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Oakwood brothers produce turkey calls

POSTED: August 10, 2010 12:35 a.m.

A quality product

Watch Tommy Roberts of Roberts Brothers Turkey Calls explain and demonstrate the turkey calls his Oakwood company makes.


Tommy Roberts holds a wood blank that will produce seven Roberts Brothers Turkey Calls at the company's shop in Oakwood.

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As third-generation cabinet makers, Kenneth, Jerry and Tommy Roberts say they know what it means to deliver a quality product.

So when they were forced to purchase new turkey calls year after year, they knew something wasn’t right.

“I always said that if we build something, we build it to last,” said youngest brother Tommy Roberts of Roberts Brothers Custom Cabinets in Oakwood.

A fateful trip to a hunting expo where a turkey call maker informed two of the Roberts brothers that it would be the same amount to repair a call as it was to buy a new one, led the brothers to a new business venture.

“I told my brother Jerry to find the best caller that he could (at the expo) and buy it. And I did the same,” Tommy Roberts said. “On the way home, I started taking them apart — trying to figure out how (they) worked.”

The turkey call noise is made by rubbing a striker against the calls’ glass or slate surface.

“Three hours later, we had two prototypes,” Roberts said. “We tried them and they sounded horrible.”

The brothers didn’t give up, though. The next morning they gave the prototypes another try — after the glue had dried.
“They sounded great,” Roberts said.

At first, the brothers just made the calls for close family friends — that was in 1998 — but one such customer convinced the brothers to try their hand at selling their wares at a three-day expo in Perry.

“We made 100 calls to take to the show — we didn’t know what to expect,” Roberts said.

“We got there and sales just took off. After a while, (one of the guys with us) said, ‘Our booth is paid for.’ Then it was, ‘Hey, our hotel room is paid for.’”

By the final day of the expo, the brothers were down to a single turkey call and a sign-up sheet for additional orders. Roberts Brothers Turkey Calls was born.

After some trial and error, the brothers settled on three versions of the calls — a composite wood, an aromatic cedar and a chestnut model. The brothers also have developed four different strikers.

For novice users, the brothers even put together an instructional DVD.

“We put gracious plenty thought into every detail — even the color. Most wooden strikers can’t be used when they are wet, but our all-weather striker works,” oldest brother Kenneth Roberts said. “And the sound doesn’t change — wet or dry. We tested 20 different versions before we got it right.”

In 2006, the call was selected as a Best of the Test by Field and Stream magazine. That same year, Justin Savage of Gainesville won the National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National Friction Calling Contest using one of the Roberts Brothers’ calls.

“Sales for our callers are pretty good — but the cabinet business is what lets us play around with the turkey callers,” Kenneth Roberts said.

With turkey hunting season running from March to May, the brothers stay busy in their Oakwood workshop from July to December crafting the calls.

“We do everything here,” Tommy Roberts said. “The raw materials come in and we ship the finished products out to customers.”

They’ll even customize the label on the call.

The brothers have gone from producing just a handful of turkey calls, to producing about 15,000 annually. They’re sold in local outdoors stores and even larger chains like Bass Pro Shop. They’ve even been used by the likes of Gov. Sonny Perdue and the late Dale Earnhardt, Tommy Roberts said.

“Our callers have become famous for hunters being able to hang on to them year after year,” he said. “When we started, we never thought it would get this big. We went from making a couple in the workshop to having a bar code and registered trademark.”


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