Dan Searcy has spent another Missouri turkey season on the sidelines.
Now 94, he can’t get around the way he once did. With an artificial leg, he isn’t sure of his footing.
But he still lives vicariously through friends and family. He takes joy in listening to the stories about how one of his calls was used to bring in a big turkey.
“I killed a lot of turkeys in my time,” said Searcy, who lives in Eminence, Mo. “But I think my hunting days are over.
“This is rough country, and I’m too old to be walking up and down these ridges.
“But I still make my turkey calls. And I still look forward to spring, when everyone gets out and uses my calls.”
Searcy’s calls are legendary in the deep Ozarks. He started making them in the 1960s, following in the footsteps of his father.
“I still have a box call my dad made in 1912,” Searcy said. “I used that call to win a calling contest once.
“I decided to start making calls of my own so that I could tune them and make them look exactly the way I wanted.”
Searcy’s calls are homemade in every detail. He splits a block of cedar, then carves them to meet his liking. He then uses a woodburning needle to etch a design on the top.
He started by just giving them to friends. But as word of his calls got out, a hunter from Pennsylvania traveled to the Ozarks to meet Searcy and see what his calls were all about. Searcy sold a good number of his calls for a pretty good price.
And suddenly, his Ozarks calls became collectibles.
“I’d say there are more collectors buyng them now than hunters wanting to use them in the woods,” Searcy said.
Today, Searcy makes only four or five calls a year. But he still takes pride in his product.
“They’ll still call in a turkey,” he said. “And they look pretty nice on a shelf too.”