In a day when $150, mass produced, acrylic duck and goose calls are as much of a social symbal as they are a tool for harvesting waterfowl, it's refreshing to see one call maker representing our waterfowling roots. Made from exotic woods from all over the world, Mike Stelzner of C&S Custom Calls, builds every one of his duck and goose calls by hand. And they sound good! Real good! In fact, for the 3rd straight year Mike has been named the Grand National Champion Call Maker of the Year by the NWTF. Known as a turkey organization, the National Wild Turkey Federation has long sponsored the "hunting" and "decorative" divisions for duck and goose call makers.
"The NWTF's Grand National Callmaking Competition is the premier call making competition in North America," said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. "This is the best place for up-and-coming callmakers to contend with seasoned veterans as they strive to outdo their creations from years past and win bragging rights."
"I never go in to the contest expecting to win", Stelzner says. "But that doesn't mean I don't try. It's my goal to make the best sounding custom duck and goose call and back it up with top notch customer service."
Over 400 calls were built in the shop attached to Mike's garage in 2009 and the number continues to rise each year.
If you're at waterfowl shows this summer or in the field this fall and you see a C&S call hanging from a lanyard, you probably won't witness boy-band style groupies in tow, but instead a truly custom, national champion call, made locally in a garage near you.
For more information on C&S Custom Calls on the web, go to: www.cscustomcalls.com
To see how Mike placed at the NWTF, go to: NWTF
It snuck up without warning and took us (and our wallet) by surprise. A new era of waterfowling is here. We are filling our trailers with more decoys, bags, blinds, and gadgets because of it. It just seems like yesterday that heading out duck hunting meant grabbing a few bags of faded decoys that you hoped would float and you were on your way. Your choice of camo was either brown or army green and your waders always leaked (OK, so waders still always leak). It was so simple.
And this was only fifteen years ago.
Now, as I read through one of the new waterfowling magazines that just hit the stands, I'm amazed at where we are. It kind of reminds me of my baseball card collecting days in the 80's. There were only a few major card companies that were producing sets and it was easy to keep track of them all. But then it exploded. Soon there were more options than I could keep up with. My Beckett price guide went from a thin, easy to read guide to a novel in just a few years. The market became flooded, all of my card's value plummeted, and I soon lost interest.
Not that expansion in the waterfowling industry is bad. In fact, more options for the consumer is typically a good thing. But I must admit, if I was new to waterfowling and I opened up the magazine I just read, I would be overwhelmed. Heck, I was overwhelmed and I consider myself pretty up-to-date on new products coming on to the scene. For example, I counted TWELVE different companies that make full body Canada goose decoys. Some of these have multiple models doubling the selection. There are also the shells, silhouettes, flags, kites, spinners and floaters making the possible combinations of decoys similar to that of choosing a powerball number. The options are unending.
And then there are the gadgets.
Take a few minutes thumbing through the most recent Cabelas waterfowl catalog and you will find "needed" products like the sock that covers the head of your goose decoys during travel or a decoy propeller kit. You can even find a telescopic decoy retriever. The only decoy retrievers that my dad would ever bring along were his four sons...and our leaky waders.
Waterfowlers spend more money on gear now than ever before. Partially, in my opinion, because the sport has become more of a social club in recent years. For many, their gear defines them. They must keep up with the Joneses, or should I say the Foiles' or the Zink's. It's easy to get caught up in though. There is something about new decoys to a waterfowler that must resemble how my wife feels when she brings home a new wardrobe. I've found myself staring at the corner of my garage where the decoys live caught in some sort of a trance. Whenever new decoys show up at my house, one of my good friends comes over just to put them together. He almost gets as much enjoyment anticipating the first hunt over them as he does from the hunt itself.
Just as I was told when I was younger, although I'm not sure how it related then, Keep It Simple Stupid! New decoys, calls, blinds and gadgets will come and go. But if a successful hunt is what you are after, most of the time all you will need is a handful of decoys and a reliable call, a good cup of coffee and someone to share the experience with. This advice will leave more money in your pocket as well as more space in your garage.
Now if Stupid can just listen to his own advice...