Name: Todd Heidelbauer
Address: P.O. Box 1621; Sioux Falls, SD 57101-1621
Phone: 605-359-5393 Fax:

Personal Website:

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 Heidelbauer Wildfowl Calls

My duck call, The Mallard Toller, is a quality, high-end, custom-made call requiring 14 hours of labor each. It has many attributes that can't be found in other calls. It possesses complete tolerance meaning that the sound will not break, squeal, or stop up. It can attain great volume for use on open water and in high winds, yet it also can be blown softly for working birds close in. The sounding device screws into the hard maple barrel rather than using the standard #2 Morris taper. I have never had a reported lost sounding device. The sounding device is made up entirely of inert plastics and is assembled very tightly after being hand tuned. There is no cork or rubber and therefore nothing will deteriorate. Because of this it will hold its tune indefinitely. The barrel is sealed and finishing inside and out with a waterclear, high gloss, moisture cure, polyurethane concrete floor finish. This renders the barrel nearly indestructible and impenetrable to water.

The barrels are made with three types of Maple, those being Birdseye Maple, Maple Burl, and Curly or Tigerstipe Maple. All calls are either personalized or part of a limited edition. Only 100 to 135 calls are made per year enabling them to be very unique and appreciate in value.

My grandfather designed and began making these calls in 1952. I took over nearly 5 years ago. I am happy to carry on this family tradition making these calls that are rich in heritage and history.

I am a graduate from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD. I have two degrees, one of which is Business Administration. I have used this knowledge to improve upon the business in nearly every aspect. I also have a business which creates custom made pool tables. In the future I look forward to continual improvements and additions of new products.

The following is a story about my grandfather written by Mike Beno in a 1990 issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine.

A clean shop is a sign of a sick mind. So say Frankie Heidelbauer's woodworking buddies, dovetailing some good-natured sarcasm with just a twinge of craftsman's jealousy. Every tool you might imagine hangs from its appointed nail in the spotless shop. Many tools you could never imagine hang alongside too, for if Frankie Heidelbauer can't find a tool to fit the job, he invents it. "I just about live down here so I try to keep it neat," Frankie says, turning on the fluorescent lights in his basement work area. "You can't do good work in a dirty shop." The work emanating from Heidelbauer's little duck shop over the past 40 years has been very good indeed, as shown by hundreds of testimonial letters addressed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But the accolade that really counts, Heidelbauer says, is that Fifty-two professional guides around the country us my wildfowl calls…I'm pretty proud of that. An interesting attitude from a man who has plenty more to be proud of than the pretty, carved piece of birdseye maple he holds in his hand. Few people have led as lively a life as Frank Heidelbauer.

Born in 1918 on a prairie farm in northwest Iowa, young Heidelbauer learned to mimic the ducks on his family pond with nothing but his throat. That put the young hunter in business for a few years, he says, "but then one morning when I was 12 or 13, I woke up and it was all gone." Heidelbauer smiles. Puberty brings a boy a world of new things. And despite the loss of his calling voice, Frankie Heidelbauer heartily recommends them all. But Heidelbauer's loss became the gain of many a duck hunter.

My grandfather turned 82 on the 2nd of January, 2000. He still is an active hunter and fisherman. When he is not in the field or on the water he spends his time creating hand-crafted fishing jigs and lures.

The following is a detailed description of The Mallard Toller.

My Mallard Toller duck call has two main attributes. Paramount is the call's exceptional tolerance. By this I mean that you can "lean on it" with all the breath pressure you can build and the call's sound will not break, squeal, or stop up. It also has the capability for talking very softly so that you can get the ducks down into the decoys. Here on the prairies of South Dakota, we often have to hunt in very high winds, so we need a call that is capable of great tolerance. Something that we can get tremendous volume out of and our call has it. My grandfather and I know some of the waterfowl guides here in the state who can literally dominate an entire marsh simply because my call has the volume to drown everything else out. Yet again, we need a call the will talk softly to get the ducks down into the decoys, and my call will also do this, and does it with great fidelity. There's a fine mallard rasp to it!

The other attribute that I think is a bit unusual is the way the call is put together. As I'm sure you are aware, the two parts in other waterfowl calls go together with a #2 Morris taper. The barrels of such calls have a female taper to accept the male taper of the sounding device holder. When the sounding device is assembled in the call, the two parts are driven together with a soft wooden block. This is all fine until such time that you happen to blow a piece of cattail fluff or something else under the reed of your call and have to take it apart to clean it. When you reassemble it, it doesn't matter how hard you drive the two parts together; it's just a matter of time before you lose one end or the other! Back in the 1930's, my grandfather Frank, had calls made by the great call makers of those days, and through the years he finally lost the sounding device out of every one of them. He resolved that some day he was going to build a better duck call and when he did it was going to screw together, as it does today.

To accomplish this, I craft the sounding device holder out of a section of ½" plastic pipe nipple. The reason pipe nipple is used is because pipe has tapered threads. I cut the nipple to the proper length with my band saw and then turn it on the lathe to a gracefully shaped little horn. The diameter of which is just right to lock between the base of your thumb and the base of the palm of your hand. This allows you to cup your fingers around the end to form a megaphone over the end of the call. The call is very light in weight so that you can easily handle it with one hand, which, of course, leaves the other hand free for the shotgun.

The sounding device is totally crafted of inert plastic so there is nothing that moisture can change. The anvil, or sounding board of the call, is made from a section of ½" diameter acrylic water-clear plastic rod. The reed wedge is also made of this material. The reed itself is made from a polyester sheet material that appears to have a minute fiber content. The reeds are cut parallel to the direction that the fibers run. This provides a reed that is very strong. My reeds have a very unusual taper. Starting at a butt thickness of 14/1000 inch, I taper it down to 12/1000 of an inch at its tip. The center of the reed is then relieved down to 9.5/1000 of an inch with the taper radiating upwards to both the tip and butt ends. This taper, married to the curve of the anvil, enables this call to be blown softly or with great volume when necessary. (Complete tolerance)

The sounding device is then assembled in a 7/8" long section of nylon tubing. The reed wedge has a little "foot" crafted onto its base, and when the sounding device is assembled in this nylon tubing, the little "foot" bears down on the reed with tremendous pressure so that I know when it's tuned, it will stay that way. The sounding device holder is then inlet on its threaded end with a special adjustable reamer, so that I have a hole that will take the nylon tubing on a 2000ths press fit, which is very tight. The assembled sounding device and its holder can then be screwed into the maple barrel until it comes up against the taper of the pipe threads. There, it begins to snug up a bit. Given just a little additional torque (1/2 or ¼ turn), the pipe nipple plastic locks into the maple barrel. In all the years of this call there has never been a reported lost sounding device. You can backflush it with water at the kitchen sink if you wish. This will clean it out, then whip the excess water from it, let it dry, then screw it back together and you know it will be ready to go and that you will never lose the sounding device.

With three titanium taps, each increasing in size, I thread the interior of the maple barrels using a special lubrication. The maple barrel is turned on the lathe and sanded. It is then turned at the lathe's highest speed while a bit of blue denim with a special piece of plastic is held on the ends of the call, friction burning the ends of the maple to a black color. This welds together the end grain of the barrel and makes it very strong at its ends. This is especially important at the end where there is a spreading, screw-in device. Then, as a decorative touch, I also burn a couple of lines around the lanyard groove. Recently I have begun making barrels with Maple Burl and Curly Maple as well. They are all very beautiful.

The call is now ready for its first coats of finish. I use a water-clear, high gloss, moisture cure, polyurethane concrete floor finish. This finish is just about indestructible, and very beautiful.

First, I put three coats of finish inside the barrel with a soft brush, which seals it forever from any inside moisture. The call barrels then go on a wooden mandrel and back in the lathe, which is masked and curtained off to form a spray booth. The viscosity of this finish is just right so that I can spray it beautifully. As the lathe turns at a certain speed, I make a sweeping pass with the spray gun to apply an even coat over the barrel. Each barrel gets three such coats with an aging period between each. When the third coat is thoroughly aged and hardened, the barrel goes back to the lathe and is lightly sanded with a 400 grit aircraft finish sandpaper. This is done so the surface will accept the ink of the inscription.

I then put each call on the wooden mandrels again to go back on the lathe. Each barrel is given five additional coats of finish over the barrel and the inscription. With three coats under the inscription, and five over it, the call barrel has a total of eight coats of finish. This builds up on the barrels like a pane of glass, magnifying the grain of the maple as well as the small handwriting of the inscription.

I offer two versions of inscription, but the calls themselves are the same. The first option is a limited edition that is inscribed as follows:

The Mallard Toller
(x) of 35
2002 A Heidelbauer Call

Obviously this is limited to the first 35 people who choose this option. The second option is the personalized edition and reads as follows:

Your Name Here
The Mallard Toller
2002 A Heidelbauer Call

I have offered the limited edition for several years now and the collector's value of these calls have appreciated substantially. "Tolling" is an old waterfowling term that goes back to the 18th Century.

Over the course of 48 years of call making my grandfather and I know that time spent working divided by the number of calls in a production average roughly 14 hours of work per call. There is especially a lot of time in the sounding devices alone and, of course, the calls are totally handcrafted which accounts for this.

My goose calls are made with the same tremendous efforts and commitment to quality as goes into the duck call. The name of my goose call is "A Hail Call for Canada Geese". The difference from the duck call is a longer barrel and a different anvil and reed. It also takes a great deal longer to tune. The number of calls made divided by the time equals about 25 hours or more that goes into the goose call. I am currently doing personalized inscriptions only.

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