In the US prior to 1935 market hunting was a big business. Hunters used punt guns, bait and live decoys in order to take as many ducks as possible for the commercial market. While mechanical duck calls were known as early as 1850 the demand for calls mushroomed after live decoys were outlawed.
Many years ago one of my best friends got involved [ obsessed ] with duck calls. He eventually wrote the book on calls of the Illinois fly way. Through proximity I to got involved and the next thing I knew I owned a lathe. Duck call making is how I learned to turn on the lathe. I have no idea how many calls I made but there were a lot of them in the hundreds I’m sure, at that time I did not photograph my work and all the calls were sold and I have no idea where they are. Every once in a while one comes up for sale on eBay. Luckily my friend who has several of my calls sent me pictures of his and here they are.
Two of my early calls and two of the first things I ever turned on a lathe.
With a little experience they’re not as crude looking.
Next I started to carve the calls after turning.
From here I think they slowly improve.
I have not made a call in at least 20 years, but every once in a while some one calls wanting one, but I don’t have any, it is however flattering that there is still a little demand.
Fascinating! I’ve never seen a bird call up close. I can see how the handmade ones could become collectable.
How do you make the actual call part of it – I presume you don’t just shout “QUACK!” down the tube?
Jack, inside the call there is a curved sound board and a reed. the sound is created by the reed vibrating on the board. Later today I will post pictures of the inside of some calls I have that others have made.
Would you be willing to make and sell one of these duck calls ?
I love to be able to get my husband one of these for his birthday. He collects all kinds of old calls and would love to add these to his collection.
Selena, I haven’t made a duck call since the early 1980s and don’t have one, they were all sold. Every once in a while one will show up on Ebay they bring around $400.