Dakota Outdoors – August, 2003

Duck Calls: Yesterday & Today

by Jerry Thoms

"Thanks a lot, Lodermeier. Your book on duck calls has pretty much ruined the game call collecting business in Minnesota," one of Doug Lodermeier’s fellow call collectors said when the Minnesota Duck Calls first appeared early in 2003.
"Because of your book, everybody will find out about all the calls that are available by Minnesota call makers, the call supply will dry up and call prices will skyrocket," the collector continued to complain.

"Well, I know some call collectors might be a little upset about the book," Lodermeier says. "But I think more Minnesota made calls will now start to show up because more people in general will recognize them. And, if the value of these calls does increase, so much the better because that means the work of the call making craftsmen in this state is finally being recognized for its high quality and historical significance," Lodermeier believes

In Minnesota Duck Calls, Lodermeier, a life-long waterfowler and collector of all things having to do with hunting ducks and geese, records the past and present status of waterfowl call-making craftsmen in the state. The results of his three year long full-time research are amazing stories of Minnesota craftsmen who handmade thousands of call some of which have achieved world-wide distribution and international fame.

Other call craftsmen from the past and present may not have had great commercial success or immediate recognition for the significance of their products, but, none the less, they have made interesting and important contributions to the development and tradition of call making in the state.

Among the more easily recognized and readily available waterfowl calls reported on in Minnesota Duck Calls are those by Oscar Quam. "Calls by Quam were probably the most widely to be owned by the average waterfowl hunter because Quam made lots of these products and sold them for a reasonable price," Lodermeier point out. "He never charged more than "2.50 to $3.50 for his calls and asked only $15 for the fancy inlaid ones. And he made thousands of calls." "The commercial success of Quam calls was greatly increased in the early 40’s. Montgomery Ward ordered 10,000 of his $3.50 calls. That, along with teaching duck calling techniques on a variety of radio shows for many years, helped to establish Quams' international reputations," Lodermeier adds. Called the "professor of duckology," Quam also wrote about duck calling and hunting for a variety of outdoor magazines.

"A Quam call is fairly easy for the novice call collector to find, not just in Minnesota but nearly anywhere in the country," Lodermeier points out. "Though his calls are fairly common their value has appreciated especially the early ones and some of the few fancier type. Expect to pay $15.00 to $25.00 to a dealer for an ordinary Quam call in good condition and a lot more for a rare old one in nice shape.

Waterfowl calls by the world famous Herter’s Company are another product sill plentiful and easy to find; often showing up at auctions, garage sales and flea markets. Herter’s duck and goose calls were manufactured from 1940 to 1972 and hundreds of thousands of them were annually sold through the Herter’s Catalogue throughout the USA and in many foreign countries.

"Collecting Herter’s ducks calls is a good way to start in the call collecting hobby because they are found in so many places and usually at affordable prices," Lodermeier says. "The Herter’s calls are ‘sleepers’ among the Minnesota products because, until recently, not much attention was paid to them. The earlier models, of course, are the most valuable. But, some are the most valuable. But, some later models are also becoming popular," Lodermeier adds.

In Minnesota Duck Calls, the list of waterfowl call makers includes such names from the past as: Leo Bouten, the man who invented a duck call "built into" a duck decoy; Oscar Bovey, a Hutchinson, Minnesota barber turned duck call maker; George Deck, a professional wrestler and duck call manufacturer (sounds like a familiar career mix?); Harry Edwards, maker of the Ear-Tuned Duck Call; and Jacob Grass, an Owatonna gunsmith and call maker. All are master craftsmen whose lives and stories about their call-making make for good reading.

The call makers from the present, likewise, represent a cross section of Minnesota craftsmen whose names are growing in recognition for their skills in making functional and practical modern calls that are already important collector’s items.

Marvin Bernet, Jim Bitzan, Lee De Smet, Mike Dukart, Paul Englund, Les Freiborg, Marten Hanson, Marv Meyer and Kelly Wick are makers well worth knowing and remembering and their calls are certainly worth owning, using and keeping for their future historical significance.
To order Minnesota Duck Calls: Yesterday and Today’s Folk Artists, call 612-922-9674 or fax 612-922-9672.

The cost is $75.00 for a limited, numbered and signed first and only edition hardback with a secondary market value already nearing $150 or more. Books on duck and goose typically become as collectible as the calls about which they are written.