— By Andrew Johnson, Editor
If you walk into a sporting goods store, the sheer number of duck and goose calls can be overwhelming. It’s been that way for decades, as waterfowl call innovation continues to push the envelope with new makes and models fashioned from a variety of materials. From good old-fashioned wood to high-end acrylic and polymer calls, it seems as though the options, as well as the price points, are limitless.
Still, all the duck calls in the world weren’t enough for Kendall Dosch.
“Back in high school some friends and I were huge waterfowlers,” said Dosch, who graduated from Aberdeen Central in 2014. “We had the idea one day at the lunch table that we were going to make our own duck call. We had a little wood lathe, so we bought some dowels of wood from Menards and learned how to turn them.”
And that’s how DZ Calls, a waterfowl call company based in Aberdeen, was born, Dosch said, admitting that turning both body parts of a handmade call was easier said than done. He said the first few he made squeaked and that was about it. He said it felt like forever before one of the hand-turned duck calls actually quacked.
“Turning the bottom part of the call, or what we call the barrel, isn’t very hard, but making the insert, the narrow part that holds the reed, and filing that by hand to fit perfectly was really hard and time consuming,” he said. “You’d have imperfections in the wood or plastic or whatever you were working with, and it would just take forever to get the insert to fit just right.”
Hobby to Business
Throughout high school Dosch said he continued to make duck calls by hand, improving his skills and progressing from wood to different materials in an effort to find what combination worked and sounded best. At the same time, he was able to acquire basic machinist skills through classes offered through the Hub Area Technical School.
After graduating from high school, Dosch enrolled at Northern State University and got a job at Prairie Tool in Aberdeen where he was able to further his understanding of the machining process.
“I found the job at Prairie Tool really interesting, but it became boring sitting in the shop every day,” said Dosch, now 22 years old. “My family was raised on farms, and I always loved agriculture and farming, so I decided to go to Lake Area Tech for my ag degree and was hired on by Wheat Growers, which is now called Agtegra.”
Throughout all of this, Dosch continued to turn out handmade duck calls one at a time. However, he said the experience and knowledge he gained at Prairie Tool were instrumental in helping him develop a mold to make duck calls more efficiently.
“In just under the year I worked there, I was exposed to the process and worked with everybody there on the mold to make duck calls,” he said. “We laid everything out and designed it, and that’s basically how I learned about the injection-mold process.”
Making the mold wasn’t an overnight process, Dosch said. Rather, it took thousands of dollars and a few years to perfect, right on down to the last half-thousandth of an inch.
“It’s not like you can go out and buy a mold,” he said. “Anything I could do on my own I was doing to save money. My paychecks went toward bills and the mold, nothing else, and all the sales from the calls went right back into the business. Once I had $1,500 saved in the account, I’d go back and put $1,500 into the mold.”
Not only did it take time and patience to perfect the mold, but it also took over two and a half years to get the trademark for DZ Calls registered, Dosch said. The acronym DZ stands for drop zone, referring to the landing area hunters leave for waterfowl in a spread of decoys.
Up and Running
Dosch said the mold was finally good to go this spring and that there are about 1,000 of DZ Calls’ single-reed mallard calls currently on order. He said he inspects each one the mold spits out and gives it a test run to ensure it’s in working order.
“The whole point of developing the mold was to chase the commercial sale,” he said. “With hand-turning calls, I just couldn’t keep up. That’s why I jumped into molding, to get it out there and hopefully get it into stores like Cabela’s and Runnings.”
In addition to the polycarbonate body, which Dosch chose over other materials due to its strength and stability, DZ Calls come complete with several other features.
With some calls, the insert slides firmly into place into the barrel with no help, but Dosch said his calls employ the use of rubber O-rings that act almost like a gasket to firmly hold the insert in place. He said the calls also incorporate rubber wedges to securely hold the reed in place.
“With those O-rings you’re less likely to lose your insert, but at the same time it’s still really easy to pull out and clean. A lot of guys like to take them out, play with the reed and tune it themselves,” he said. “Some calls have cork wedges, but they can dry up or shrink on you. The O-rings and rubber keep the call tight and less likely that something can get stuck in the call or can vibrate loose.”
In the long run, Dosch said he simply wanted to put a quality call in the hands of hunters who might otherwise be overwhelmed at the variety of calls in today’s market.
“I’ve duck hunted all my life and gone through thousands of dollars on calls,” he said. “It’s been a lot of trial and error on my own, and there were little details, like an insert falling out or cork drying up, that I wanted to avoid. Basically, it’s $25 for a quality molded call that we kind of doctored up.”