Matt Keller

Matt Keller films waterfowl hunting videos in Minnesota and distributes them across the nation. He guides custom waterfowl trips throughout the state for every species and runs Minnesotawaterfowler.com. He does all of this to support his nonprofit youth organization, Timber Bay Outdoor Adventures.

Zumbrota Call Maker Wins National Title

Posted by: Matt Keller under Recreation, Birding Updated: March 10, 2010 - 12:15 AM

  

 

 

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

Waterfowl Conservation: It can't be all about the habitat.

Posted by: Matt Keller Updated: August 26, 2009 - 11:03 AM
Let's skip the BS.  Even with a welcomed waterfowl survey that won't help waterfowlers get any extra sleep between now and opener, we're in trouble.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not even in the next ten years.  But what will waterfowling look like twenty years from today? 

Let's get a few things straight first.  I'm a duck and goose hunter as was my dad and my granddaddy and so many generations before me.  It's in my blood and God-willing my kids will be able to enjoy what has become such a major part of my life.  I've scoured this great state (MN) in search of hidden waterfowl oases and found them.  I'm more of a fan of creating the "good 'ol days" than sitting around talking about them and so I've come to the conclusion that excellent waterfowling is still a possibility for those willing to look for it. 

But I still have something sticking in my craw that won't go away.

Before us is a generation of young people that for the most part, have not experienced waterfowling (or the outdoors in general) like you and I have.  In fact, since 2001, waterfowl hunters have dropped 27%.  Some who hunt near large metro areas rejoice with this number.  "More room for me" is a typical response.  But what happens when that 27% turns into 35%?  And then 41%?  Thirty years from now when my kids are my age and the numbers of waterfowlers are much less than now, who then will be footing the bill for more habitat?  The same burden we have now will be there but with less people to carry it.  Our voice will be more of a whisper than a shout. 

Delta Waterfowl's popular "Vanishing Hunter" series touched on this in 2008.  It was eye opening for many readers but what have we done about it? 

Delta, DU, MWA and others have become more youth orientated with their funds.  Events like the Youth Waterfowl Day, Take-A-Kid Fishing and the Woodie Camp exist but at the same time, we are struggling to introduce and retain hunters.  There is nothing wrong with these events except they give us the impression that we're doing more than we really are.  Except for Woodie Camp, these are one-day events that take a years worth of planning for a very small amount of interaction with potential future sportsmen and women.  The event itself is not a bad thing.  The problem lies with the remaining 360 something days of the year.  Their are countless other opportunities pulling those same kids away from the outdoors that we cannot hope that a one day event is going to keep them interested until next year.

So what's the answer? 

I propose an overhaul of how we attempt to recruit and retain hunters.  It sounds like a lot of work but truly the hardest part will be killing a few traditions and the way things have always been done.  What I'm going to introduce in my next blog works.  Ten years ago I would have never guessed how rewarding and life changing it would be.  At this point in my life, it's what I live for. 

Stay tuned...


ps...A little side-note about Woodie Camp.  While at the Game Fair, I was able to talk to a few kids who experienced it.  It was evident that this program instilled an excitement in these young kids that would be hard to shake.  Let's hope it continues and that those who went to the camp can pass it on to others this fall.  I think this goes to show how an extended time with mentors in an outdoor setting can be effective. 

Wood ducks: A call out to Dennis Simon and the MN DNR

Posted by: Matt Keller Updated: August 10, 2009 - 11:35 AM
Aix sponsa. 

The wood duck has saved many a hunts for Minnesota waterfowlers.  It's distinct sounds and colors have filled the early part of our duck season for years and it's table fair is second to none. When one takes the time to truly look closely at a fully plumaged drake, you cannot help but stare in awe at the seemingly never ending amount of color. 

Fortunately, wood duck numbers have greatly increased since since the early 20th century, so much so that USFWS has allowed Mississippi Flyway hunters to harvest three of them in 2008 and now again in 2009.  In 2008, Minnesota opted to go the conservative route and keep the limit to two.  In 2009, the MN DNR had a waterfowl survey on their website in order to receive input from hunters.  The survey was well done and advertised as, "Click the survey icon to let DNR waterfowl staff know what you, Minnesota's waterfowlers, are thinking." 

There was one problem though. 

We never saw the results. 

Dennis Simon,
DNR Wildlife Section chief had this to say about keeping the limit at two and the results of the survey, "That seemed to be the opinion of most of the 1,400 or so hunters who had taken a duck regulation survey on the DNR web site in recent weeks.  Right now, it is fairly overwhelmingly supporting staying at two (per day), or even going down to one wood duck in the bag."

I cry foul...or fowl. 

Many of you know I own the website, www.minnesotawaterfowler.com.  We ran our own survey and have done so for the past two years and I will show you the results.  Our recent wood duck survey regarding the possible three duck limit had these results as of August 10th, 11:30am:
  • 69% of those polled are for a 3 wood duck limit
  • 26% of those polled want the limit to stay at 2
  • 4% of those polled said they can't hit wood ducks anyway so it doesn't matter
Feel free to check out our survey and the results yourself HERE.

So this fall, once again, as our flyway enjoys an expanded waterfowling opportunity, Minnesota hunters will just get to read about it and wonder what might have been.

But hey, thanks for the survey!

A Waterfowler's Journal

Posted by: Matt Keller Updated: July 17, 2009 - 9:55 PM
At one point Minnesota was a waterfowling mecca.  Abundant water and great habitat provided just what the ducks needed.  The Dakotas were dry and the migration seemed to shift eastward through the Gopher State.  As habitat in Minnesota has vanished and the Dakotas again have water, the talk on many forums, newspapers and magazines have turned to "Where are the ducks?".  They have a valid point indeed.  We do need to step up for waterfowl habitat.  Dennis Anderson has call for a "Duck Action Congress" to be a voice for sportsmen starting at The Game Fair and I support their cause 100%.  It would be nice for once to have a unified voice and not just a lot of little squeaks.

But it gets kind of depressing...

Reading what has been posted recently about duck numbers and habitat in this state could be compared to reading the Sunday morning obituaries.  But if anything, I'm here to share that it's not over yet.  Minnesota is in need for improvement for sure, but the opportunities for excellent waterfowling still exist. 

Our new video release due August 1st, 2009 captures hunts all over this great state and our goal is to bring some optimism to the headlines.  WE STILL HAVE EXCELLENT WATERFOWLING!  The diversity in waterfowling that Minnesota offers is really second to none.  We hope to capture that on film to encourage you to explore the options in our own back yard.  I truly believe that with a little effort you will experience excellent waterfowl hunts that will motivate you to do more for the ducks in this state.  Negativity breeds negativity but ducks in your face breeds a desire to do more for the sport you love. 

To read more about our new dvd filmed entirely in Minnesota, go to www.kohunts.com.

A new era of waterfowling

Posted by: Matt Keller Updated: July 9, 2009 - 2:00 PM

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.

The result?

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.

My advice?

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...

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