Author: Dennis Poeschel

I have been asked a number of times about making fancy calls. Most questions seem to come from callmakers that are looking for something more challenging to do or to make calls that are in a higher demand by call collectors. The big question seems to be how do I make that transition? As I have said before I am not the expert on any of this nor is my opinion worth more then the paper it’s written on. I will however, tell you what I think and why.

No matter what type of call you make you really need to understand the call and the principles that make it work. Almost every fancy callmaker out there today got started by making a serviceable field call. Most custom callmakers use these calls as their bread and butter selling 90% or more of what they make as working calls. I think it is very important to establish yourself as a quality crafts person as a way to develop your name and get it out there. Winning calling contests by having topnotch callers use your calls will do you a great service down the road. It is one thing to make a call the sounds OK and another thing to make a call that looks fantastic and sounds like the real birds. Strive to be the very best.

Let's take for example a duck call. You have been making them for a couple years and you like what you do. Now you want to challenge yourself and step it up a little. Some of the first things you might think about are:

  1. Using very fancy grade and rare woods to make your calls.
  2. Add decorative tooled brass bands to the call.
  3. Learn to checker. With a little practice this is easy to do.
  4. Do a few simply carved calls as you improve add more detail and depth.
  5. Laminated calls made from varied types of woods are classic and highly prized by collectors.

The key is to find things that can set your work apart from the rest.

We need to also discuss the number of calls you make. The more you make the less collectable they will become. Packaged calls might hold their value over time but won't increase significantly. A packaged call is defined as a mass-produced item. This applies if the shapes are still done by hand but they all look the same. Custom calls are those that are made primarily by hand with the intention to detail not available any other way. In most cases these calls are labors of love to get the sound just right regardless of the time it takes to make them. With the rare exception calls produced in the thousands will not become highly valuable. Neil Cost (turkey callmaker) is the exception. There are thousands of calls on the market. Although he made a few style calls in very limited quantities the value of his work can be as much as 100 times what the call was originally sold for. In this case the man himself was so unique that his work became highly collectable. Those calls made in very limited quantities however are very valuable and tend to prove out the theory of low numbers of production become more collectable.

Limited editions of similar design or decoration are options that several callmakers have also tried. They might make a limited run of a special wood combination or with a specific artistic design. The idea works and as long as the editions are limited it is an option. There is no real guideline here that works. I feel although unique that having a number of calls out there that are the same will reduce their value somewhat.

When it comes to fancy call ideas I try and make every call I do very unique and different I design special shapes or design features. Creating one of a kind carvings or artwork is important to me. Fully carved calls are my personal favorites. I will never duplicate a design and toss the drawing when that project is finished. That forces me to create new ideas. It is this type of approach that is going to lead to a very high collector's value. You need to let your mind wander and the creative juices flow. Calls may take months or even longer to do. I recently made a call that was started in May with every intention to complete it quickly as a competitive entry for 2003. With every sketch I made I became less impressed and finally set the call aside. In September I thought of the artwork and had an idea I knew would do it. It still took me a month to get the drawing right and with luck it will be finished just prior to next years Nationals (February 2003). Granted it wasn't 100% of the time but unfinished projects always seen to be on my mind and on the work table.

So how do you get into the fancy call World? Jump in with both feet. Go to the larger shows and see what others are doing. Try your hand at a few things you know you can do and expand over time. Learn about the techniques that interest you. Never listen to people that say you can't do that. Talk with other callmakers as much as possible. Many will gladly answer your question or even offer a few suggestions. I think it most important that as you learn new ideas that you be willing to share them with others. It will go along way to the future of calls and call collecting. Good luck and I hope to see you at a show in the near future. Stop me, introduce yourself and say hello.

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