Author Chronicles the State's Fowl Call of the Wild
by John Cross
Free Press Staff Writer

Under an artist's eye for form and function, they are carefully crafted, shaped and fashioned from warm woods. Eventually, in the hands of virtuosos, they resonate with rich natural tones, truly music to our ears.

Stradivarius violins? Perhaps Martin guitars?

Hardly. In Minnesota, so richly steeped in the lore and tradition of waterfowl hunting, the perfect duck call has been and remains the Holy Grail of artisans, craftsmen, inveterate tinkerers and duck hunters as they seek to do nature one better.

The result has been a remarkably varied and curious array of made-in-Minnesota duck calls available to fuel the passion for collectors such as Doug Lodermeier of Minneapolis.

An avid outdoorsman, Lodermeir admits to having particular penchant for duck calls and decoys made by Minnesotans. Three years ago, inspired by realization that the storied history of state call makers was in danger of fading into obscurity with time's passage, he began to compile a list of them, past and present.

The result has been that Lodermeier, a partner in a Twin Cities design agency, recently self-published the results of his extensive research in a 600-page book, "Minnesota Ducks Calls, yesterday's and today's folk artists."

For a waterfowl hunter, for a folk art collector, the book replete with vintage photographs is a rich and fascinating look into the history of past and present duck call makers from all corners of the state.

Lodermeier said his research revealed that south-central Minnesota was particularly a hotbed of call-making activity over the years.

Notably, there is a section on Norbert "Rocky" Schoenrock, a retired industrial arts teacher in the Mankato school system. Schoenrock, who continues to live in Mankato, made duck calls for 27 years before eye problems forced him to retire from both teaching and call making.

During his teaching career, Schoenrock also permitted many students to construct their own duck calls as shop projects.

Another Mankatoan featured in the book section is longtime resident Art Theissen, who died in 1965. Theissen, an avid waterfowler, began making duck calls as a teen. According to the book, he specialized in cedar calls but also constructed "Highball" calls of walnut that "had a louder, more ringing style for use on larger, more open waters."

Other area call makers featured in the book include Jacob Grass of Owatonna, Harry Gresser Sr. and Jr. of Blue Earth, and of course, George Herter of Waseca.

Lodermeir has been pleased so far with the reception of his coffee-table-size book that is being published on a limited-edition basis. Only 1,000 were printed and in the few weeks it has been available, 350 have been sold.

With plans to attend a few decoy and call collecting venues including the Midwest Decoy Collectors Show in St. Charles, Ill., this spring, selling the remaining copies is virtually assured. Such historical books typically become collectable in their own right, making them hot items in call and decoy collecting circles.

"I'll recoup my printing costs ... if I make a profit, that would be fabulous," Lodermeier said, adding however that it would be an exceedingly small profit if based on the time he actually spent writing the book.

Not that profit was ever a motive in the first place.

Given the fleeting nature of a human memory and this discovery of how the rich history of Minnesota call makers was fading, he was more concerned with committing their efforts to the record.

"If I didn't do it, who would have," he asked?

Copies of "Minnesota Duck Calls" are available by sending personal checks or money orders (no credit cards) to: Doug Lodermeier, 4600 Washburn Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55410. The cost is $75 plus $5, shipping and handling. Purchasers should indicate if they would like their copy signed by the author.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 344-6376 or e-mail him at: