February 2006
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'COME HEAH TUH ME’ TURKEY CALLS

 
  Donny Richards is the envy of most turkey hunters. He is the proud owner of a leather hat with a band of turkey spurs. Richards has more than 300 long beards to his credit.
are the Sweetest Sounds

by Jaine Treadwell

The twinkle in Donny Richards’ eyes and his deep, throaty chuckle are hints that he just might be pulling your leg.

But he’s not.  He is dead serious about the story he tells. And this is what he says.

In a search of the family graveyard where his ancestors, who helped settle the area around Lumpkin, Ga. were buried, Richards made an amazing discovery.

Growing out of the grave of his great-great-great-grandfather, Henry Spivey, was a cedar tree so towering that it seemed to reach forever into the sky.

The tree had fallen victim to a sharp peel of lightning so Richards brought the tree down.

“I thought that the tree would be dead, but it wasn’t,” he said. “It had been standing there ‘curing’ so to speak. I have never seen cedar as red as that, nor have I seen cedar with other colors so vivid. It was just amazing.”

Richards hauled the big cedar back to his corncrib workshop on Tennille Road near Brundidge and gave new life and purpose to the old wood.

Who would have ever thought that 160 years after my great-great-grandfather died (1843) that I would be making turkey calls from a tree that literally grew out of his chest,” Richards said. “Who would have ever thought?”

So, the cedar is the secret of Richards sweet-sounding turkey calls?

 
Donny Richards is the designer and creator of the “Come Heah Tuh Me” Turkey Calls. Outstanding woodworking skills are necessary to make turkey calls that are as sweet sounding as a real turkey and ones that will call a gobbler to the gun.  
“It’s the wood,” Richards said with a smile.

“The cedar?”

“The wood.”

Richards is “not about to tell” the secret

of his turkey calls that are so popular that they have been sold in every state in the continental United States. Turkey calls that called the biggest turkey in Wisconsin just last year. Turkey calls that sound “just like a turkey.”

“When a hunter tells me that my turkey calls sound just like a turkey, that’s the best compliment that I can get,” Richards said. “I was born in the swamp around here and I’ve been hunting just about all my life. When I was six years old, my daddy gave me a .22 and told me to go to the woods and I’ve been there ever since.”

 
  Donny Richards has many trophy turkeys but this big gobbler has “braggin’ spurs.”
Richards began serious turkey hunting when he was about 14 years old and he fell in love with the sweet sound of the turkey’s call. Over the years, he tried one turkey call after another trying to find a call that closely imitated the turkey’s call.

“What I found was that most turkey calls didn’t sound enough like a turkey to even half way fool one and surely wouldn’t call one to the gun,” he said. “They would call a turkey just so far. Then it would get cautious, get hung up and wouldn’t come on in.” With 40 years of experience and more than 300 long beards to his credit, Richards knew that it would take a special turkey call to make a gobbler come to the gun even if he didn’t want to.

But, it took the Good Lord and maybe a cedar growing out of his grandpa’s grave to help him “purely” imitate that sweet sound.

“I was nothing but an old pot-bellied carpenter,” Richards said, laughing.  ”I asked the Lord to give me the wisdom to make a turkey call that sounded just like a turkey and He did. These turkey calls are not my work. It’s a gift from God. I give Him the full credit.”

 
Skilled hands carve the wood to just the right thickness for a Nutcracker, one of Donny Richards most popular turkey calls.  One slip of the knife can mean an inferior turkey call. If that happens, Richards smashes the call. He will not put his mark on an inferior call.
 
What began as a hobby is now a commercial venture. Richards has been making turkey calls commercially for about three years and is in the process of making 1,000 turkey calls for the Grand Champion Turkey Call Competition in Nashville in February.

“Oh, no, I won’t be calling in the competition, but two of my calls will be entered in the Best-of-the-Best,” he said. “When I hear the yelping and clucking of my calls, I’ll know them. The sounds are just different from the others.”

Richards turkey calls are made from different woods: black walnut, northern ash, cedar and that special wood that he’s not about to identify.

His calls have names such as Nutcracker, Weeping Widow and Delilah, and they all have different sounds.

Richards clucked the Nutcracker and yelped the Weeping Widow. “Ain’t those sounds sweet,” he said, with a big smile. “All of my turkey calls have the sweetest sounds. I will not sell a mediocre call. If it doesn’t meet my standards, it gets crushed. "Richards knows what it takes to bring a gobbler to the gun.

 
  Donny Richards has an eye and an ear for a turkey’s yelping and clucking. His calls have been sold in 48 states and are said to sound  ”just like a turkey.”
“They’ll almost come and sit in your lap if you know what you’re doing,” he said. “I love to talk to hunters and I want them to understand that it’s not just the call, it’s the way you set up for the call.

“I had a man call me from Wisconsin to ask what he needed to do to get the turkey to the gun. I told him and the next day he called me back and said, ‘I got him.’ That’s what I really enjoy – seeing hunters be successful.”

Richards has found great success with his turkey calls that are painstakingly hand- and custom-made and branded at his “Come Heah Tuh Me” rural South Alabama shop. “Every turkey call is handmade so I don’t want to cheapen them with a stamp, so I used a woodburning tool to put my trademark on them,” Richards said. “A lot of people want their turkey calls personalized and I do that, too.”

And, it’s that personalization that is setting “Come Heah Tuh Me” turkey calls even farther ahead of the field.

 
Different turkey calls make different sounds, but all are just as sweet.
 
“I’ve moved from calling turkeys to calling people,” Richards said. “People are attracted to the sound of a specific turkey call. Sometimes someone will ask me to pick out a call for them but most of the time they listen until they find the sound that is sweetest to them. Yep. Now I’m calling people.”

And, the sweet sound is from the cedar?

“The wood,” Richards said, with a twinkle in his eye. “What wood, I’m not about to say.”

He laughs, tightens his lips and that’s enough said. That’s enough talking turkey.

For information on “Come Heah Tuh Me” Turkey Calls, custom made by Donny Richards, contact him at 3095 Country Road 4421, Brundidge, AL 36010, (334)735-2452.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.