Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 3, 2013

MARTINO: Passion for turkeys leads to unique invention

Gobbler Gauge is made by Kokomo's Graphics Lab


Kokomo Tribune

---- — Kokomo’s Robert and Matt Davis grew up racing dirt bikes. It was through this sporting activity the brothers became acquainted with Roger Willett of Covington. While on the track, they were fierce competitors, yet after each passing year they became the best of friends, a bond that forged stronger into their adult lives.

As with most extreme sporting activities, age has a way of diminishing active participation. Stamina seems to wane, injuries take longer to heal and gravity does us no favors. But the Davises always wanted to be involved in the sport they loved. The brothers formed a duel enterprise still centered on racing. They are the owners of “Graphics Lab” and sister business, “Throttle Jockey.” They produce various graphics for all types of racing equipment, as well as anything else requiring durable decals.

Willett, on the other hand, always has enjoyed hunting and with his racing career behind him, became entrenched in taking to the woods and fields.

“Although I enjoy hunting everything, I am really passionate about turkey hunting,” he explained.

Through the years, Willett has taken a good number of birds. Indiana requires every hunter who collects a wild turkey to forward recorded measurements to the Department of Natural Resources. These measurements include weight, length of spurs and beard length.

“Every time I took a bird to a state-approved check-in station, they always had a different way to measure the spurs,” Willett explained. That’s when he started thinking of a better alternative.

They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and Willett’s mind was continually picturing a measuring device aimed strictly at our largest game birds. After several months of drawing various designs and constructing prototypes, he settled on a specific design and the Gobbler Gauge was born.

With his concept finalized, he approached a manufacturing company in Noblesville about the possibility of producing the device that will accurately measure beard and spurs which are often times curved.

“They were very interested and agreed to build them,” he said. “But then I found out they were going to have a company overseas produce a portion of it.”

Willett could not accept that, he was determined to have it constructed entirely in the United States. That’s when he contacted his friends Matt and Robert Davis.

Through their discussions they soon found that Lorentson’s Manufacturing could make the plastic injection mold to construct the body. The Davis brothers, through their business, Graphics Lab, agreed to construct the tape measure housed inside the body, which looks like a shotgun shell on steroids.

Graphics Lab also produces the sticker that goes on the outside.

“We knew it had to be durable so the tape measure is made out of flexible, die-cut vinyl rather than cloth or ribbon,” Matt explained.

As far as the sticker goes, after making decals that can stand up to the grinding demands of motocross racing, that was not a problem.

“Roger could have used an entirely different design,” explained Matt. “But making it look like a shotgun shell adds to the cool factor,” he added with a smirk.

The unique design works out perfect to measure a bird’s spurs in a consistent manner. All you do is push the spur into what would be the top of the shotgun shell. The bottom portion automatically slides out revealing length in inches as well as millimeters.

Response to the unique measuring tool has been overwhelming.

“It was actually my wife, Shannon, who came up with the name Gobbler Gauge,” said Willett.

At the insistence of others, the Willetts took their invention to several outdoor shows.

“Turkey hunters fell in love with it,” Roger explained.

They have been asked to display their creation at the upcoming National Wild Turkey Federation annual convention, the Holy Grail for turkey hunters. Bass Pro Shop, one of the nation’s largest hunting and fishing retail outlets, also has contacted the Covington couple about selling their new product which will be displayed coast to coast.

“We even make the Gobbler Gauge in pink for the ladies and to promote breast cancer awareness,” Shannon added proudly.

For the Willetts and Davis brothers, working together has added benefits.

“There is a problem in today’s society with poor business ethics,” said Matt. “There is a huge trust factor between us because of our lifelong friendship.”

“I am thoroughly pleased with our business relationship, too,” Roger added. “I honestly feel there are no companies in the world that can produce it any better than those right here in Kokomo.”

“Every turkey hunter should have one in their vest,” said Shannon. “With Christmas coming up they would make the perfect stocking stuffer.”

They can be ordered for $14.99 online at Gobblergauge.com or by calling the Willetts directly at 765-323-8174.

So if you happen to be shopping and see the Gobbler Gauge in retail outlets, take pride in knowing these handy tools are made right here in Kokomo.

CLINIC TALK

Rich Roberson, a Kokomo resident and a longtime boat captain for the Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic, was recently interviewed by global radio host Roosevelt Woods, commonly known as the “Maytrix.” In the interview Roberson details Kokomo’s unique, nationally recognized youth program as well as his involvement. He also covers the wide range of community support surrounding the Kids Clinic and the benefit it has on children as well as the many volunteers.

The program will be aired worldwide between 2-5 p.m. Saturday. The interview can be accessed online at www.radionext/tv.

DEER HUNTING RESULTS

Many have waited for it all year and we circled it on our calendars. The time when big bucks drop their guard a bit, allowing us to drop the string or hammer on a true wallhanger. That magical time associated with the deer breeding cycle, called “rut” has begun.

Over the past week, several area bowhunters have scored on great Indiana whitetails. Take Gary Chambers for example. He connected on a 14-point buck sporting a field dressed weight of 235 pounds. That’s a great deer in anyone’s book. And through the upcoming weeks, there will be others who tip over bucks earning a special place on their wall.

Here are the names of other local hunters who have taken deer with archery equipment. This list, which includes field dressed weights, was provided through our local check-in stations which are Bryant’s Outdoor Store and Simpson’s Deer Processing.

Taking any deer, regardless of size, with archery equipment, is a sizeable outdoor accomplishment worthy of recognition. If you have been fortunate in encountering success this season, but checked-in your deer at another location or through new on-line services, please feel free to contact me for inclusion in my weekly hunting results.

Josh Trine — 110-pound doe; Phil Hatcher — 150-pound, seven-point buck; Matt McDonald — 180-pound, 10-point buck; Jason White — 110-pound doe; Bryan Klingenpeel — 175-pound, eight-point buck; Austin Peters — 195-pound, 10-point buck; Darrell Drake — 140-pound, eight-point buck; Max Elmore — 100-pound doe; Mike Esslinger — 173-pound, 15-point buck; Justin Fenley —110-pound doe; Kyle Miller — 130-pound, seven-point buck; Deavon Bolton — 160-pound, five-point buck; Kent Glassburn — 193-pound, nine-point buck; Charles Nunnally — 100-pound button buck; Steven Nunnally — 100-pound doe; James Frye Jr. — 200-pound, 10-point buck.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.