Newalla man's duck calls are making a splash
Physical therapy is Brandon Lewelling’s career. Designing and making duck calls is his passion.
For the past seven years, Lewelling has not only been a physical therapist in Choctaw but the owner of Tornado Valley Calls, making handmade calls out of his shop in Newalla.
Lewelling’s plunge into call-making started as a hobby and slowly became a business as word spread. His customers now include duck hunters from Texas to Canada.
“I was hunting with a buddy one time and looking at a duck call and thinking, this shouldn’t be too hard to make,” said Lewelling, who was already familiar with woodworking from his father. “I was just making them for myself, and then someone else wanted a call, and then another person.”
Lewelling, 31, was a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma when he first started trying to make duck calls. He filled notebooks with designs, received a lathe for Christmas and dived in.
“Getting the shape of your call is not too hard, but getting the sound is almost impossible at times,” he said. “Many times you will come out with something that sounds like a kazoo, so you just keep working at it. Keep sanding, keep changing different things. Just a couple of swipes of sandpaper can change a call completely.”
Through trial and error, tips from other call-makers and watching YouTube videos, Lewelling learned to create duck calls with the sound he wanted.
For the first five years, Lewelling only did custom-made calls. But as demand grew, some are now machine-made from his design so he can keep an inventory, although he still makes them by hand upon request.
“The last two years have been really big for me,” he said. “I have sold calls all over the U.S. and Canada, which really blows my mind, but I want to focus on getting as many of my calls in the hands of Oklahoma hunters. I think that is the coolest part.”
Duck calls can be like pieces of art, and sometimes Lewelling’s creations can be very intricate, such as the one he made to honor a Navy veteran’s fallen colleagues. He adorned the call with the Navy logo and initials of each soldier.
He has created other duck calls to celebrate events like weddings and made one from the Bois d’arc fence post of a century-old family farm for a friend. He makes calls from wood, acrylic, metals and antlers. How long it takes for him to make a duck call and the price depends on the intricacies involved.
“If I am doing just a basic call with no special laminates, I can probably knock it out in an hour and a half,” Lewelling said. “But if I am doing all different kinds of pieces of wood and metals together, there are gluing times and drying times, sometimes it can take several days.”
The price of the duck calls ranges from $105 to $295, he said.
Lewelling will be one of more than 130 vendors appearing at the Outdoor Nation Expo in Shawnee Friday through Saturday at FireLake Arena. The outdoor show is held in conjunction with the FireLake Fireflight Hot Air Balloon Festival.
He is working on a goose call that he plans to introduce before the hunting season. Despite the increase in sales in recent years, Lewelling said Tornado Valley Calls will never become his full-time job.
“I am afraid it would take the fun out of it,” he said. “I just keep it for a passion, for enjoyment on the side. I have met a bunch of people through call-making. I have made friends all over the U.S.”
And he still needs time to go duck hunting with his partner, Timber, the 6-year-old black labrador retriever whom he trained.
“My two favorite things about duck hunting are calling in birds, with a call I made especially, and watching a dog work,” he said.
For more information about Lewelling's duck calls, go to tornadovalleycalls.com
Deer hunting workshop scheduled in OKC
The National Wild Turkey Federation is holding a day-long deer hunting workshop for beginning hunters on Aug. 25 at H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City.
Class size is limited to 30 people and the cost is $25, which includes lunch. For more information, contact Rick Nolan at email@example.com or go to NWTF.org/events.
Outdoor Nation Expo
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: FireLake Arena, Shawnee