February 14, 2003
Vol. 36, No. 7
Author chronicles history of duck calls and duck calling in Minnesota
By Tori J. McCormick
Doug Lodermeier didn’t know what to expect. The only thing he knew for certain was the road down which he planned to travel was paved with considerable risk.
“I prepared myself before going in,” said Lodermeier, 48, of Minneapolis. “I knew I was taking a big gamble, and I’d be lying to you if that didn’t weigh heavily on my mind throughout the process.”
But the road of considerable risk detoured onto the thoroughfare of a dream realized, of a job conceived and, after nearly four years, of a job conquered.
The end result is his new 616-page book, Minnesota Duck Calls. The book, published in January, is an ode to Minnesota call makers and, by extension, the state’s rich waterfowling tradition.
On that score, Lodermeier’s book which is painstakingly researched and accompanied with more than 500 life-sized photos of calls old and new, is an unmitigated success.
But the book is much more than facts – and photos. It chronicles not only the history of Minnesota call makers, but also delves into their lives, flushing them out in vivid detail.
That’s due in large part to interviews he conducted with their friends and family members.
“It was a real pleasure doing the book,” Lodermeier said. “I met some wonderful people along the way. I’d do it all over again – from start to finish.”
But it’s the start of Lodermeier’s journey that makes his story so intriguing. For more than 30 years, he worked at Honeywell as a graphics designer before breaking off into his own graphics design business with a friend.
His three decades of experience in the design business would serve him well as his book came together, not only in theory but practice. Playing key roles in the book’s formation were is background as an outdoorsman and his appreciation of history. It also helped that his father collected obscure outdoor memorabilia, such as old fishing plugs.
In the other words, it was in the genes. “In the outdoors, I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,” he said. “But the idea that I love the outdoors definitely was a catalyst for me doing the book.”
Without an advance, Lodermeier would have to underwrite the costs out of his own pocket – about $30,000. “When you think about it, it sounds sort of crazy,” he said. “But I actually had things figured out right down to the penny. In the end, it worked out.”
That despite thousands of hours invested in the book without getting a wooden nickel for his labor. “I stopped counting the hours after about a thousand,” he said. “I’ll never get back what I put into it, but then again, I knew that going into the project, too. My motivation wasn’t to make money, but to chronicle something that I felt needed to be chronicled.”
He said he believes Minnesota has a waterfowling tradition that’s on par, or exceeds, Illinois, Arkansas and Louisiana – three states that are often cited for their storied duck and goose hunting traditions.
“Not only does Minnesota have a rich history of waterfowl hunting, but the same is true for the gadgets that Minnesotans have made over the years – and continue to make. Everything from duck and goose calls to wooden decoys.”
Lodermeier’s book documents scores of Minnesota duck and, to a lesser extent, goose calls. Their makers come from every part of the state, most of which, generally speaking, are in the Mankato area, he said. He said he traveled long and far to conduct research.
There’s a good slug of makers in Zimmerman and in the Detroit Lakes area, too,” he said. “What I’ve found is there’s a wide diversity of calls and a wide diversity of places where they were made.”
While every Minnesota call maker he found during his research is represented in the book, he willingly acknowledges that he may have missed a few. “I haven’t had a call yet, but I have little doubt that I will at some point,” he said. “It’s certainly possible that I missed a call maker or two.”
Lodermeier, who has a collection of 150 duck calls himself, says his first printing included 1,000 copies (100 of which he’ll give away for marketing and as gifts to conservation organizations); so far he’s sold about 250 books.
“I seriously doubt I’ll do another printing,” he said. “But I’m hoping to sell all the books, to at least recoup the cost of doing the book.”
In the end, the best aspect of Lodermeier’s book is that he put a face on Minnesota call makers and the works of art and unique gadgets they’ve engineered over the years.
“It’s truly a unique book in that it’s about unique people making a unique product,” Lodermeier said. “It was a pleasure to do it.”
Minnesota Duck Calls, $75, is available online at www.dougandpaul.com or by phoning Doug Lodermeier at (612) 922-9674.
Tori J. McCormick is freelance outdoor living in Red Wing. He can be reached at email@example.com