Mike Pentecost, owner of Woodhaven Custom Calls in Heflin, has owned his business since 1992. But after a hunting show he filmed called Woodhaven Pure Turkey was picked up by the Pursuit Channel on Direct TV and Dish Network, he’s expecting the company to double or triple in size to keep up with demand for his calls.
The company currently sells in about 100 stores, Pentecost said. But after the hunting show started airing in January, Pentecost picked up Hudalla Associates, hunting goods marketing company based in Minnesota, to promote his products. Pentecost expects to be selling his turkey calls in about 500 stores this year.
“That’s what we’re ramping up for,” Pentecost said.
The homegrown business
Pentecost currently employs four people and supplements with high school shop students during his busy season, he said. The potential increase in business will mean more employees possibly doubling his workforce to eight or even twelve, Pentecost said.
Woodhaven sells 16 kinds of friction calls, which use glass or slate set in a wood case and a wooden pointer to imitate the turkey’s call, 40 different mouth calls, which are operated similarly to a whistle but are held entirely inside the mouth, along with two box calls that use a wooden box and stick to create the turkey call. Pentecost said the company sells about 50,000 mouth calls and 5,000 of the others each year. But it didn’t start out that way.
Pentecost developed the calls by trial and error.
“I feel like I’ve earned my PhD in woods,” Pentecost said. “Nature has been my classroom.”
It was a hobby at first. He started experimenting with making turkey calls around 1986, Pentecost said. He worked for another game call manufacturer in Talladega called Southland Custom Game Calls for a few years in the late 1980s. Then, in 1992, he turned his hobby into his own sideline business, Pentecost said.
“I started out in my grandmama’s basement and my daddy’s basement,” Pentecost said. “I built calls and signed them with a sharpie.”
He started taking calls to area dealers. They weren’t packaged just laid out on the counters. In 1996, he created packaging and then he developed a following. In 1999, he went into his business full-time.
Josh Fleming, public relations manager for the National Wild Turkey Federation, said Woodhaven is well respected in the industry and has won numerous awards for its calls.
Now, Lemuel Riddle, who works at Woodhaven on and off, pointed out the different types of calls, packaged and placed in open boxes with labels stating the type of call. The boxes are lined up on metal shelves in the company warehouse near a table where orders are packaged. All the calls produce different sounds, Riddle said, and customers often swear by their favorite.
Turkey calls are integral to the sport, Fleming said.
“Modern turkey hunting as we know it wouldn’t exist without turkey calls,” Fleming said.
The calls have been used for centuries. The federation’s museum, the Winchester Museum in Edgefield, S.C., has an exhibit of a Native American” wing-bone turkey call” that was used before European contact, Fleming said.
The turkeys are” great survivors,” he said. They’ve learned how to avoid hunters. The calls help lure the turkeys to the hunter because it’s nearly impossible to sneak up on them, Fleming said.
In the wild, male turkeys will announce their presence and the females will come to them. During the mating season, they try to collect a harem of females, Fleming said. The calls turn the natural order around and make the male turkey think a hen is calling to them. A hunter with a call tries to make the male turkey curious enough, or so frustrated that the hen won’t come to him, that he’ll come looking for the hen, Fleming said.
Most turkey hunters head out to the hunt with a number of turkey calls to be able to imitate the many different sounds that a hen may make, Fleming said.
The hunting show
The hunting show, Woodhaven Pure Turkey, was a separate venture that Pentecost had been thinking about for a few years. He could never find the time or the right story for the show, he said. Then, after he killed his 439th turkey during the 2011 turkey season, Pentecost found the angle he liked, he said. The series focused on Pentecost’s attempt to reach his personal goal of killing his 450th turkey by his 50th birthday.
He filmed 11 episodes that began airing in January, Pentecost said. Pentecost, now 51, reached his goal in 2012 and the shows were a hit.
The Pursuit Channel requested another season.
But the show is expensive to produce. Pentecost sunk in about $120,000 for the first season, he said. This season, he is hoping to entice sponsors to invest money in the show.
He’s even approached the Cleburne County Commission about becoming a sponsor.
Besides his hunting successes, the show also highlights his hometown, Heflin, and its surrounding areas, Pentecost said.
“I really, really like the fact that we can expose the good of our community on that TV show,” Pentecost said.
He thinks that could be a boon to the area, Pentecost said.
Pentecost approached the commissioners in January and again in June about sponsoring his show. But the issue hasn’t been gone past the discussion stage. Ryan Robertson, Cleburne County probate judge, who serves as chairman of the commission, said he thinks that’s because the commissioners have had other things on their minds right now.
“No commissioners have asked for it to be on the agenda,” Robertson said.
Robertson said the show could bring some benefits to the community. For instance, Duck Dynasty, filmed West Monroe, La., probably brings tourism to their town, he said. But spending tax dollars for the exposure would be kind of a gamble, Robertson said.
“I have great respect for Mr. Pentecost,” Robertson said. “I think it’s just unchartered territory for our county.”
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.