The Call Series: Billy Starks Uncut Bodoc
Part 1 : Billy Starks Uncut Bodoc
As I sit in my shop reminiscing about this this particular call, I’m still in utter disbelief of how it came about. Here’s the story…..
“Call Night” started as a way to offer guys a chance to get one on one calling instruction at my shop. The first one consisted of about 12 guys showing up and getting instruction from myself, Brooks Tinsley, and Brett McCool. Brooks and Brett have qualified for the World’s numerous times and are some of the best callers I know. The next month the attendance doubled and continued to do so each month.
The turnout, questions, and instruction were all very positive based on the feedback I received so I decided to start offering “call night” on a regular basis. Each event produced a larger and larger turnout to the point I could no longer offer one on one instruction. It was at that point I decided to start inviting guest from our industry.
My first call was to legendary guide and call maker, Mr. Billy Starks. As a young call maker, I had met Billy only once or twice. In those meetings he had been nothing but kind and generous in our conversations, however, I was a little nervous asking him to drive 4 hours south to interview him in front of a crowd of 50-100 strangers.
When I finally got the nerve to ask him, he was all in except for the fact that he wasn’t comfortable driving that far alone, which I totally understood. It was then that I placed a call to one of our mutual friends, Mike Lewis. Mike kindly agreed to bring Mr. Billy down for the event. Just another example of how the call collecting and making community supports one another.
Having Billy Starks at my shop was an unbelievable experience not only for everyone who attended but also for myself. He shared stories from his childhood, guiding adventures, and his call making career. These stories ranged from his first duck calls to hunting with the mob, it was pure entertainment. The only regret I have is that we didn’t have longer for him to share more stories!
As the night was coming to an end Billy pulled me aside, pulled a bodoc call from his pocket and handed it to me. It was an unexpected gift that I was in no way deserving. As I was admiring the call in hand, I suddenly noticed that the insert wasn’t drilled or cut. The call wouldn’t make a sound. I gave Billy a quizzical look upon which he replied, “ I turned this call for you, but I want you to drill it and cut it on your jig”.
Now, let me try to explain the gravity of what had just happened. Call makers spend months and years developing their toneboards, the very essence and heart of the call, and what makes each his own. While we are recognized by our shapes, the tone board is truly the “duck call”.
So here I am, a young call maker, still trying to find and establish my identity in the call making world, and one of the living legends has just made me a call of his shape and he wants me to drill and cut it with my jig. Words like humbled, honored, shock, disbelief, gratitude, are the first to come to mind.
Years have passed since Billy handed me that call, but I still look at it everyday and remember his act of kindness and generosity that night. There’s nothing more uplifting that anyone could have done for me at that time in my call making career. I only hope I can and will pay it forward whenever the opportunity arises.
Mr. Billy is still making calls everyday at his home in Stuttgart. He still calls me monthly to give me a hard time about something or vice versa. I’m proud to call him a friend.
While his waiting list is long, I’d recommend getting on it asap. Owning a Rebel call is a treasure in the waterfowling world. He’s old school. You can’t order one online or on facebook. You have to write him a letter, including what you want and all of your contact info. They go in a stack where he goes one by one in the order they were received.
And for those of you wondering…. No, I have not and will never cut that insert. It’ll be an heirloom and story that will get passed down thru the generations.