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Calls of the Wild

Calls of the Wild
May 31, 2005 |

A crescent moon shines like a beacon leading a turkey hunter across fast-moving creeks and up mountain sides so steep he has to grab small saplings to make it to the top. Loaded down with a shotgun and pack full of turkey calls, he heads toward Oakey Mountain in the Talladega National Forest with no flashlight because the creeks and steep terrain are familiar to him. He’s been hunting this land since he was 10 years old, following behind his father. Today, he’s hunting this land for more than trophy gobblers. This is a place to test his custom-made calls on the most discriminating critic, the eastern wild turkey gobbler.Mike Pentecost, founder and owner of Woodhaven Custom Calls in Heflin, Ala., reaches the top of the mountain and sits down on a fallen pine tree. “This is where we take a break and just listen,” says Pentecost. A crow flies over the mountain, and his caws are answered by an echoing gobble on the next ridge. Next, two more gobblers sound off as the sun begins to make a faint glow behind the hardwoods in the east. “You gotta love that sound,” says Pentecost.For the last six years, Pentecost has been replicating those sounds through his custom call-making business. In a renovated barn overlooking the Tallapoosa River and acres of bottomland where beef cattle graze, Pentecost and his six employees make a complete line of wildlife calls, ranging from crow, hawk and owl locator calls to turkey- and deer-hunting calls.Pentecost began designing his own turkey calls in 1986. “Hunting in the national forest is very competitive because the birds have heard just about everything,” says Pentecost. “The calls I bought just didn’t do a good job of making gobblers respond.” This led Pentecost to begin experimenting with different woods and materials that would create realistic sounding turkey hen calls for luring gobblers.As he began to make larger numbers of turkey calls, local demand for Pentecost’s calls was becoming overwhelming. “I was laying flooring down in south Georgia and heading home late one night when I decided to go full time in the call business,” says Pentecost. “I knew that the calls I made were effective because they consistently called in birds that wouldn’t answer other calls on the market at the time.”Pentecost says he developed an ear for recognizing tonal quality at a young age by playing the guitar and piano. This musical experience, along with his background in wood through selling and grading lumber at a home improvement store, helped him develop the first handmade Woodhaven Calls. “I try to make instruments instead of calls,” says Pentecost. “Just like a guitar, the wood you select makes a big difference in the sound that comes out.” Pentecost says the walnut used in his friction calls gives a deeper, raspier sound, and the cherry wood produces higher pitched tones. Pentecost spent eight years developing the right pitch and tone for his cherry wood friction calls. “I kept looking for a different tone that would match the sound you hear from the hens in the woods,” says Pentecost. “Every call we make, whether it’s a hawk, crow, owl, turkey, deer, or coyote is designed to match the sounds in nature as closely as possible.”The slogan he created for the company is, “If any call will do, then Woodhaven’s not for you.”Pentecost says his calls range from easy-to-operate models to the ones that are designed for highly skilled, veteran hunters. “Most of the people who buy our calls have taken three or four birds and are ready to move up to a quality, handcrafted call,” says Pentecost. “The craftsmanship from our team results in a call that you can hand down to your children and grandchildren.”In the beginning, Pentecost harvested the wood for his calls locally. “If someone had a walnut tree blown down on their farm, I would get their permission to cut the wood, let it dry, and use it for the calls,” says Pentecost. “The demand is so high now, we usually just buy the wood already dried and ready to mold.” Pentecost put together a team of six competition turkey callers in 2004 including himself. This group, known as the “Sting Team,” won every nationally recognized turkey calling championship last year. They won the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Grand National Championship, the World Championship, U.S. Open, U. S. Open Friction, Mid-America Championship, National Championship, plus state and local competitions.Jim Pollard joined Pentecost as a full time employee and member of the “Sting Team” in 2004. Pollard is the first turkey caller ever to win the NWTF Grand Nationals three years in a row. “I had always wanted to work full time in the turkey industry,” says Pollard. “I bought one of Mike’s calls at a show in Birmingham, and I couldn’t believe the craftsmanship and quality of the call.” After a few discussions over the phone, Pollard left New York and joined Pentecost in the call-making venture, which now sells wildlife calls through mail-order catalogs like Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Redhead and Bass Pro Shops. “Jim’s from New York, but he’s adjusted pretty well to life in Alabama,” says Pentecost. “He’s just glad we have plenty of turkeys to hunt down here.” Pentecost’s wife, Robin, also helps with the business. “My wife has helped tremendously on the bookkeeping side of the business,” says Pentecost. “For her, it means balancing a business and balancing the family life with our two young children, Benjamin and Micah.” The custom call business has grown rapidly in the last two years for Pentecost, but he says being able to live, work, and hunt in rural Cleburne County is a dream come true. “I’m so thankful that my children can grow up learning rural life values,” says Pentecost. “Taking that leap of faith and starting this business with the help of our friends and family has been my biggest thrill yet.”For information about Woodhaven Custom Calls, call (256) 463-5657 or visit
www.woodhavencustomcalls.com.Outdoor writer John Howle is a member of the Cleburne County Farmers Federation board of directors.

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