâ€™s early calls were cord wrapped affairs. Sometime before 1916, Hansen settled on his famous band wrapped calls and stayed with that design until production ceased in 1953. Hansen probably produced more calls than any of the other early call makers. His calls can be seen advertised
by almost every early sporting magazine of the era. These calls worked well in the early days, and became a staple of any diver duck hunter, they are still very successful at luring in divers even today. It is believed that Hansen made the Union Duck Call, but no firm proof has been established as of this writing. Evolution of the tongue-pincher
Here are some examples of Broadbill prototypes that show the early work of N. C. Hansen.
Everything is collectable.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
From time to time when duck call collectors gather, the discussion arises as to who was the father of the American duck call. Opinions are largely formed by what part of the country you live in or have the most interest in. Michigan collectors will claim Elam Fisher, while Illinois collectors can differ from F. A. Allen, Charles Grubbs, the Glodo brothers and even P. S. Olt. Missouri and Arkansas collectors may gravitate towards J. T. Beckhart, while Tennessee collectors will point to Victor Glodo. I think it would be impossible to give one man credit, however, there is a group of men who I think well deserve credit as the fathers of the American duck call. That group would be the market hunters around the turn of the century. Market hunters were providing table
Charles Shoenheider, Jr. of Peoria, Illinois. A typical market hunter of the Golden Age.
fare for the big cities in the north like Chicago and New York. When sportsmen realized the abundance of waterfowl in the regions around southern Illinois, Reelfoot Lake, and Big Lake, they saw sporting opportunities. Who better to take you afield fowling than a seasoned market hunter? These sports hired market hunters to guide them and run their fowling clubs. Along with their waterfowling skills, these market hunters brought along their duck calls. During these times, market hunters were about the only guys proficient with using a duck call. Generally, these calls weren’t used to call in ducks the way we do today. They were basically locator calls used much like the way we use crow calls today to locate turkeys. While maneuvering through the swamps, a market hunter would occasionally squawk a few notes on his caller to try and get a response from ducks rafting in the timbers. Oftentimes when hunting out of a blind, these calls were used to alert your ‘Judas Duck’ that it was time for her to start calling. As she called, these hunters would imitate her vocalizations and assist with calling the ducks into the decoys. When these rich sports from back East saw how well a duck call could work, they tried to buy one as a souvenir of the hunt. It did not take long for the market hunter to realize that these sports had just opened up another market for them: the duck call. It wasn’t just ducks they were sending up north, it was their callers. These old guides realized pretty quickly that if they made calls, they could make some good money selling them to the sports. Some, like Allen and Grubbs, operated on a volume basis, while others sold less and charged a big price for their tools of the trade. It has been stated that Nick Glodo was selling calls for $10.00 in the 1890’s. All the while, the Allen call was selling for $1.00 in the catalog stores. -31-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
This is an actual tag that was affixed to the barrel of ducks as they were transported to the market in St. Louis.
Club. The two brothers began guiding for the club. It was stated that, “They knew every inch of the ground and their knowledge of the habits of wildfowl is perfect. There are hardly two men in the state who have killed and shipped more game.” On one side of the Swan Lake clubhouse was Frank Wood’s house. On the other side was Tim’s. His barnyard was full of fowl of all sorts, and there were the usual numbers of wild ducks, making the air resonant with musical notes of mallard manufacture. Tim tuned his duck calls to sound like them. The Hennepin Shooting Club and Swan Lake Club nearly joined each other in their riparian possessions, and what is true of one club is largely true of the other, as far as the character of the grounds, the nature of the game and the manner of its pursuit were concerned. It was the boast of the Hennepin Shooting Club that no equal acreage upon the whole Illinois River—nor, indeed, in the whole state of Illinois—afforded better mallard shooting. Their grounds were just north of Swan Lake and both clubs were on the east side of the Illinois River. On visiting the Hennepin Shooting Club, Emerson Hough stated that the “Sibley boys [George and J. A. from Chicago] and Mr. [C. R.] Carroll make their own decoys, and I believe
A good calling lesson from a seasoned market hunter and the opportunity to bring one of his calls home was much of the difference in price. Not only was the call a souvenir of the hunt, it was also a useful tool for future duck hunts. These duck callers wound up all over the United States. Some market hunters turned duck call making into a job, while others made only a few calls to sell to their clients. As these souvenirs of the hunt were shown to other hunters, some undoubtedly said, “Hey, I can make those.” Thus, duck call making spread throughout the country. The early market hunters were the driving force behind the evolution of the modern duck call. In 1880 the Woods family began hosting sportsmen for waterfowling. Prior to this, the Kleinman brothers market hunted the lake with Tim and Frank Woods . With foresight, Frank’s and Tim’s father sensed that the days of market hunting were nearing an end and there would be far more money in leasing the marsh and lake to some Chicago sports who then organized the Swan Lake Club. The club was officially organized February 16, 1885. Two years previous to this, these Chicago sportsmen had leased 1,200 acres from the father of the Woods Hoards of market hunters with mounds of dead ducks were common in Long Island until the mid 1930’s, when such mass killings were finally stopped. brothers, forming the Chicago Gun -32-
build their own boats, which are plain open skiffs. There were some [Robert] Elliston decoys [from Lake Senachwine, across the Illinois River from Swan Lake], but the great bulk of the decoy fleet has been made by Mr. Cunningham, who does excellent work.” George Cunningham was a carpenter, decoy maker, duck call maker, and boat builder whose style of boat was referred to as “Hennepin Duck Boat.” This boat was considered a very good light marsh boat for hunting. He also invented the “Lake Senachwine Iron Skiff,” which was a much heavier boat than the one just mentioned. It was good in navigating icy waters, and could also serve as a sled. The Woods brothers used the skiff in very cold weather when everything was iced up. He was a personal friend of Grubbs and the first caretaker of the club. The Illinois River, trending between the Mississippi and the Fox Lake system and to the lakes of Wisconsin and so on north, offered a broad and easy waterway for the waterfowl. There were wide marshes along its shores, and winding lakes and bayous, stocked with food. The pecans and oaks along the main river offered certain dainties dear to the mallard’s palate. There was no better mallard country than that along the Illinois River between Hennepin on the north and Henry to the south, and the Swan Lake and Senachwine Clubs were right in the middle of the best. Below Hennepin, the Illinois River changed direction from straight west to almost straight south, and the river valley broadened from being a mile wide to four miles wide. In addition, on each side were numerous lakes that were adjacent to the river channel and
Market hunters in the early 1900’s.
numerous others that were more distant from its banks. These backwater lakes were all at shallow depth—a foot or two even far from shore, all created by the retreating Wisconsin Glacier some 10,000 years ago. These bottomland lakes made the Illinois Valley what it was in historical times—one of the most famous waterfowling areas in the nation. When Emerson Hough visited the clubs of the Hennepin/Henry area, the shores of the Illinois bore evidence of the trail of the market hunters. Hundreds loafed and lived along its banks making a living trapping, fishing, and market hunting or perhaps now and then hiring as pusher to some sport. The overflowed bottom and timber lands resembled a battle. The shooting was continuous and ducks were in sight in some direction nearly all the time. They were hunters from the force of circumstances. Practice made them perfect in woodcraft, and the duck call became a tool of need, and eventually a source of money. The call most favored by these market hunters was the wooden one known as the Illinois River call. -33-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Black Powder and Muzzle Loading Shotguns
The invention of gunpowder is attributed to the Chinese, probably before 1,000 A.D. By 1250 A.D., it was known in Europe. Gunpowder was reported to have been made in America as early as 1675 but did not become an industry in the United States until 1802 when it was first manufactured by the E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company in Wilmington, Delaware. It was as inevitable as firecrackers that the invention of gunpowder would lead to shotgun shells. Muzzle loading shotguns were cumbersome and slow to reload. Therefore, as soon as black powder shells were available, manufacturers began the search for a better gunpowder. When ignited, black powder produced clouds of dense smoke (photo) and it quickly fouled firearms. When automatic and semiautomatic firearms were invented in the late 1800’s, the search for an alternative to black powder intensified. Several smokeless powders, also called nitro powders - because their base ingredient was derivative of nitroglycerin, were independently developed in Europe in the mid-1800’s, including one by Alfred Nobel, the father of both dynamite and the Nobel Peace Prize. California Powder Works is credited with producing the first smokeless powder in the U.S. in 1893, but its use in sporting ammunition
lagged behind military applications. Smokeless powder, unlike black powder, technically does not explode when ignited, but burns rapidly, releasing expanding gases. But gunpowder development was only one step in creating cartridges. First, muzzle loading shotguns needed to be replaced by breech loaders. Breech loading rifles existed in the 1830’s, and the Union soldiers used them during the Civil War, accelerating their development and popularity after the war. Breech loading shotguns did not lag far behind. Before the 1870’s, nearly all breechloading shotguns were produced by European gunsmiths and priced beyond the reach of the average American sportsman. Parker Brothers began producing shotguns in the U.S. in 1867 to make use of overstocked rifle parts left in warehouses when the Civil War ended. E. Remington & Sons and Dan LeFever foraged their first breech loading shotguns in the 1870’s. Others soon followed. The development of affordable, Americanmade breechloaders set in motion an evolution of sporting shotguns. By 1900, the basic design for shotguns and shot shells was established.
(Below) A waterfowler shoots from a cypress dugout canoe with his muzzle loader loaded with black powder. A dugout is made from one log, usually cypress, that is hollowed-out. This photo was taken in the early 1880’s in the Sunk Lands of northeast Arkansas near Big Lake.
A Duck Hunt on the Famous Big Lake, Arkansas By John B. Thompson. There was a summer warmth clinging to the sunken lands. Insects droned, and garrulous little straw-green marsh frogs, that conformed in coloration to the fall-stricken flag and saw grass, held sway continuously. Hunting coats were uncomfortable until the wind shifted and brought a cooling message from the northwest. The gradual termination of Little River into Big Lake and its scatters had an aspect conspicuously weird, yet not devoid of beauty peculiarly its own, with the dead foliage of gums, cotton wood and cypress enhancing it. There was something about the immensity of the inundation, and the ghastly nakedness of water-killed timber in places that for a while my attention was lured from sport. The overflow, which I first entered, reminded me of a restless sea, when the great meadows of flag, coarse moss and tall smart weed gave a play of resistance against the slightest breeze. The ways of the duck boat were legion. The
Native knew when to interpret the slightest parting of the flag as a passageway for the shallow-draft light craft which he pushed forward with his long slender paddle. The face of my guide was emotionless, except for a smile that bordered on contempt as I acknowledged my confusion over his selection of routes to the ducking grounds. A dull light brown was his face - the swamp taint, it was - like the falling
This is the camp house for The Martin Froggers. Their fishing and hunting camp was in West Tennessee . Until we found this photo, we thought the stories about this club were just waterfowler legend,
Legacy of the American Duck Call
After a moment, the duck boat glided into an opening. I could see sets of live decoys, perfectly trained fellows without the inhibitive cord and anchor, feeding within fifteen yards or more of the flag blinds. A flock of mallards appeared above the banding tree tops, then falling into the enticing lay of the skilled native caller, they set for a pitch near the first blind. Only then I saw the hunter, as a staccato of his pump gun drew my eyes where some ducks fell. I saw him nonchalantly push his boat to the kill, and aware that his boat could contain but few more ducks, he picked up the dead ducks, left the decoys there, and proceeded to a dock, where we followed him. So in the wake of the market hunter we went, Bill calling to him now and then in a bantering way. And then we struck a pathway in the flag, which ended at a duck buyersâ€™ dock. On it was heaped a mountain of ducks. More ducks than I had ever seen piled together in all my life! The hundred and fifteen, which the market hunter disposed of at twenty-five cents each to the buyer from the East, seemed but an insignificant number in comparison. Portraits like this one were commonplace for hunters in the golden age of hunting. Most photography studios had hunting and fishing props to accommodate the needs of the hunters that would come in. This is Archie Forder from Lancing, Iowa, before a hunt on the Mississippi River.
hickory leaves, and of so simple an expression, it was almost sinister. His long, tapering fingers showed the wrinkles and whiteness which constant contact with water will give, but they exhibited none of the callousness which is the consequence of hard labor. Gunfire could be heard in all directions. Suddenly it dawned on me that I would rather watch the hunter than shoot ducks. To Bill, my guide, I imparted this, and in response he grunted acquiescence, and then laid on more laboriously with the paddle. -36-
No one commented on the pile of dead ducks. I withheld speech. The market hunter returned to his boat, and with a new supply of shells paddled back to the scene of his former activities.
An early hunting camp at Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee.
after duck boat we passed, each laden to the water top heavy with its burden of dead ducks. One hunter had a sense of grim humor about him- possibly without his being aware of it- for on top of his load of dead strutted upright a number of live decoys vociferously proclaiming their share in the accomplishment.
This photo was taken in the mid-1880’s, if I didn’t know better I’d say it was an early photo of Brummy, Boice, Heavy, and Pickle.
Bill pushed me on until I tired of the repetitions of the performance. I entrusted to my guide that I wanted to see the sportsman shooting, and he led me to him. His performance was about the same, not quite so deadly, but he shone as though he were obsessed with but one motive, and that to kill as many ducks as he could. On that day the only difference I could distinguish between the market hunter and the man with the self-imposed title of sportsman was, the former limited himself to a variety of ducks, and the latter limited himself to neither varieties nor numbers. All day long we followed in the lair of ducks, and for the life of me amidst the big continuous flight of ducks and noise of the shoot I could stir up no desire to kill. Duck boat
Just then I thought I would enjoy a pass. It might be sport there when at another kind of a ducking ground it is often considered the reverse. Still I decided on it. Bill mentioned a pass, and we went to it. It was too late in the day, however, and the ducks were now back in the woods on their feeds. Would I like to see a feed? Sure, nothing would please me more! My guide knew of one, a round pond back in the timber, which was skirted with a profuseness of smart weed. Thither we went, creeping with excessive caution. Now and then a noise escaped us as our little craft grated crisply against the dry rushes. We were on the feed before the ducks were aware of our presence. I looked out into the pond as Bill pointed to it with his fingers. He might as well have spared himself of the effort. The noise of mallards was indescribable. As for numbers, they were beyond count or estimate. The way they were flattened out they resembled an immense army of restless turtles more than anything else I could think of. Apparently there was not room for more, still each second additional ducks were pouring in -37-
Once in a while I tried to interview a market hunter. The majority of them were sullen, and responded nothings in forced monotones. One or more laughed, when Bill advised them that I had come to shoot and would not shoot. One tapped his head with a gory finger, as significant of his faith in my mental unsoundness. Another shrilled back reproachfully, “Club Man!”
Legacy of the American Duck Call
â€œClub Menâ€? after a successful hunt. These rich club owners were often at odds with the market hunters and independent guides on Big Lake.
on the feed, and jamming a way for their repast. In a moment a mallard hen and three greenheaded attendants swam almost to the side of the boat. They were so startled at our invasion, for the nonce they were without signs of flight.
wing, and the colored animation so resplendent amidst the sodden environments departed. Immediately I regretted my rash act, for once more from the blinds on the lake I heard the murderous reports of the magazine guns!
It was I who made the mistake. I reached out my hand to touch one, then they jumped out of the water, the hen quacking her reverberating alarm call. And then I used the twenty one, dropping one drake. The entire swamp was on
Dusk was approaching. Bands of wild-fowl passed the stark timber in moving miniature silhouettes bathing in the red and gold lights, the parting benison of the setting sun. The flight of squawking, ungainly, sluggish green herons
Rice farming was new to the Northeast Arkansas area in the late 1890â€™s. It became the dinner table for millions of migrating waterfowl. These farms were one of the biggest factors that made this area the market hunting capitol during this time.
missing. Right then I could not have killed a duck, if it had meant that it was my last shot on earth at ducks. It was too much for one day, even for an old hunter like myself! It was all so appalling it sickened me!
A Reelfoot Lake hunter with his happy little girl getting in on the act after a successful hunt.
seemed endless. From the east came the noise of the discharge of many guns. We paddled with all our might to a great flag opening, just as the sun surrendered its light giving office to a big yellow moon, that magnified the trees into outrageous proportions. Thousands of ducks were circling at the roosts, but the death-dealing gunners were there to keep them away. We came to the first roost while a skyline of weak vermilion was yet visible. I could see the gunners. You can be sure they were not market hunters, but sportsmen from the metropolis across the Big River. They saw me and invited me to join in the slaughter. Yes, five of them! Their guns flashed so rapidly I could not begin to count the time between shots. I saw flock after flock circle and dip, and then rise into the moonlight with many Sharpie Shaw with a nice bag of ducks. He was a great shot, waterfowl hunter and guide, and a Reelfoot Lake legend.
On arrival at my debarking place the assembled natives commented on my lack of success - an unbelievable occurrence on Big Lake when a flight was on â€“ and Bill looked quite long at my sole mallard. But Bill made no remark. As I shook his hand, it had a warmer feeling and tenser clasp than when I first met him; and when the parting salutation was muttered, I was positive I beheld a new glint dart from his eye. Was Bill seeing my view of the subject?
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Grand Prairie of Arkansas (Above) Stuttgart duck hunt, November 1920. Shown from the right are Matt Gingler, Red Wilhelm, Tex Erwin, and Christy Rittman.
Arkansas Post, the earliest permanent European settlement (1686) on the lower Mississippi River, had moved up the Arkansas River to a higher group and lay about three miles from the prairie’s southern edge in 1819, when it became the first capital of Arkansas Territory. That year, the naturalist Thomas Nuttall visited the Post and noted, “Amongst other kinds of grain, rice has been tried on a small scale, and found to answer every expectation.” Nuttall described the prairie as, “an invaluable body of land,” but some 85 years would pass before rice would begin to reveal the accuracy of his assessment. -40-
While early settlers thought the prairie worthless for farming since its soils weren’t suited for cotton, the late 1800’s brought an influx of newcomers from Midwestern states who agricultural backgrounds were broader. They were drawn by the prospect of cheap land. One such Midwesterner was W. H. Fuller, an Ohio native who came to Arkansas by way of Nebraska in 1895. He purchased a farm just south of Carlisle. The next year, on a duck hunting trip to Louisiana, Fuller saw for the first time rice being grown. He discussed the process with the farmers and later wrote, “It convinced me we had a good rice country if we just had the water.”
After his first rice crop failed in 1898, Fuller returned to Jennings, Louisiana for four years, learning the basics of rice farming, including irrigation. In 1904, he grew what is generally considered to have been Arkansas’ first successful commercial rice crop near Hazen, producing 5,225 bushels on seventy acres. It was Fuller’s success that brought about the onset of “rice fever,” with thousands upon thousands of Grand Prairie acres changing hands and being planted in rice. Within 40 years, the native prairie had all but vanished. Stuttgart’s skyline of agricultural drying and storage facilities was rising, and Arkansas was on its way to leading the U.S. in rice production. As rice farming spread over the Grand Prairie year after year, the ducks followed, so much so that the club members of the Wapanocca
Outing Club in Crittenden County, Arkansas, just off the Mississippi River, complained that the flyway was changing in the 1920’s. They were not seeing nearly as many ducks as they used to, attributing this to the ducks heading for the rice and rice reservoirs. And they were right. Stuttgart was becoming the “Duck Hunting Capital of the World.” The Grand Prairie is about seventy miles long and averages about twenty miles wide. It is bordered by the bottomlands of four streams: Wattensaw Bayou on the north, the White River on the east, the Arkansas River to the south, and Bayou Meto on the west. It covers much of two counties-- Arkansas and Prairie -- and small portions of western Monroe and eastern Lonoke Counties. -41-
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Bryant, Frank Frank Bryant manufactured a Turpin style duck call, made of teak wood, and he reportedly used Turpin and Melancon duck calls as his models. His calls represent the styling of Turpin and Melancon, but his quality was not equal to that of Turpin. Many of these calls were manufactured, sold, and used in the South. He used a traditional stamped mallard on the barrel of his calls like Melancon and Turpin except his mallard is quite different from the one Turpin designed many years ago. Turpin used three ducks stamped on the side of the barrel. Melancon used only one. All three styles exhibit the Reelfoot metal reed with a wedge block.
Airhart, Allen J.
“Cajun Duck Call Company”
The Cajun Duck Call Company was started by Allen J. Airhart. Mr. Airhart lived in Lake Charles at the same house where he started his duck call business. The calls are made in the classic Cajun style. Airhart started making calls for himself as a teenager around 1917. He didn’t start making and selling calls commercially until 1944. Because of World War II, cane fishing poles that were imported from China became unavailable. Seeking an opportunity to capitalize off of that, Airhart began to harvest Louisiana cane. The scraps from his fishing pole production were used as duck call barrels and inserts. In the first year, Airhart produced 600 duck calls. He packed them up in the trunk of his car and traveled all over Louisiana visiting sporting
goods stores to sell his calls. They sold every call he made that spring, and the Cajun Call Company took off. The first Cajun calls were stamped Cajun with a K like “Kajun.” He later trademarked the name “Cajun” with a “C.” The first Cajun calls came in plain white boxes with the company address of 608 Cottage Lane. If all the markings on the call are gone and you need to differentiate a Cajun call from a Faulks’ call, this can be done by looking closely at how the tone channel is cut. There is a small mark or indentation in the tone channel of a Cajun call. This mark was made by the machine that cut the tone channel. The Faulks’ calls have a smooth tone channel. Cajun also made goose calls which can be identified by the black lacquer paint on the end of the stopper, the barrel, or both. Cajun also made some calls that were peanut-shaped, which he sold to Scotch Call Company for use in their Rubber Bellows Feeder Calls. Cajun calls were made in large numbers and are fairly common, unless you find one which is stamped “Allen J. Airhart.” These early calls are prized by even the most discriminating collector.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
A Polaroid of Dan Crooks in his workshop.
This is an example of Dan Crook’s work. He was taught by his father, Hardy. The unique thing about these calls is that he carved a flying mallard on the side of the barrels. Not all of them have this flying mallard. During
my interview with Dan, I asked him where he got the design for this mallard. He stood up, walked into his kitchen, and in the corner, brought his Remington Model 11. On the side of the Model 11, is plainly stamped a semblance of a duck. I, too, have my father’s Remington that displays this same duck. Dan Crooks manufactured many calls and was very prolific with his products throughout southern Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. I met Dan Crooks’ granddaughter in an antique store in Memphis many years ago. She heard me ask the proprietor of the antique store if he had any duck calls. She immediately told me that her grandfather and her great grandfather made duck calls. And to my surprise her name was Crooks. She had several of her family’s calls, we had a nice conversation, and I picked up some of the history about the Crooks family. They are a very important part of southern Louisiana duck call history. They did not follow the traditional Louisiana style of duck call. In my opinion, they were influenced by J. T. Beckhart.
Crook, Hardy folk art designer that Beckhart was, however, he did fill a gap in the Louisiana call makers for expertise, design, and sound. Many of the Crooks calls made by both Hardy and Dan, have been found on Catahoula Lake and some of the other great duck hunting haunts of the south Louisiana marshes. The calls were made normally of walnut but some have been found to be rosewood. The unique thing about the Crooks calls is that they were also stamped either on the barrels top or sides. Dan Crooks, the son, made many calls. Hardy Crooks, the father, made only a few. Thus, the value of Hardy’s calls surpasses Dan’s work.
Hardy Crooks was acquainted with J. T. Beckhart who visited with Hardy while he was on the lamb from the authorities for supposedly shooting a man, during a dispute at Big Lake. When Beckhart came to southern Louisiana, he brought with him the talents of call making which he shared with Hardy Crooks. This is the story that was relayed to me by Dan Crooks, Hardy’s son. This might explain why collectors have discovered many Beckhart calls in southern Louisiana. This could explain the similarities between the checkering on the Hardy Crooks call and the Beckhart calls. Hardy Crooks never became the
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Faulk, Dudley The father and son team of Clarence and Dudley Faulk comprised the most prolific call makers in the State of Louisiana. It is estimated that Clarence started making his production calls as early as 1930. In 1951, his son, Dudley, began working side by side with his father and the Faulk Game Call Company was born. The Faulks’ duck calls have won many calling contests, and they hold seven titles for the world’s goose calling championship. As Faulks’ fame spread through the country they developed calls for all type of game calling, from ducks to predator calls, they made them all. They were one of the country’s largest call companies and their products were sold in all the major sporting outlets. There’s no telling how many call makers in the sportsman’s paradise were influenced by this father and son team. Their contribution to the art of call making will live forever in history. Dudley Faulk blowing a duck call.
These early Faulk models are very hard to find and should be considered rare by any standard.
This was one of the earliest Faulk styles. This is not a production call and was probably made in the early stages of the Faulk call development. These early Faulk calls were not stamped, however they can be identified by the internal construction. The internal parts feature a hard rubber reed, and the wooden wedge block overall construction is of cane.
This call is another of the earliest styles the Faulk company made. It was the beginning of the production model calls utilizing a piece of cane to enclose the reed assembly. The reed was held in place with a cedar wedge. The call uses a hard rubber reed which was supposedly made out of an old Ace pocket comb. This hard rubber material was utilized from the early stages of call construction in the Louisiana style of call making. During World War II,
hard rubber became very difficult to purchase, and some Louisiana call makers went back to utilizing metal reeds. After the war you can find these makers experimenting with early forms of plastic for the reed material. This call is an early example of Clarence and Dudley Faulk’s work. This call was stamped with the name of Clarence Faulk. It is not known what year Faulk began stamping the calls.
(Below) This is the same “International” duck call as the one to the left, this one still has its sticker.
(Above) One of Faulk’s high production “International” style duck calls. There just isn’t a sticker on it. A hunter probably got bored in the blind and picked it off!
Legacy of the American Duck Call
(Above) Several different styles of Faulkâ€™s high production duck calls.
The Eli Haydel family is famous for their production of a very fine contemporary duck calls. The company has sold thousands upon thousands of products. They still make the high quality calls that originally made them famous. They are one of the top producers in the nation, and they will remain very active in the calling business. All parts are made of moisture proof plastics, and they last a lifetime. They make an entire line of game calls that cover a spectrum from ducks to predators. -216-
Kelso, George Sr.
A group of hunters at Walnut Log, circa 1908. Notice one of the boats has a sail.
George Robert Kelso was a call maker from Alexandria, Louisiana. Kelso lived a long and fruitful life; he was born in 1894 and died in 1987. Kelso began his call making career in 1909 when a call he purchased failed to work after only two outings. He made duck, goose, and crow calls along with decoys as a hobby until the mid 1970’s. He made carved and checkered calls as well as smooth barreled calls. His duck and crow call combos are very popular with collectors. Many of Kelso’s calls feature cow horn bands at one or both ends of the call. These look to be decorative in nature, but were actually placed on the ends of the barrel and sometimes the stopper in order to help keep the wood from cracking. Kelso’s carved calls are some of the most stylish to come out of Louisiana, and are a welcome addition to even the most advanced collection.
Kirkpatrick, Sonny Legacy of the American Duck Call
Sonny Kirkpatrick is a call maker from Louisiana who makes a very good call. He competed in the world championship like I did so many years ago. Sonny made a very fine Arkansas style call in medium production.
Lamb, Billy Billy Lamb is a contemporary call maker. Lamb was highly influenced by James Yule. He enjoys using rosewoods, walnut, and hedge for his calls. They are all metal reed calls, and his stoppers are built on the Reelfoot style. He makes calls in very low production, and they are hard to find. I have to thank Mr. Lamb for introducing me to James Yule.
Parnell, Fred Fred Parnell was a call maker from Baton Rouge, LA who made Cajun style duck calls. This particular call shown was from the Bog Pettibone collection. He was a duck call maker from Missouri. Fred Parnell operated a sporting goods store and was an avid duck hunter. His production was quite extensive. He utilized a Cajun style of cane and cedar tone boards with a plastic reed construction. He is one of the most famous Louisiana call makers. -218-
Ray, Jack Louisiana
Jack Ray lived in Lake Charles. While he was living in Louisiana he began his career making duck and goose calls. The earlier Ray calls were identified by his name rubber stamped in black on the barrel. The later duck calls came in two sizes and were marked by a stamp burned into the wood lengthwise on the barrel. The stamp read “JACK RAY’S ‘DUCKALL’ LAKE CHARLES, LA.” Mr. Ray moved his call making business to Hope, Arkansas and changed the stamp on his calls to read HOPE, AR instead of Lake Charles. Unfortunately a fire destroyed his business and he stopped making calls. Jack then ran a restaurant in Austin, Texas. The Jack Ray calls were made in the 1950’s, and are the typical two piece style. These calls are rated relatively common. (Taken straight out of Brian McGrath’s book page 80)
(Above) Jack Ray’s “DUCKALL” duck call with a poorly burned stamp. This must have been one of the first he had tried to stamp. (Left top) Jack Ray’s “Championship Goose Call.” (Left bottom) Jack Ray’s plain barrel goose call. (Below) A newer version of Jack Ray’s “DUCKALL.” duck call. He did much better etching and burning in his stamp this time!
Reppond, Samuel Legacy of the American Duck Call
Samuel Reppond was a call maker located just south of Memphis across the Mississippi River. The call at the bottom of the page came out of a group of calls that was purchased 15 years ago in Monroe, Louisiana. It illustrates the traditional style of Samuel Reppond’s early work. Oftentimes it is very difficult to distinguish a Reppond call from a Turpin call. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to determine the exact creator of calls. I attribute these calls to Samuel Reppond. They have the wide tone board reflecting the early Glodo style.
I attribute this call to Samual Reppond. At one point, we thought these calls could be Glodo, or Maupin calls, but I don’t believe that to be the case.
More time is spent debating about Samuel Reppond’s work than appreciating it. Mr. Reppond’s work is very commonly mistaken for Turpins, Maupins, and Glodo’s calls. You can see why, Mr. Reppond was dead on with these three classically beautiful duck calls!
Roberts, Forrest Forrest Roberts was a call maker from Louisiana who made calls from either cane or broom sticks. His one-of-a-kind Cajun style calls have a traditional interior and they were made in low production.
Schexnider, Noah Noah Schexnider made duck calls in Lake Charles from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. His calls were typical of the two piece style. Mr. Schexnider’s calls were marked with a black rubber stamp that reads, “SCHEXNIDER DUCK CALL ‘MADE OUT OF CANE’ LAKE CHARLES, LA,” and most calls were indeed made out of cane. Occasionally he would use parts made by the Faulks. Some of Schexnider’s early calls had bands on the top of the barrel and the bottom of the stem where the stopper was inserted into the barrel. These calls are rated relatively common, but they can command high prices if you have the rarest models.
Yule, James Legacy of the American Duck Call
James Yule was born in 1922 on the banks of the Catahoula Lake in Louisiana. Yuleâ€™s calls are not hard to identify even though there were so many styles and mediums. He has made calls from ivory, whale teeth, horn, and wood in his endless variations. Most of his calls are true Reelfoot style with a wedge block. A few are plain, however, most have carvings or checkering. James Yule returned to his old homestead in 1986 on the banks of the Catahoula. James Yule with the call that won Best of Show. What an amazing work of art!
(Left) This is three sides of the same call. Yule was very well known for thinking outside the box while carving his calls. Yule sometimes has some great leaves carved onto the mouth of his calls. Sometimes, and in this case he did, use etched, brass bands as a decorative feature. This call has three main carvings on it. The first side has a dog with a duck in his mouth. One side has a springing mallard. Native American on the last side, only has one feather so he is not the chef.
(Above) This is a perfect example of how Yule lets the wood “talk” to him. He told me once that he doesn’t know what he is going to carve into a call until he reads the knots. Letting nature dictate his art has worked in Yule’s favor. On this call, as you can see, Yule took a knot, in the wood, and made a Native American’s face, gazing up at the incoming ducks. (Right) Yule took a knot, in the wood, and made a Native American’s face. On the back of the call he carved a duck. He also incorporated his “Rocking Y” and the date into the back panel.
(Left) This is a classic Yule piece. The stopper has an amazing leaf pattern. This call has a leaf etched brass band. Yule carved an amazing Native American on the front. Something that I’ve always liked about Yule’s Native Americans, they always have a smile. I think that says something about how, no matter what, you can’t keep his people down. On the breast plate of the Native American, you can see Yule’s trade mark symbol, the “Rocking Y”. On the back side you’ll find a goose that looks like he just took some lead to the belly. I really love the color in this call.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
James Yule (left), 71, and Dan Crooks (right), 84. Both make Reelfoot style calls.
(Above) This is unlike any James Yule call I’ve ever seen, but I’m not complaining! Mr. Yule did a fantastic job carving a pin-up style Native American girl on the side of this call.
This is a wonderful call that James Yule made back in 1995. There is an amazing Indian Chief that takes up an entire side. Yule almost never carved Native Americans in full head dress, so this call is very rare. On the back he has his classic dog with a duck in his mouth. Just like most of Mr. Yule’s calls he incorporated his “Rocking Y”.
Here are two more examples of the amazing work of our friend James Yule.
This call was made by James Yule’s son, Len. Len Yule is a great call maker as well as a speciality saddle maker. The main “tell” for his calls is the use of rawhide to accent his artistic work. the carved ivory ducks on this call are a welcome addition and add a lot of flair to his work.
Abercrombie, Floyd: 254 Airhart, Allen J.: 210 Allen, F. A.: 128 Amaden, Howard: 44 Anderson, John: 255 Andrews, Frank: 256 Ansley, Don: 257 Asbille, John: 258
Darnell, Catlett: 278 Daughtery, Frank: 229 Dennis, Don: 77 Dennison, Earl: 280 Dennison ,Tom: 287 Ditto, Charles: 146 Dowdle, Bill: 288 Drennen, Wally: 150 Drury: 151
B Bailey, Fred: 134 Baldridge, Everette: 48 Barnes, Herbert: 50 Barnett, Bill: 259 Barto, George: 135 Batley, Jack: 136 Beckhart, James T.: 55 Benford, Bryan: 261 Benjon: 262 Biocci, Lou: 138 Bishop, Charlie: 137 Blackburn, Clem: 265 Black, Ty: 265 Blakemore, Jim: 140 Blount, Randy: 141 Bowles, Andy: 51 Boyd, “Buck” W.E.: 67 Brogdon, B.F.: 67 Bryant, Frank: 210 Buckingham, Nash: 266 Burke, Bill: 270 Byrnes, Richard: 141
C Caldwell, Pete: 68 Caldwell, Sam: 69 Calhoun, Ira: 273 Carman, Noel: 272 Carraway, Bill: 70 Cheesman, Vern: 144 Clifford, Bill: 142 Cochran, Ezra: 74 Cochran, John: 274 Cochran, Sundown: 276 Coen, Gilbert: 228 Crook, Dan: 212 Crook, Hardy: 213��� Cross,Jack: 144 Cude,Melvin Lloyd: 76 Cude,Perry: 75
E Eilder: 78 Eleey, Allen: 232 Ellis, Bobby: 289 Etherton, Robert W.: 151 Evans, Buster: 79 Ewinger: 151
F Fafer, E.A.: 79 Fanning, Rip: 290 Faulk, Dudley: 214 Ferguson, Spud: 292 Freeman, Kent: 233 French, Richard: 292 Frickie,Tom: 78 Fryman, Virgil: 81 Fullbright, Austin: 80 Fuller, David S.: 152
G Galella, John: 293 Gardner, Farris: 295 Gartner, Jake: 82 Geist, Paul: 154 Glodo, Albert & John Nicholas: 156 Glodo, Victor: 296 Goodbrake, Joseph: 158 Grubbs, Charles W.: 159
Hodge, Virgile: 166 Howard, Frank: 166
J Jackson, Earl: 84 Jaroski, Joe: 167 Jones, Royce: 89
K Kelso, George Sr.: 217 Kenward, Henry: 85 Kinningham, Abe & Willard: 86 Kirkpatrick, Sonny: 218 Kluesner, Mark: 87 Kuhlemeier, August: 168
L Lamb, Billy: 218 Lay, Vincent: 88 Leader,Morgan: 239 Leaker, Cecil: 89 Lohman: 234
M Major, Chick: 90 Marchand, Charles: 101 Martin, Ken: 170 Masterson, Tip: 101 McCann, Thurman: 102 McClean, Joseph: 171 McFarland, Barry: 236 McWortz, W. C.: 238 Meucci, Red: 172 Michael, Morris: 171 Milsap, Irvin: 104
O O’Dean, Lenus: 173 Olt, Philip Stanford: 175
Hancock, Clyde: 83 Hankins, Joe: 301 Harbin, Clyde: 302 Harlan, Howard L.: 304 Hatch, Billy: 303 Haydel, Eli: 216 Headdon, Aubry: 303 Hickerson, Larry: 310
Parnell, Fred: 218 Pekeson, Norville: 104 Perdew, Charles: 180 Perdew, Hadden: 189 Pettibon, Glendon: 240 Pickle, Leonard: 105 Pickle, O.K.: 106 Providence, Art: 242
Legacy of the American Duck Call
R Rasmussen, Ole: 195 Ray, Jack: 219 Reed, Jerry: 190 Reppond, Samuel: 220 Rexroat, George & Rollo: 191 Reynolds, James W.: 192 Richenback, Butch: 110 Rinke, Ben: 111 Roberts, Forrest: 221 Robinette, Charles: 111 Roseberry Family: 193 Rule, Newt: 194
S Schexnider, Noah: 221 Sinsley, George: 197 Slinn Brothers: 198 Smith, Jack: 112 Snyder, Ken: 197
Stegmaier, Emil C.: 199 Stewart, Dick: 112 ST. Mary, Ed: 113 Stofer, E. S: 243 Stone, Claude: 245 Stone, Frank: 247 Stone, Joe: 248
T Taylor, Alvin: 116 Taylor, Duncan A.: 200 Taylor, Vernon: 199 Tedford, Bill: 114 Truetone, Larson: 202 Tyler, Bud: 204
Vick, Silas: 118 V L&A: 205
W Weedman, Mark: 119 Weiss, Johnny Bill: 206 Wiles, Warner: 120 Willingham, Joe: 122 Wirtz, Joseph: 207 Withers, F. B.: 121
Y York,, Fred: 207 Yule, James: 222
Zirkle, Robert: 125
Bibliography Alligood, Leon. “Hunter Turns Duck Passion into Fowl Art.” Nashville Banner, December, 1993. ---. “Nashvillian Makes, Sells Duck Calls for Up to $200.” Nashville Banner. Batty, J. H. How to Hunt and Trap. New York: Albert Cogswell, 24 Bond Street, 1878. Bell, Christopher. “Champion Duck Caller.” Huntsville, TN: The Huntsville Times, November 25, 1985. Buckingham, Nash. Mark Right! Tales of Shooting and Fishing. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Van Press, 1936. Branham, Lowell. “Perfect Call is Quest of Howard Haran.” The Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 5, 1986. Brannon, John. “Thousands Flock to Lake for Waterfowl Festival.” Union City Daily Messenger: All the News While it’s News. 66th Year, No. 159. Union City, TN: Union City Daily Messenger, Inc., August, 1991. Bruette, Dr. William. American Duck, Goose, & Brant Shooting. New York: G. Howard Watt, 1929. “Duck Hunters.” Field & Christensen, Robert D. Duck Calls of Illinois: 1863-1963. DeKalb, Stream. Ad. October 1945. Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press. 1994.
“Earl Dennison: The Duck Call Man” Ad. Newborn, TN.
Greener, W. W. The Gun and It’s Development. London, Paris, New York & Melborne: Cassell & Company, Limited, 1885. Grinnell, George Bird. American Duck Shooting. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1901. Hazelton, W. C. et al. Ducking Days. Chicago: Eastman Brothers Press, Pontiac Building, 1919.
Fleming, James C. Jr. Custom Calls: Duck and Goose Calls from Today’s Craftsmen. Nashville, TN: MRP Publishing, 1995. ---. Custom Calls: Duck and Goose Calls from Today’s Craftsmen. Volume 2. Nashville, TN: MRP Publishing, 2007.
Harland, Howard. “Call Collecting,” The Chattanooga Free Press: Sports, February 26, 1995. Harland, Howard and W. Crew Anderson. Duck Calls: An Enduring American Folk Art. Nashville, TN: Harland Anderson Press, 1988. “He Eats, Sleeps, Lives Ducks.” Union City, TN: The Daily Messenger, January 13, 1994. Hunting & Fishing Collectibles Magazine. “History and Artifacts from America’s Sporting Past” Volumes 1-9. 2001-09. Hutchison, Turner. “Whittling Wood is Their Calling.” Nashville Banner, August 22, 1985. Fontenot, J. Darren. Louisiana Duck Calls: Over One Hundred Years of History. Ventress, Louisiana. French Hen Press. 2004. Field & Stream: America’s Magazine for the Outdoorsman. Volume 36, No. 5. New York: Field & Stream Publishing Company, 1931.
---. “Howard Harland the Heavy Duty of Duck Call Makers.” Nashville Banner. December 27, 1984. “Joe Harris Duck Call.” Harding’s Magazine. Ad. 1949.Knopf, Alfred A.. Scattergunning. New York:Ray P. Holland, 1951.
---. Tales of Duck and Goose Shooting. Chicago: Eastman Brothers Press, Pontiac Building, 1916.“Hand Carved Duck Calls”. Field & Stream. Ad. October 1946.
Kortright, Francis H. The Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America. Washington D.C.: The American Wildlife Institute, 1943.
Legacy of the American Duck Call
Lawrence, H. Lea. “To Dupe a Snipe.” Game & Gun, January, 1994. Leffingwell, William Bruce The Art of Wing Shooting. Chicago & New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1895. Lewis, Elisha J., M.D. Lewis’ American Sportsman. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1855.
Lodermeier, Doug. Minnesota Duck Calls: yesterday’s and today’s folk artist. Minneapolis, MN: L&M Press., 2003. Long, J. W.. American Wild Fowl Shooting. New York: J. B. Ford & Company, 1874. “New Organization Formed for Callmakers, Collectors.” Stuttgart Daily Leader: Grand Prairie Shoppers Guide. November 17, 1987. Outdoor Life. Volume 96 No. 6. New York: Popular Science Publishing Co., Inc., 1945. Sanford, Patricia. “Duck Calls: More Than They’re Quacked Up to Be.” Tennessee Wildlife. Nashville, TN: Tennessee Wildlife resources Agency, November 1989. Saunders, Lynn Delaney. “Calling Prizes.” September 23, 1984.
Searcy, Charles. “The Next Big Thing in Decoys.” The Tennessean. November 3, 1991. Sears, Roebuck & Co., Catalogue No. 116. Chicago, Ill. 1906. Smith, Lawrence B. Fur or Feather: Days with Dog and Gun. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons,1946.