Hold one of Ralph Jensen’s duck calls and ponder history contained in a single object. Each sought-after call is hewn from storied wood: a thirteenth-century chapel door, the butt of an admiral’s shotgun, a family’s broken piano, or old-growth heart pine from the bottom of the Cape Fear River. 

Though at first he didn’t understand how a duck call worked, Jensen’s creative know-how in woodwork and his love of the past soon poured in. “I like to put history in my calls; there’s always some story in the wood,” he says.

Jensen’s calls are heirlooms; entire collections pass from generation to generation, with devoted collectors: “I even know some folks who’ve got it written in their wills that they want to be buried with their hunting dog and one of my calls.” 

An R.H. Jensen duck call is an intricate work of art, inlaid with care and precision. Why such elaboration for something inherently simple? “It’s a feeling people are looking for, when the tools they use are special. With a duck call, maybe it’s the feel a person gets when they’re holding it and call the duck in.” Jensen laughs, “And, well—if the duck goes the other way, it still feels good.” 

Photography by Paul Mehaffey. R.H. Jensen Game Calls, Wilmington, NC. (910) 231-6865, rhjensengamecalls.com