The Game Call Carver
Neatly shelved in the studio of Kent S. Freeman lie rectangular blocks of cedar, walnut, Osage orange and mahogany. From these blocks of wood will rise the yelps of wild turkeys and the flock talk of waterfowl.
Freeman makes game calls. But there is more to his calls than proper tone and pitch. Freeman is one of a handful of skilled wood carvers who transform game calls into world-class art. In his hands the barrel of a goose call becomes a goose head; the sides of a turkey box call become turkey feathers.
Like many wildlife artists, Freeman's interest in wildlife has ties to hunting. Born in Kennett, Freeman lived within minutes of some of the finest waterfowl hunting offered by the Mississippi flyway. Some of his earliest memories are of duck hunting with his father.
"I was six when Dad started taking me duck hunting," he recalls. "Dad would carry me to the duck blind on his back. I will never forget the sights and sounds of those hunts-Dad calling, ducks circling. Those hunts influenced what I do today for a living."
Freeman's father died young, but his efforts sparked in his son a lifelong interest in the outdoors and hunting. A Scoutmaster, the late Don Wheatley, also encouraged in Freeman his love for nature. An eighth-grade math teacher, Alan Bradley Jr., helped him make his first duck call. Under Bradley's instruction, Freeman found he had a natural knack for working with wood.
By age 16 Freeman had developed into a skilled call maker and an obsessed waterfowl hunter. To help finance his love of waterfowl hunting, he sold his handmade duck and goose calls to local hardware stores.
In college, in addition to taking up turkey hunting and making turkey calls, Freeman married and earned a degree in zoology. Graduate work in wildlife management followed, but the poor job outlook and the demands of supporting a family convinced him to take a job as a manager in a trucking company.
"It paid the bills, but I didn't like the work," he states flatly. "The job was stressful, and the long hours cut into my hunting."
To help relax and keep himself close to what he really enjoyed, Freeman began custom carving duck, goose and turkey calls in the evenings. He also began carving decoys. His skills developed quickly, as did a market for his work, and within a year he was selling his carvings as fast as