When Scott Simmons received a wooden duck call in college, he was instantly intrigued by the possibility of making one.
"I recognized then that those little duck calls were a folk art piece that could be handed down from generation to generation," said Simmons, of Kirksey, Kentucky. "When I realized I could escape the busyness of everyday life and become engaged into the world of wildlife through the use of game calls, I knew then that I had found a passion."
Hunters, woodworkers and wildlife enthusiasts have been carving and decorating duck calls for generations. The small woodwind instruments, made of wood or acrylic, are designed to mimic the quacks of ducks.
Interest in making and collecting duck calls has grown with the popularity of the A&E television show "Duck Dynasty," said Simmons, who belongs to a national association of collectors. The show follows the Robertson family, owners of Duck Commander, a company that makes duck calls and other duck-hunting merchandise in West Monroe, La. The show has been renewed for a sixth season.
"It's unbelievable the amount of interest that show has stimulated in calls," said Simmons.
A growing recognition among art collectors about the value of antique duck calls also has made more people aware of the hobby, said Howard Harlan of Nashville, Tennessee, a founding member of The Callmakers and Collectors Association of America.
"A lot of collectors are not duck call collectors. They are folk art collectors," he said.
Many duck calls are decorated with elaborate patterns, birds or nature scenes.
Two years ago, a collector paid $103,500 at auction for a duck call that depicts a rattlesnake, alligator, hound, duck and pheasant. Carver J.T. Beckhart is believed to have made the call around 1890.
Harlan, who taught himself to make duck calls in 1960, has been a collector for years and estimates he has about 5,000 calls.