Man out of Time

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

Ralph Duren has only one problem in a life filled with fun.

He was born 100 years too late.

Duren should have been crossing the far ridge with Jed Smith and John Colter. He should have been in Yellowstone with old Jim Bridger, carrying the tales back to civilization.

Though all the mountains have been crossed and the rivers run, Ralph Duren is carrying on the tales and the tradition of the mountain men.

Ralph Duren is a public relations specialist with the Conservation Department. He has been an animal damage control agent, an outdoor skills specialist and now his job is to share his outdoors with those who don't know it and to help them fine tune their perceptions.

Simply, Duren is the voice of the outdoors. He can recreate for an audience a morning in the woods, with all its sounds. His voice becomes a distant crow, a barred owl, the first birds of morning, then a waking gobbler.

So realistic is the gobbler that old ridge-running turkey hunters simply shake their head in disbelief.

"I gave my first turkey calling demonstration when I was in the third grade," Duren says. "I had to get up in class and do it, using just my voice. By then, I'd had a lot of hours of turkey hunting seminars just listening to my dad teach other people.

"Box calls squeaked when I didn't want them to and they'd get wet and wouldn't work. We had a mean old tame gobbler and I'd imitate the hens with my voice and make him gobble. It worked with the wild ones too."

Not surprisingly, the Lead Belt refugee from Crystal City has picked up a bounty of turkey calling awards, including the national gobbling championship. If you think that's a dubious honor, you try it sometime. Stand in front of a huge audience and all your turkey calling peers and imitate a wild turkey gobbler, using just your throat.

No problem. Duren has been voicing the wild to Missourians for years. He can grunt like an antelope and whistle like a bull elk. From chickadee to cardinal, Duren's calls are indistinguishable from the real thing. The national convention of Quail Unlimited recently named him first in their world quail calling contest.

Duren travels the state, giving programs to groups as diverse as wide-eyed kindergartners and wizened senior citizens. His patient good humor and showmanship

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