An Encounter With Butch Richenback
By Justin Kennedy
Anyone who has had any relationship with me in my life knows of my love and passion for hunting ducks. I have been obsessed with the outdoors since I was old enough to understand what they were, but duck hunting held a special place in my heart.
Names like Montana, Farve, Manning and Brady are recognized as legends in the world of football. Names like Olt, Major, Fuller, Robertson, Stephens, Ronquest, and Dunn are the heros in the world of duck hunting and duck call building. None were more important to me than Butch Richenback.
Many of you have heard of Rich-N-Tone duck calls, but most don’t know much about the man behind the glass. I learned about RNT because of my father. In the late 1980s, Dad had taken his yearly trip to Arkansas and had been told by some locals about this guy making duck calls out of a garage. Dad went with his buddy Stan and was in for a legendary encounter with Butch.
Butch showed them into the garage and blew a few calls for them. He picked up one and gave a dissatisfied look, cut on his bandsaw and sawed the call in half. He looked at my dad and said “only the best.” This is still the mantra that RNT operates under to this day.
Butch strived for perfection and wouldn’t let any call leave his hands unless he knew it was perfect. Dad and his buddy bought two hand-turned calls from butch for $40 and left the garage.
Year years later in 2005 we made our yearly trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas to hunt with legendary duck caller Charles Petty. We walked into RNT and had no idea the experience we would share. When we walked in, there were the only five people in the shop. Butch was working quietly behind the glass tuning calls. We awkwardly started a conversation with him. Dad told him the story about 30 years before and how great it was to see the success he had seen in duck calling.
Butch laughed and continued small talk about duck calls, where we were hunting and how many ducks we had been killing. I gave him my RNT Hunter Series and he took his dremel and signed the call for me. He asked my brother, who was 11 at the time, for his call, and he responded, “I don’t have a duck call yet, but I’m wanting one for my birthday in two weeks.”
Butch didn’t say really anything and started tuning a clear original. After a few minutes of awkward silence, Butch came out from the glass and handed my brother the signed original. He looked at my brother and said, “Happy birthday kid… you can tell this story to anyone who thinks I’m a grumpy old !#$hole.”
Those who knew Butch knew he could be a bit grumpy at times. I think this story is a look into the true person Butch was. He loved kids, loved baseball, loved life, loved duck hunting and shaped the entire duck hunting industry by building the greatest duck call the world has ever seen.
Editor’s Note: Butch passed away in 2015, but the company is still selling calls. For more on RNT calls, go to https://rntcalls.com.
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