During their high school years, Rod Haydel and his brother joined their father, the iconic Eli Haydel, in the garage where they mixed sometimes imperfect compound resins to cast clear polymer duck calls that were marketed as “Blows When Wet.” At the time, when only about 20 duck calls were being plied in hunting catalogs, it seemed like a great way for the boys to offset their upcoming college expenses. Looking back decades later, it transformed the duck call manufacturing industry, becoming a hugely successful family-owned business. It also became the late Eli Haydel’s – and the Haydel family’s – endearing legacy. But how’d Eli Haydel get the idea for producing these calls and what’d his mother think when he quit a steady job to pursue the dream? What are some of Rod’s fondest memories growing up duck hunting among family? When did he realize that his father was different, maybe more famous in the duck hunting world, than other dads? How has Haydel’s Game Calls grown since the earlier days, what new product got Ramsey fired up, and why do they remain Made in America? It’s another great Duck Season Somewhere episode from deep in Louisiana.
It All Started with Duck Calling Contests
But it was just one of those deals, we were doing what we had to do to get the product out there, and guys started liking it.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back Duck Season Somewhere, a hot summer day. I’m in Bossier City, Louisiana. Haydel Game Caller. You know the thing that struck me when I walked in, it felt like home. It felt like every duck camp on God’s earth I’ve ever been into immediately, coming back in here to the showroom. I smell the Lab and that just made me feel warm and fuzzy. I knew all of them duck hunters, you walk around, the walls are just loaded with decades of history. It’s a very interesting story. Mr. Eli Haydel, of course, was an icon in the duck hunting and the outdoor industry and I’ve known his son, met his son who started with this business back when he was knee high. It sounds like Mr. Rod Haydel. How are you, sir?
Rodney Haydel: I’m doing well. Good to see you again.
Ramsey Russell: Yes sir. It is good to see you. Man, I don’t even know where to start. Because I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. And everywhere in the world I’ve been, especially here in the south, its like, Haydel’s Game Calls, that little call of y’all’s. He’s just, I see it on everybody’s neck. I’ve even seen some of them, I was telling you that are so old and so cherished by their owner. They’re wrapped fully in duct tape. They go out and buy. But that’s their call. They’re going to keep it.
Rodney Haydel: Yeah, a lot of them wrapped them in electrical tape and they say they don’t get good until they crack like that and you can’t prime out of their hands.
Ramsey Russell: No. I mean, I don’t blame them. I get attached to stuff like that. Rod, how long have y’all been around? And how long has Haydel’s Game Calls been around?
Rodney Haydel: Well, we started in 1981. Dad had been getting into duck calling contests and whatnot for a number of years there and it kind of gradually got to a point where he wanted to try to see if he can make a duck call. And he made one. I showed you the mold here earlier. And that thing was kind of touchy back then because, we put the mold together and not being chemists, sometimes we’d get different drops, a hardener in there at different counts, until we could get it mixed up. But this wasn’t big.
Ramsey Russell: But now, that’s what I’m trying, when y’all were younger, your dad was a duck hunter, raised you boys as duck hunters. He blew a wooden call, or whatever he bought, or had at that time. And then after he started competing. And look folks, I’m looking at trophies back in the 70’s. I was in kindergarten, 1st-2nd grade when this man was calling back then. But then as y’all grew up, it wasn’t a hobby. I mean, y’all made that mold. You were showing me with like a hobby.
Rodney Haydel: Sure, it was a hobby. I mean it was a way, I was fixing to go off to college then. And Dad wanted to give us boys something to do to make a little extra college money and stuff like that. And so it was a good little lick at the time. And like I said, we would put them in that chemical and the fiberglass resin in those molds and sometimes they dried in two hours, sometimes it took two weeks. But it was just one of those deals, we were doing what we had to do to get the product out there, and guys started liking it. And we had to finally go to some injection molds around 1983 and stuff like that. And so the rest, as they say, is history.
Perfecting the Process: Creating the First Synthetic Fiberglass Mold Calls
And so you could pick it out in a crowd of different calls on a lanyard.
Ramsey Russell: How did he make those molds? I mean, to design the initial call that he decided he was going to make, he had to come up with that sound board.
Rodney Haydel: Yeah, he had a sound board. He had several different sound boards that were made out of wood and then you just sandwich the molds on top of them so that when you pour the part, you get the part that you want to get. And if I’m not mistaken, there was numbers on each mold. And we had the numbers one through six and I think six was his favorite part. So any guys that’s got the old original calls, on the back of that sound board, you’ll notice a number. It’s one of the ones that’s got the resin in it.
Ramsey Russell: So there was a little in the same mold. There’s a little difference in the sound.
Rodney Haydel: A little bit. Yep.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. That’s about as authentic as it gets. And I’m trying to reach back to that era in the 1980s, is when it would have been. Most duck call makers then we’re hand turning them. There weren’t really any CNC machines going on that I’m aware of.
Rodney Haydel: No. You had everybody was hand turning calls and most calls were made out of wood. And even back then, you had writers that write stories on us and stuff like that in most of the outdoor magazines and stuff. And the real unique thing about our calls is, because most of those magazines back then were black and white, as far as a lot of the copies, with pictures inside the articles and stuff. And so that being said, the pictures that they showed of guys holding up ducks, or shooting or whatever, that little clear call was very obvious. And so you could pick it out in a crowd of different calls on a lanyard. And so I think that’s one of the unique things that helped us out back then. Because back then, like I said, most guys were blowing wooden calls and guys didn’t want to blow a cheap, especially clear call. They thought that it would scare ducks. Because everything had been camouflage. You look at it nowadays, and you got hot orange calls, pink, I mean all kind of different crazy colors.
Ramsey Russell: Rainbow going in.
Rodney Haydel: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: Where y’all would, Haydel to been one of the first synthetic fiberglass type mold calls?
Rodney Haydel: Probably. I mean the only thing I can think of at the moment that was made out of some plastic was obviously out was around back then, and then Fox had a goose call that I believe had a wooden blowing barrel, but the insert was made out of clear.
Blows When Wet
And they picked that call up and see if it blows and it blew. And so that’s where we got our start.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve seen that. I’ve seen those calls. I sure have. Since he blew wooden calls, he won those trophies, he did that kind of stuff, why do you think he went to the mold and to the synthetic type?
Rodney Haydel: He just wanted to see if he could develop a duck call and especially a call that represented Louisiana. Like a Louisiana cane call. Fox, Shek Snyder, there’s a whole ton of them. And anyhow, so he started out trying to make a call of that nature. And those calls were real famous for locking up when they got wet, because when they got wet through either saliva, or condensation, it would change the tolerances inside that call, and that call would usually stick. So knowing that moisture doesn’t affect plastics and especially fiberglass resin that he was making the tone boards out of, he just tried to see if it worked, and sure enough it worked. And he had a little marketing scheme he did. He was outside salesman for WW Granger. So he was calling on a lot of hardware stores at the time and stuff like that. And so when he would make his route down through East Texas and Western Louisiana on the side of Toledo Bend, he’d stop in, and he asked the guy if he was interested in some calls, and he would place a fish bowl on the counter along with the calls. But the fish bowl would have water in it. And it had a sticker on it that said “Blows when wet.” And then he had a little call that would hang off a little yellow rubber ducky, and guys just couldn’t resist. And they picked that call up and see if it blows and it blew. And so that’s where we got our start. It was so funny, the last time I went to the store with Dad, we bought a bunch of fish bowls and rubber ducks. We probably got, I don’t know, 28 something like that. And the lady looked up at him, she says, dang, you sure do got a lot of bowls there and duckies. And he said, well, you know how the kids are, what you do for one, you got to do for them all, and her eyes got so big.
Ramsey Russell: Your dad was kind of kid-oriented, wasn’t he?
Rodney Haydel: He was.
Ramsey Russell: Because I was telling you when we were sitting here talking earlier, a long time ago, Ducks Unlimited had a big event, big outdoor event there in Memphis, Tennessee, and we were all a lot younger then. I’m going to tell you, your dad, and you, and your brother were there, and my children would have been knee high. And we came by because y’all didn’t exhibit, and I can remember you walking around and handing every child out there a duck call. It just spoke to me that, 20 acres worth of outdoor events, but y’all had one focus to getting kids hooked on duck calling and put your product in their hands. And it just meant a lot to me. I think one of the first calls my kids ever had was one of y’all’s calls. Yeah. Tell me about growing up. Tell me, what is your background? Y’all grew up here in Bossier City.
Memories of Duck Calls & Hunting
I know y’all were duck hunters, your dad was a duck hunter, your granddad was apparently a duck hunter probably, generations before.
Rodney Haydel: I grew up here in Bossier City. Been here all my life. Dad grew up in Southwest Louisiana. He was born in a little town called Raceland and then moved over kind of toward the New Orleans area. Another little town just outside of New Orleans, north of there called Norco. And if you’re ever going down to New Orleans, just before you get into it, on off the I-10, you’ll notice some marsh on both sides of the interstate. Well, there’s a hump in the highway there, one little slight rise, it probably goes up 20ft, right there is where my grandpa had a camp. So you know, we hunted all over, when we were up here. We hunted the river mainly, north of here in a little town called plain dealing. And then of course, when Dad was working around Toledo Bend, we’d hunt some around there. But I always cherished the times that we’d go visit my grandparents and we get to hunt the marshes right outside of New Orleans there, because it was some pretty fine hunting back then.
Ramsey Russell: How old were you when your daddy started taking you hunting?
Rodney Haydel: I was probably six years old.
Ramsey Russell: Were you shooting then or?
Rodney Haydel: I started shooting a 410. I remember Dad, I was in the 2nd grade. Dad had come and checked me out of school one afternoon early and I couldn’t figure it out. I got called to the office, and walked up to the office, and Dad was there, wearing his old school camo jacket, just a pair of Dickies pants. And I said what’s going on? He said, come on, we’re going on hunt. So he had my little 410 there. I still got it back home. It is a little Model 42 Winchester, it’s kind of like a Model 12 and still got it, skeet chokes. I remember that day we went out and got a bunch of gadwalls coming in, and one landed on the water, and I shot my first gadwall with that at 410.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. What other memories do you have hunting with your daddy?
Rodney Haydel: Wow. There’s so many.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, there’s a bunch.
Rodney Haydel: I mean with us doing so many TV shows and whatnot. I remember one year, we went out of the same launch as Dudley Falk, down there at our camp, down in Lake Charles. And I remember, it was opening day, and back then it wasn’t a matter if you were going to get the limit, it was a matter of how fast you were going to make it back to the dock. And I remember Dad got so excited opening morning because we made it back to the dock, loaded all the ducks on the back of the tailgate to take pictures and show off, and Dudley Falk came in behind us. He looked over and just waited. But yeah, I mean there’s a lot of different memories I’ve got. I remember hunting at my Grandpa’s place, like I was telling you, that marsh down there. And Dad had, for some reason, we had split up, and I was in one blind and he was in another. I went back, I paddled the pirogue back to him, and I said, here, this gun won’t shoot, because I had a 20 gauge. I said let me borrow yours. And so we swapped out and we were within voice of each other. And he shot a bunch of ducks. He said, there ain’t nothing wrong with this gun, boy. But I remember some ducks came in, one was low to the water, and I shot him, and I went out and got him. And it was a greater scaup, but it had that green sheen to his head. And I was so proud. I told Dad I had a green head.
Ramsey Russell: Did you shoot mallards?
Rodney Haydel: We did. We used to shoot a lot of mallards down there. More so than recent days.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah. Well, I think everybody can say that, the whole flyway seems like. His earlier calls, those first calls y’all made in your garage growing up, there were mallard calls?
Rodney Haydel: Right.
Speckled Belly Goose Hunting in Louisiana
So that year, Dad decided to play around and try to come up with a speck call, and he did, and it was a pretty decent little call.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. Okay. That’s the interesting stuff. You were telling me about getting into speck hunting? I know y’all were duck hunters, your dad was a duck hunter, your granddad was apparently a duck hunter probably, generations before. But your dad really got into this speck hunting.
Rodney Haydel: Yeah. Dad had. When we when we first started going down to Lake Charles, Dad had met up with Amos Fox, who is one of the brothers of the Fox family that started the call company. He had a guiding operation down there though. And so he was speaking at the local Ducks Unlimited banquet and had asked Dad, because he found out that Dad was making calls to come up and speak also. And during that time they made a couple of hunts together and Dad just fell in love with it. So that year, Dad decided to play around and try to come up with a speck call, and he did, and it was a pretty decent little call. And the next year, we ended up leasing a lot from Mr. Amos and put a trailer down there, and got us a little lease and whatnot. And like I said, that’s when we first started getting into in the speck hunting. Because Dad never grew up with that and as a kid, I never grew up with that either. I mean, I had finished high school when about 1981 when that time period came along. So like I said earlier, it’s a religion down there. Oh, I mean it really is.
Ramsey Russell: I had no idea until really, in the last few years going down to southwest Louisiana what a religion speckled belly goose hunting is. And if you look, and I guess there’s a lot of call makers nowadays. But if you really look at the old blue chip speckled belly goose call makers, y’all’s everybody. So many of all of them came from Southwest Louisiana. And that’s not coincidence. I know folks down there, I visited Paul a few weeks ago, a biologist. And he said, man, there it’s a line in the sand, and on one side there are duck hunters that shoot specks when they come in, and there are speck hunters that are dedicated expressively to speckled belly geese in that part of the world. They really are. He said, it’s something. Well, that would have would have been the second call y’all made, was a speckled belly call?
Rodney Haydel: Yes, We had an M81 and then we had the speckled belly call, the S81. We used the same parts in that, and changed the reed, and link, the barrels, to make a wood duck call and that was a W81. And then we had a pintail whistle that was the P81. So all of our calls other than – there’s a couple of predator calls maybe – but most of our calls, the last two numbers represent the year we came out with that call. So, like the DR85, we came out with that in the in the in 1985, so if that gives you any significant thing.
Calls for Every Duck Species
If you can sound like they want to hear, all the species love them.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all got a teal call?
Rodney Haydel: We’ve got several teal calls. We’ve got, the original one that we’ve got is a BT85. So we came out with that in ‘85. But since then, we’ve came out with a few others. We’ve got a BB10, which is a reeded version. It doesn’t have that metal voice. It’s got regular mallard reads in it and it’s a double reed caller. It’s a lot louder than the BT85. And then we’ve got something called a T2. It utilizes those same mallard reeds but it’s a two in one or three in one call type of thing to where you can turn the call around and get the pintail whistle and a green-winged teal. So it’s a kind of a combo.
Ramsey Russell: Pintails are a big deal down Louisiana too, aren’t they?
Rodney Haydel: They really are. As far as whistling ducks go. I got a question for you. I mean, you’ve hunted all over the world. You know, there’s ducks that whistle. Like for instance, a pintail. But then there’s some that’s got that nasally effect like your fulvous. And black bellied tree duck as well. We just came out with a call for that this year.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Rodney Haydel: Yeah. And it works great for wigeon and what not. Also because it’s got that more nasally effect. But you’ve hunted all over the world. I mean, different ducks that you see around the world, do they represent more of a pintail type sound that whistle, or are they more that nasally sounding?
Ramsey Russell: I would say there’s more nasally sound to me, like the wigeon, because I can hear him. He’s loud. Maybe it’s not so much nasally versus trill. It’s just the tone. The tone of a wigeon falls and that pintail, because I can hear him. Whistling ducks, I can’t hear. I can’t hear him. I hate it, but I can’t hear him. If I’ve got my ears in, cranked up high, and they’re close, I can hear. But I can’t hear. But I’ll tell you this, I’m excited to hear somebody’s come out with a whistling duck call because they decoy. They like a call. Wigeons love a call and pintail. If you can sound like they want to hear, all the species love them. But the black bellied whistling ducks and the fulvous worldwide, they love a whistle. They’re going to come in if you can call.
Rodney Haydel: Well, we were lucky enough, we can get them. Sometimes they’re usually gone by the time our big duck season opens. But sometimes there’s a few still lingering around and you can play with them. And we were messing around with them during teal season last year when I came out with that whistle. And my gosh, they really do respond. You’re right.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, they love it. They love it. We hunt a place down in Argentina that has a lot of whistling ducks. And there are places in the world that electronic calls are still leading, Australia, even Argentina, other parts of the world. And if you’ve ever hunted over electronic call, let me tell you, there’s a reason it’s illegal in America. I mean, really. We were down in this marsh, down Louisiana, excuse me, down in Argentina and there was a lot of whistling duck traffic. So I took my stool and I moved it out to the decoy and I set it down. And I have had a speaker I carried, I put it on top of that stool, and backed up, using Bluetooth whistling to it. I couldn’t hear it. All I can hear. I can just hear to speaker cracking. I can’t hear the whistle. And so I asked my God, hey, that sounds good. That’s it. What a damn. I guess, it don’t sound too good. But well, let me tell you what, the first flock of whistling ducks came in, come right to the decoys. Got right over that speaker. It looks like they’ve been like a center block being thrown from the plane to drop straight down on it. And I wrapped him. And it just repeated and repeated and repeated. And I looked at him while he was two thumbs up. Then he’s like, oh yeah, that works. But I’m truly excited. Somebody’s come out with a whistling duck call now and I’m going to get something, y’all got them here?
Rodney Haydel: I do. Matter of fact, Jennifer is in the front office making some right now.
Ramsey Russell: I want to get a handful because, when the world starts spinning again, I get back down to Argentina, I guarantee you.
Rodney Haydel: Hang on a second, let me go grab one real quick. Go get, blow it for you. Here we go. It’s nothing to it. And you know, a kid can blow it because, it’s just a little whistle. It’s got acrylic, its molded acrylic barrel with a little band on it.
Ramsey Russell: Actually, now I can hear that.
Rodney Haydel: And a wigeon.
Ramsey Russell: You’re going to do well with that.
Rodney Haydel: I hope so.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good-looking call.
Rodney Haydel: I said, we’ve had some fun with it last year. So you know a lot of those black bellies down there, they’re banned.
Ramsey Russell: They do. Yeah. And you know that population is booming, it’s booming. After the year Katrina hit, there was another hurricane that hit, Rita maybe? Kind of come in from the Houston side, and between those two storms in 2005, it’s like, I just got to take you, take some mighty Mississippi Delta that drove by an oxbow and there were 20 of them. And there are places I know where you can go see 5 or 6 dozen of them. I mean there are a lot of wood duck nest boxes now being taken over by the black bellied whistling ducks. They’re really doing good.
Rodney Haydel: Well, we’re even getting them up here in north Louisiana, a lot of them. And matter of fact, when you came in you might have noticed that funky looking pecan tree. I had two black bellies nesting in there, and believe it or not, there was one – I never saw the female – but there was one male wood duck that was hanging out in there with them and they fly around and come back and land in the tree.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I wonder, how far away from the nearest water?
Rodney Haydel: Oh, I got a pond back here, probably 100 yards behind the building, and then another 100 yards behind it. There’s a decent sized lake back there.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, we must have a nice nest cavity if the ducks are using it.
Rodney Haydel: Oh yeah, that’s good.
A Business with an Impact
I said, there’s people on here that say you gave his son a duck call and they’ve got little memories of you that you have no clue. And he teared up.
Ramsey Russell: When you start hunting with your daddy, when you’re about six years old and he was selling calls and doing this thing, he was in calling contests. Where along your timeline, your personal timeline, did it occur to you that your old man was, for llack of better words, somebody – what I’m saying, I mean, because kids don’t really, you just grow up with your folks and they’re just your daddy. But when did you realize like my dad is doing something here? That a lot of dads like Ramsey’s dad ain’t doing?
Rodney Haydel: I always looked up to my dad and I knew he was well respected in what he did and did a good job with the business and whatnot. You know, a lot of people thought he had failed at that. My grandmother thought he was making a bad choice by quitting a job with Granger to go into this full time. Probably the time period that really hit me was when my dad had a heart attack, he was in the hospital.
Ramsey Russell: How old were you?
Rodney Haydel: Oh my gosh. I was probably 25-ish, somewhere in there. So the company was probably 7-8 years along. And in here, I was up here at the shop, and Dad was really adamant about wanting to know what’s going on, and he’s in the hospital and laid up in bed. I want to know what’s going on at the shop and whatnot. And so I was up here, and about that time is when, you remember the old waterfowler.com?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Rodney Haydel: So the word had gotten out on the street, on the Internet, so to speak, on forums that Dad had a heart attack and was in the hospital. And Dad always wanted me to get his mail. So I was going up to visiting that evening and while I was up here at the shop, I gathered his mail, and then I looked on them forms, and I said oh my gosh, look at all the people responding to this. And I walked in with his mail and he noticed I had a bunch of papers and he said, what’s that? I said this is people praying for you, wishing you well, and is the stuff that was off the form, he didn’t know how to work a computer. So he didn’t know. But I wanted to print that out for him, for him to cheer him up, and get his spirits up. He says, who are all these people? I said, dad, you have no clue. You don’t even know who these people are. I said, there’s people on here that say you gave his son a duck call and they’ve got little memories of you that you have no clue. And he teared up. And it still chokes me up a little bit to even talk about it. And that is the point when I knew that he was bigger than what I thought he was.
Ramsey Russell: He was, he was bigger than the product. Wow, that just kind of hit me. I mean, you sell amounts of duck calls, he goes off and hunts. But you never really think about 20 years from now, he’s going to have that same call duct taped up and everything else because he cherishes it. Mr. Eli gave it to him because of all the ducks he killed with it down the road.
Rodney Haydel: It’s just made an impact on people’s lives. I mean, I’ve got stories after stories. But one, I ain’t going to mention no names, but he was a sniper in Afghanistan. And he said one of the things that got him through is that, when he was packing his bags to go overseas and in his duffel bag, he had dropped a DR85 in there. And he said, that got him through a lot of bad times over there because he could go out there and blow his duck call – and they do have ducks over there. Anyhow, but I mean, I’ve got nice little letters from him and it’s developed into a friendship now with us and we’re pretty good friends. But anyhow, it’s just kind of neat stuff like that that touches you. You never know when, what, duck hunting is going to, or duck calls, or something is going to lead to the relationships. You know what I mean?
Ramsey Russell: No. I do, because I’ve always said, I think about all the time, how life and duck hunting is a people thing. You know, it really is. I mean we all love to shoot ducks. But when I think back to last season, to years ago, the stories are about the people. Sure, the ducks just brought us together. But all the crap going on on the news right now, it’s frustrating as heck. Because my life is a Crayola box of people and cultures and religions. But in the moment, I know all them folks, we’re just duck hunters. No differently than hunting right down the road in Bossier City or down. I mean we’re just duck hunters. We have respect, we have honor, we just duck hunt, we learn from each other. I think, that’s a very telling point about that duck call, that duck call and your dad making a living. He’s passionate about his duck calling. But he touched so many lives through his product, and whether he knew them or not, they knew him.
Rodney Haydel: I mean, there are stories of a girl that was messed up on drugs and going down the wrong road, and she got into duck calls. And even though we did not make at that time a contest call, she wanted to get in the contest, and that’s what brought her back out and turned her life around.
Ramsey Russell: Gave her life purpose.
Rodney Haydel: Yes.
Rodney Haydel: Duck calling.
Rodney Haydel: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: Did he teach her to call?
Rodney Haydel: No. We met her at a show one time, and he worked with her a little bit there and that was it. But he had given her a duck call and it kind of, she took it and developed it from there.
The Best Duck Dogs: Tennis Ball Training
Experience is the best teacher.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. You grew up with some good dogs?
Rodney Haydel: I did.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all got alligators in this part of the world? So I know. Yeah.
Rodney Haydel: Yeah. We don’t usually take them teal hunting, especially if we’re going in the marsh rice field. It ain’t too bad during that time. But luckily, I’ve never gotten, had a dog get better in trouble. But first of all, we had as a kid was a chocolate Lab. His name was Chip. And I’ve never had a professionally trained dog. I mean we’ve always done our own thing. I mean, you look on the top of that display right there. There’s a copy of the whole book, ‘What is a dog?’ that everybody uses, the standard book. But we’ve always trained our own dogs. And luckily done pretty good.
Ramsey Russell: Experience is the best teacher.
Rodney Haydel: Yeah. One of one of my favorite dogs I had was the dog, before the dog I got now. Lady, she was chocolate. And she lived to be almost 16 years. Hunted her at age 14. Still hunted her a little bit. And then I had to get another dog. So I got a yellow female now that I call T.
Ramsey Russell: Did your dad hunt over dogs?
Rodney Haydel: He did. Like I said, he had that first dog named Chip. Later on, he got a friend of ours out of Hoisington, Kansas at the time. Jon Hann used to train dogs. And Jon had a washout dog that he gave Dad, and his name was Wally, and he was a black male. And Dad got to where he wouldn’t, Dad didn’t work with his dogs or anything like that. So he just kind of let Wally do his own thing. And I mean, he would give him hand signals. And sometimes he’d follow him, sometimes he wouldn’t. But most of time, he had a little mail route like Dad would call it, and he had work his way around the pond and eventually find that bird. But he would have been a heck of a dog if Dad would have worked with him during the non-season.
Ramsey Russell: It may just be in that generation, my granddad trained his dog with a tennis ball, that’s it. Through a tennis ball. If they bring it back, they were ready to go. And then over, I guess, with experience in time, they’ve just developed a relationship and it worked. And his ducks got fetched or doves whatever. He’s hunting. Just a tennis ball, that was a training. Told he had a lot of books, he read a lot, but I’d never recall seeing a duck training book, a dog training book. I think it was like, there was just a tennis ball. Just a lot to be said for that really. One of the best dogs I ever had for stone cold deference, she was, boy, she was trained and would do everything you want to. That whistle was all mute when she went deaf. She was deaf the last two years, but we just have. We worked it out and she fetched up.
Rodney Haydel: Well, that’s the thing. I mean, I’m not a professional trainer, but I do, like you mentioned, when you walked in the door, you smell my dog. Because I’ll bring her up here to work. And first thing in the morning, off those couple of bumpers for, and it’s developing that relationship and keeping it with that dog, bonding and what not to get that dog to work for you. And I think that’s a big part of it.
Ramsey Russell: You have kids.
Rodney Haydel: I do.
Ramsey Russell: Do they hunt?
Rodney Haydel: You know, actually yes and no. I’ve got a daughter, she’s in nursing and she likes to hunt a little bit. But she doesn’t go but about once a year. And then I’ve got a stepson. He likes to hunt but he’s got kids of his own and busy and just going through life. Unfortunately, back in the day when we were raising our kids and getting the business going, I was being dragged two different directions at the time. Going to show after show, and then trying to do TV shows, and run up here to make a TV show, run back down there and hunt myself, and entertain writers, or what have you. During that time, fortunately, Dad liked to take his grandkids hunting and we’d have a family hunt. And so it was usually during the time that the kids were out of school during Christmas break. Unfortunately, that’s probably one of the worst times of the year for us to hunt in our part of the country. I mean, the ducks are just, they’re just not there. And so the early season is when we get the majority of our birds.
Ramsey Russell: Talking about visiting with you and during this conversation, I thought you talked about back in the day, we got mallard, we got this, we got that. What have you seen change in your lifetime in this part of the world?
How Has Hunting Changed Over Time Here?
Anyhow, but we used to see more, obviously more mallards, more of everything really. I mean, back when we first started hunting our camp would kill anywhere from 1500 to 1800 ducks a year.
Rodney Haydel: Well, when I first started hunting down around Lake Charles, we used to constantly either see or hear snow geese. I mean, there wasn’t a 30 second time period while you were in the blind, that you didn’t hear or see snow geese. Speckled bellies were everywhere. I mean everywhere. And all it takes is a two note yodel to get them in. Of course, nowadays, everybody’s blowing speck calls. Speck calls in themselves have escalated to a point where you can make every sound in their vocabulary, and there’s some dang good callers, and just about every blonde out there. I mean, it’s funny nowadays, you know when the speck is coming because you hear guys on speck calls a mile from you. And then as they are coming your way, more and more guys are starting to call. And so, it’s really, when you kill a speck nowadays in the marsh, it’s a pretty big deal, because especially if you turn them off to the guy next door to you, and he’s a world champion caller. I’ve got two different people that hunt right next to me like that. Anyhow, but we used to see more, obviously more mallards, more of everything really. I mean, back when we first started hunting our camp would kill anywhere from 1500 to 1800 ducks a year. And I don’t know that we passed up the 200-mark last year.
Ramsey Russell: I hope. Well, last year, I know for us, for the last of the Mississippi, it was just, it was terrible. Would you venture and guess what? Why? Okay, I mean, everybody’s got an opinion. And I’m just curious what you think.
Rodney Haydel: You know, I think it’s a multitude of different things, not only the weather, the shift in the migration. One big thing that I’ve noticed is, I’m not here to pick on anybody’s product, but since the advent of the Mojo, I think during that time 20 years ago, I made statements that I was worried about ducks imprinting on Louisiana especially because we’re starting to kill more of the younger birds up in Canada and stuff. And all the way down from Canada, guys are using them and are they effective? They’re not. Not so much in our part of the world anymore. Do I use them from time to time? We leave our decoys out and if I’ve got a situation where I got a bad wind for me, I’ll use a Mojo sometimes on a clear day. Just to position the birds that are coming in, so they’ll position in front of the blind so everybody gets a fair shot. But I think we’re killing a lot of younger birds nowadays. And the birds that are making it down to Louisiana are older age class and they’ve seen a lot awful lot. So it’s just a tougher duck to kill that.
Ramsey Russell: By the time those birds get to the Deep South, he’s got a PhD. Oh yeah, he’s a grizzled war veteran. He’s seen it all since then. He sure has.
Rodney Haydel: And you know another thing that’s changed is, my calling strategy. Since we are calling older birds and whatnot, a lot of guys are amazed at how little I call. If there’s a duck way up there, I’m a holler at him just to see if nothing else is around. But most of the time, I can look at a bird based off what altitude and his wing beat. I can tell you if he’s a callable bird. And most of the time I’m not even calling. And when I do turn a bird, I usually resort to going to straight just single steady paced out quacks, just to keep him on that line. And so I’m not just wailing on a call like we used to.
Ramsey Russell: Like we used to. Boy, if I could squint and imagine it was a duck I’d called to him and sometimes they come in. But I’m like yourself now. I mean, I don’t use a feed chuckle. No, I can do it, but I just really don’t see myself using a feed chuckle much.
Rodney Haydel: One thing sometimes I find on certain particular days though is you can hit them with a squeal and sometimes that’ll turn them inside out and I’ll squeal them all the way into the blind. And that’s what is enjoyable to me. As far as duck hunting, is making a duck do something that’s not on his mind to do, and turn him to get him to come in to you.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, exactly. It’s a relationship. I mean, it’s just negotiated a relationship. You’re having this conversation, if he’s responding and that’s my duck following a duck call. It’s real hard to stop calling when you got them doing something. And you need to. And sometimes, I just can’t stop. I’m like, man, I can’t stop. Because I feel that energy is growing or something. And then, Lord don’t let me mess up. I got to get hooked on that. Have you got any pointers for anybody listening? Duck calling, speaking of that.
Duck Calling Pointers from a Pro
You don’t have to be a fancy caller to call ducks. You only need five good notes. Five notes and you can call ducks.
Rodney Haydel: You know, like I said.
Ramsey Russell: Because you competed yourself at one time? Did you not?
Rodney Haydel: I did. Yeah. You mean, as far as contest call goes? Contest calling, I’ve been on both sides of the curtain.
Ramsey Russell: I didn’t mean that. I meant like, I knew you contest called. But you’re a hunter since age 6. I just wondered if you had any pointers for people that can’t call.
Rodney Haydel: As far as people that are having trouble calling, you see a lot of stuff on TV and what have you. You don’t have to be a fancy caller to call ducks. You only need five good notes. Five notes and you can call ducks. I mean, you can change that five notes a little bit faster. Hold that first note out a little bit longer. Put some inflection into the call. Don’t just get monotone and sound like one standard duck all the time. Put some inflection into your sound. And I think you’ll find that those five notes, you can change them up and do whatever. You have a lot of more success in calling birds in that way.
Ramsey Russell: And when you’ve got that bird on a string, you were saying, you just hit that note. You hit that note to just keep him on that line. Yeah, feed chuckles. I don’t know what a lot of people out there, feed chuckling like those competition callers and I just don’t see them responding to it like it used to.
Rodney Haydel: And I’ll tell you what too. I mean mixing up your calls with whistles and other ducks that are not mallard sounds oftentimes. Well, you’ll have some pretty good luck with that. And I mean, that’s a pet peeve of mine is, you got say six or seven guys in the blind, and all of them are doing that fast chuckling, and every now and then break up. You know, everybody wants to call, well, it sounds like a broken record out there. I remember, one time we were doing a TV show with Waterfowler TV, and my gosh, we had some of the best callers out there. We had Sean Stall there, we had Kelly Powers, we had Tim and Hunter Grounds, Charles Snap was there. We don’t call him, he’s not that caller. But anyway, and we had myself and everybody was calling these huge flocks of birds, working a rice field, and I said, this is driving me crazy. So I just went to my pintail, to feel like I was adding some sound, but not doing the same old stuff everybody else was doing. But we had a great time doing that show together. That’s fun times, fun times.
Making Every Game Call Imaginable
I think that the last I counted one time, I want to say we make like 22 different mallard calls.
Ramsey Russell: That’s good stuff. Run down real quick before we wrap up, run down y’all’s product line. Because you don’t have just a mallard or speck call or a teal you’ve got a lot of calls. I mean, I just learned, I’m proud to learn about this whistle.
Rodney Haydel: We’ve got it all. I mean, we make the pintail whistles, we’ve mallards, we’ve got a gadwall call, a wood duck, I mean you name it, we’ve got. If you can call it in waterfowl, sandhill crane, I mean, and that’s a big thing that’s coming out now. I mean, there’s more and more states opening up the sandhill crane, it really is. But other than that, I mean, waterfowl is probably 90% of our business. But we also make predator calls, which is a good portion of our business. We make deer call, squirrel, mouse, just about anything you can call, and to call game up to hunt it, we make a call for it. So anyhow, like I said, we do make quite a wide variety of different waterfowl calls. I think that the last I counted one time, I want to say we make like 22 different mallard calls. So everybody’s got a different style. We make more speckled belly calls than anybody. And that’s the thing is, a speck call is a more of a personalized item depending on the guy, shape of his hands, how much back pressure he puts in the call, how much air he blows, and it’s more of a personalized style of call. That’s why we make the multitude of different spec calls that we make.
Ramsey Russell: And I’m going to say, y’all don’t make just that clear plastic calling. I mean, I’ve noticed you’ve got a pretty sophisticated line of calls.
Rodney Haydel: Oh yeah. I mean, not only do we do, what you call store standard, Walmart brand style call, a cheaper call. But we go all the way up into the high dollar acrylics as well. So we’re trying to feel the niche for everybody out there.
100% American Made
If you don’t have one of those calls, probably should.
Ramsey Russell: Leave me one more question. How much has the calling industry changed just since you’ve been doing this?
Rodney Haydel: Oh my gosh, it’s really changed a lot. It used to be, there was maybe, I would say upwards to 20 game call manufacturers that made duck calls in the United States. And that’s not counting the custom guys that were out there, turning calls on their lays and stuff like that. And nowadays, I would hate, I wouldn’t know what the guess is, the amount of people that are making calls in their garage and stuff. And there’s some pretty good call makers out there. There really are. And so the business is getting tougher. The pie can only be split up so many ways.
Ramsey Russell: But to y’all’s the credit. And I was proud to hear these, y’all, are steel. I mean, you started off making in your garage. That’s an American made as it gets. Y’all are still 100% American made.
Rodney Haydel: We are. We sure are. Like I told you earlier, I don’t know where. We may be the company that makes our packaging, may be getting their plastics from. But everything we do here, we do in the United States. There was one-time, years ago that we had a mold made in China, and it was for a pintail whistle. And it blew up over there and I was panicking trying to get parts. And I was trying to figure, I lost the guy’s phone number I was supposed to have, and so I was calling different information over there in China, trying to run down a Roger Chan. Now can you imagine how many Roger Chan’s lived in China?
Ramsey Russell: I hope you weren’t going through the phone book.
Rodney Haydel: Anyhow, I finally remembered a guy that did some things with him also. And I got a good number from him. Called him and came to find out the mold had burned up in a fire or something like that. And it was just a pain in the butt. And so I told Dad then, I said, I’m just going to have to be forced to get it made over here. And back then the molds were expensive. And I mean it’s taken me a while to run enough parts off of that thing to justify having that mold built. I’m glad I did it. So I’m proud to say now that we are everything, 100% made here in the United States.
Ramsey Russell: And I guarantee you, that’s an American made probably means more to anybody listening right now than it has in their lifetime.
Rodney Haydel: You bet.
Ramsey Russell: With current events. I know it means a lot to me Rod. How can anybody listening get in touch with y’all? How do they connect with y’all now in this digital age?
Rodney Haydel: Well, we’ve got a website, Haydels.com. The phone number still rings here. 318-746-3586. We’ve got stuff on YouTube and Instagram and all that social media stuff. We try to keep. I tried his team. We try to keep, well, as best I can. I’ve got my wife, she does some promotional stuff, and we run some other stuff with our tech guy for our website. And between the two, they do all that stuff. I try to keep up and answer questions, through messenger and stuff because, I try to be personable and reachable to people whenever I can. I finally had to turn off my notifications at night because my phone would ding all hours of the night people want. But I do try to get back with them at least the next day.
Ramsey Russell: Right. I appreciate your time. I know y’all are busy this time of year and I appreciate you coming on.
Rodney Haydel: You bet. Thank you.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, You have been listening to Rod Haydel, American owned and operated, family owned and operated, for generations now, Haydel’s Game Calls. If you don’t have one of those calls, probably should. Thank you all for listening to Duck Season Somewhere. See you next time.