Keeping the tradition alive, one hand-carved cypress and cane call at a time

They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well this time of year, all play (like duck hunting) can make Dale way behind in his work (making duck calls). So I have to stay home from some hunting trips and catch up with my calls. I appreciate all the interest in what I am trying to do to preserve the legacy of Louisiana hunting and I appreciate the folks who want my calls and other gear.

I hope you are having a great — and safe — duck season. And I hope you are able to share the love of hunting with someone else, hopefully a young person. I get no greater joy than taking a family member, especially the younger ones, on a duck hunt and sharing the old ways with them. Everything I do, I do to preserve the heritage that is Louisiana duck hunting.

Today I’m going to tell you about the heart of the duck call — the sound boards. Duck calls are like musical instruments and the sound board is what makes it work like it is supposed to and bring ducks to your decoys. Just like a well-tuned clarinet makes the band, a well-tuned sound board makes the duck call.

You’ll see some pictures here of how I craft my sound boards for Bayou Beast duck calls, just like they did 100 years ago and longer. Red Cedar is long the staple of handmade Louisiana duck calls, but I’ve been making some out of old reused cypress duck blind posts recently that are 70-80 years old. I cut the posts into strips and use a knife and rasp to hand form each and every one of them into a sound board. I don’t use any machinery of any kind.

I whittle it down to where I know it will fit, then combine the sound board with the cane barrel, with a wedge to hold the reed in place to make a duck call from start to scratch just like they used to. It’s all hand cut and sanded. And most importantly, it sounds just like a duck.

That last part doesn’t come easily. I hand tune each and every one until I know it sounds like a duck to another duck.

They all end up looking a little different, but that is the most special part. As one of my customers told me earlier this season, they are “made perfect by their imperfection.”

I like that. It pretty well says it all. The only thing that says it better is a group of ducks cupped up and headed into the decoys who like the sound of the call, too.

Thank you for all the great feedback on what we are doing. You can keep up with what I do on my personal Facebook page at Dale P Bordelon or on my call page, Bayou Beast Calls.


Editor’s Note: We will be sharing a series of articles from Dale Bordelon, a resident of Effie and owner of Bayou Beast Duck Calls. He lives the life of a Louisiana duck hunter and is dedicated to make sure the old ways are passed on and not forgotten.

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