Georgia’s Custom Turkey Call Makers
The Peach State is rich with those who build custom-made turkey calls.
I entered the exhibitor room at the annual Unicoi Call Makers Show at Unicoi State Park and felt a sigh of relief. The long wait for the turkey preseason was over, as a mix of every kind of turkey call imaginable bounced off my eagerly awaiting ears. It was turkey calls at their finest.
Upon making my way inside, I immediately ran into familiar call makers, friends and fellow turkey hunters. It felt good to be amongst my turkey kinship. The show is always jam packed with custom turkey call makers from all over the country.
What sets the gifted, custom crafters apart from the mass producers abroad is best summed up in a single word: Passion. While the country is heavily populated with custom call builders, it is exciting to live in a state that has so many within its own borders.
I recently spoke with John Browning, of Pistol Creek Outdoors, which is based in Dahlonega. Browning, along with co-founder Austin Long, started Pistol Creek just four years ago, but the two, along with a pro staff they refer to as, “The Creek Bank,” has pushed the company quickly up the ladder in both craftsmanship and quality. The legendary north Georgia custom bowmaker Tony Rider is the man who persuaded Browning to start selling calls after taking a few of his earlier calls with him while guiding customers in Florida.
“He took three or four calls that I had made with him, and before he got back, he sent a picture of several gobblers he had called up to the gun with my calls,” said Browning. “I was a little surprised when he told me he had sold all of my calls and had several other hunters wanting one as well.”
Browning, a humble man, wanted to make a call with an heirloom look, and he wanted to make a call that produced.
“I wanted to get away from the commercialism and make a call for those who enjoy the journey as much as the destination,” said Browning.
The destination for Pistol Creek is close at hand as they have developed several series of pot calls, including slate, glass, crystal and aluminum that range from $39 to $79. They also produce four different mouth calls.
“The most fun to me about the whole custom call making experience is it keeps you humble, and it keeps it real,” said Browning.
Trust me when I tell you, Pistol Creek calls are very real. Check them out at https://pistol-creek-calls.myshopify.com, or by calling (706) 867-7718.
I am extremely blessed to have two of the finest custom call makers I know living in my hometown of Eatonton. Not only are they both exceptional craftsmen, but they are just great men.
Olin Humphries is one of those men, and he has been building calls since 1982, operating under the name of Olin’s Custom Calls.
“I started turkey hunting in 1980 when I was introduced to it by Mr. J.T. Brock,” said Humphries. “I called up several birds that first year, and I ran them all off, too.
“My wife bought me a Craftsman radial arm saw for Christmas a couple of years later, and I just wanted to try and make myself a call to hunt with. Friends and word of mouth really got me going in the call making business.”
Friends and word of mouth may have gotten him up and running, but his reputation as a master of the craft has sustained him. Humphries is known abroad and on a national level and has the respect of his peers. That’s easy to understand when you take national honors at the grandest stage of them all, the NWTF Grand National Convention. Twice, Humphries has taken first place with his work. He took the Jeremiah Stevens Award in 2007, which is the award given for the best sounding scratch box and in 2011 for his version of the trough call. He is the first to ever take first place in that division with two different calls. That shows Humphries’ versatility, as does the display of work he presents at any show you can catch him at. He produces boxes, pots, troughs, scratch boxes and tubes, and they from $35 to $135. If you’d like to get in touch with him, call (706) 816-2469.
Hugh Vining, of Vining’s Custom Calls, is my other hometown custom call maker. A call maker since 1999, Vining had to learn to build his calls the hard way. Unbelievably, Vining has never turkey hunted a day in his life.
“I didn’t have the ear for call making when I started,” he said.
While his calls are made with top-notch craftsmanship, he didn’t find his niche in the call building fraternity until 2003.
“I asked The Lord to show me something different in a turkey call that nobody else had,” said Vining.
That is when he had a revelation about putting slate in the lid of a box.
“I took that box to a show and showed it to Melvin Newman (another quality custom call builder), and when he played it and then flipped it over, he said, ‘That’s it, you’ve got it now!’ Melvin Newman showed me a lot about call building early on,” said Vining.
“That’s one thing that sets custom call makers apart. They will share ideas and advice and help one another out. Watching people’s eyes light up when they play my calls and knowing they like it makes it all worthwhile for me.”
He has made a name for himself that has reached as far away as south Vietnam and thousands of places in between. Vining is a gentle soul who loves making calls. At 84 years old, Vining told me recently that endings are a part of life.
“This might be the time when I stop making turkey calls. I pray not.”
Vining still has a limited supply of his incredible boxes starting at $85. If you’d like to get in touch with him, call (706) 485-6428.
If you want to own a turkey call you can treasure, one you can kill birds with consistently, one you can pass down, custom is the way to go.
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