Heart of Louisiana: Duck Calls

A Rapides Parish man clings to the traditions of his French ancestors for making duck calls and the other necessities of duck hunting.
Published: Jul. 2, 2023 at 9:45 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Rapides Parish man clings to the traditions of his French ancestors for making duck calls and the other necessities of duck hunting.

When it comes to duck hunting, the decoys, the duck calls, and even the wooden dugout boat, Dale Bordelon is old-fashioned, really old-fashioned.

“I wanted to do everything like my ancestors, the old French people. When I go hunting, I’m 100% efficient. I made everything,” Dale Bordelon.

He doesn’t use power tools. Bordelon has old hand tools, the kind that would’ve been used in the 17 hundreds.

“This is what they call a foot adze. You stand in a boat like that and dig,” Bordelon said.

He collects driftwood and carves pieces of cypress root into duck decoys.

“Look how pretty this is. You want something big like a 12 gauge shell to make a duck call,” said Bordelon.

And there are trips into the lowland woods near his home in Deville in Central, La. That’s where he finds river cane.

“We got a good supply here,” Bordelon said.

Bordelon uses the river cane to make the barrels for duck calls.

“This is filed down and I watch how I put it in here,” Bordelon said.

He uses cedar for the soundboard.

“This came from the Mississippi River. I went over there and walked the banks, but I picked the heavy ones because it makes a better duck call. I just cut pieces off,” Bordelon said.

And he carefully carves the cedar strips.

“And I’m going to cut it to the contour of that jig,” Bordelon added.

Rounding one side and flattening the other. Doing it the old way, like in the 18 hundreds. Does it make a better call? Does it make a call that the ducks like more or is it just this tradition that you wanna do?

“It’s mostly tradition but making it by hand I can tweak that soundboard to get different sounds. I think you can get a little bit more out of it the way I’m doing it,” Bordelon said.

Bordelon says he fine tuned his duck calls with the help of a few pet mallards,

“But they would come in the shop and help me make calls. I’d blow and then they would blow,” said Bordelon.

You ever figure out what you were telling them, or what they were telling you?

“No, but we called each other so there must be something they like to hear,” Bordelon said.

Bordelon has turned his passion into a business. He says he has a two-year waiting list for his bayou beast. Duck calls. Bordelon son. Hunter now helps in the shop. Is daddy always looking over your shoulder saying not do this, do that.

“He’ll check them out. Let me know if they’re wrong,” Hunter Bordelon said.

“They’re going all over the world so I have to make sure they good quality,” Dale.

The duck calls sound very good when you know how to blow it. Something I had never done before.

“So your first note’s gonna be the longest and they get shorter after each one. Okay. All right, go ahead like this for never blowing a call. You did pretty good,” Dale said.

For Dale Bordelon these duck calls their sound and the old fashioned way of making them is an important French and family tradition.

“Right here. That’s some good pieces,” Dale said.

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