Name: Don Dennis
Address: 304 N. Leanne Lane; Blue Springs, MO 64015
Phone: 816-228-1039 Fax:
816-228-5714
E-mail: dondennisduckcall@comcast.net
Personal Website:

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 Don Dennis Custom Game Calls

The Call Of The Wild text and photos by J. Mark Shoup
associate editor, Pratt

For the modern waterfowl hunter, the margin between success and failure can often be measured with the simplest of instruments—a duck or goose call. In fact, the art of calling waterfowl has become so refined that competitions are held nationwide, elevating not only the skill of callers but the quality of calls.

Don Dennis, of Blue Springs, Mo., is a call maker who has been part of this evolution. He makes no ordinary duck calls. The hand crafted and finely tuned calls are prized by waterfowlers from California to New York, from Alaska to Texas. A Dennis call is even honored in Ducks Unlimited’s National Headquarters collection in Memphis. They have won three Missouri Open championships, three Missouri state championships, two Kansas state championships, and four Kansas regionals.

This isn’t counting the times Dennis has won competitions with them himself. But what really makes Dennis calls so special is that they are created by the hands of a hunter. Like a piano tuner or a violin maker, the creator of a wildlife call must be able to play his instrument well, and Dennis can. "I’m an old mallard hunter," says Dennis. "There’s nothing like the action of duck hunting, and calling mallards is my favorite thing."
Born in 1931 in Independence, Mo., Dennis didn’t begin hunting ducks until 1946. He and his father had hunted upland game together for some time, but ducks would become their passion. They hunted all types of habitat, from the marshes of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, Mo., to the backwaters of the Missouri River. Because live decoys had been outlawed more than a decade earlier, calling was a necessity. Unfortunately, neither Dennis or his father knew any good callers at the time.

Indeed, that first effort which still hangs in Dennis’ workshop is a bit crude. The bore is off-center, and it looks as if it could have been carved with a pocket knife. He learned quickly however. One year after that first primitive quacker come off the lathe, a Dennis call won the Missouri State

Championship and went to the World Championship in the hand of Pete Clagett, a Kansas City caller who had won the World’s a few years earlier. In the next few years Dennis blowing Don Dennis duck calls earned two regional championships and qualified for the World Championships in Stuttgart four times (1966-69), finishing fifth twice.

"My first call was a Stofer," Dennis recalls, "and I had to go around to contest and listen in order to learn. Dad was always my main hunting partner, so we learned together." In 1954, after a stint in Korea with the U.S. Army, Dennis thought he would test his skills in calling contests. In his first competition, he finished a respectable fifth. He was hooked, and entered yearly after that. In 1964, he decided to make his own calls. "I kept complaining that the calls never sounded just like I wanted," says Dennis, "so my wife said, 'Why don't you make your own?' So I did." Well, it wasn't quite that simple. He already had a couple of calls made by Arkansas craftsman Chick Major, so Dennis and his wife took a vacation to Stuttgart, Ark., to see if Major would let him watch the call making process and give him some tips. Major obliged the curious young duck caller. "I talked to Chick several times and watched him work. Then I came home and bought a lathe." Dennis relates this all in a matter-of-fact tone that suggests anyone could do it. "I didn’t know what I was doing at first."

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