The sharp, rhythmic staccato sound of a turkey hen call filtered through the air at the Wilson County Fair Sunday afternoon. It usurped the regular chaos of the scene and had people wondering. The unlikely sound caught many fairgoers by surprise until they sought the source.
They found Lebanon resident Clarence Dies tucked at a booth next to a man who was selling locally made homemade soap, near the shiny green John Deere implements. That particular turkey call that had people curious was an “air operated call” Dies made from the wing bone of a turkey.
“It’s the oldest kind of call known to man,” he said. “It was used by Native Americans.”
If you shut your eyes to Dies blowing the call, it was a replica of a turkey hen’s lament.
This retired professional, and now full-time turkey call maker had a perpetual grin on his face, and it was apparent he loved his second calling. He now spends his free time crafting about 200 custom turkey calls each year. And, from what people say, they are on the money.
If you take a look at young Terryn Jenkins, you’d never know she is an avid turkey hunter. She lives in Lebanon and is a bow hunter. She discovered turkey hunting last year and bought one of Dies short box calls. She practiced with it, and it worked. She bagged her first turkey on her inaugural hunt.
“He makes the best calls we’ve found,” she said. “They come when they hear his calls. They are like nobody else’s.”
Across Dies makeshift table at the fair this weekend were his homemade turkey calls. Each was hand-made from lumber cut on his local farm. When used properly by the hunter, they feign the sound of a likable turkey hen, and mesmerize a gullible gobbler to the sound, much to the delight of a serious turkey hunter.
Dies has always been an avid turkey hunter. He started making calls in 1999.
“There are four subspecies of turkeys,” he explained. “If you bag each of them in Tennessee, it’s called a Grand Slam.”
He’s “grand slammed” three times with the use of his calls.
He’s also conquered the “World Slam” after bagging two turkeys in Mexico.
When asked if he was a fan of the mega hit Duck Dynasty – it’s a reality show about eccentric millionaire duck call makers – he laughed loudly and said he’s sorry to say he never watched the show.
People around here say he could easily make a “Turkey Dynasty” a hit. He’s the local celebrity turkey call maker.
Dies said there are two turkey hunting seasons; spring and fall.
He got his calling as a turkey call maker after he read famous Neil Cost’s book about the art.
“He was very famous and he told how to make turkey calls in his book,” said Dies.
He replicated and perfected the art of making turkey calls.
Dies uses wood from cedar, black walnut and cherry trees to make his famous calls used by hunters far and wide.
“Turkey hunting in our area here is as good as the surrounding counties and even the world,” he said.
Back in the day it was hard to find a wild turkey in any parts, but after the “turkey restoration” in the 1950s things have changed.
“They have flourished,” said Dies.
He makes and sells six different turkey call models. Each has a slightly different sound when used with perfected friction and rhythm.
“The box call is the easiest to learn,” he said. “It’s very successful when the operator learns to mimic the turkey hen call.”
Local manager of Tractor Supply Company Jimmy Sloan takes wounded soldier warriors turkey hunting and uses Dies’ custom calls. He also takes avid hunters.
“The last 12 hunters I took we used his calls and each of them got a bird,” said Sloan. “I called the birds in with one of his box calls.”
The soldiers also were successful.
Dies has won numerous awards for his duck calls. Those mean little to him when he compares it to something else. For every wounded warrior Sloan takes out to hunt, Dies custom makes and personalizes a duck call for the eventful day.
“It doesn’t begin to thank them for the service they have given,” he said. “Just such a small token.”
As far as vying for the famed spotlight on national television with his turkey call making abilities, Dies can’t stop laughing.
He just pulls out a turkey call, starts to rub the wood and entertains a young fairgoer who was drawn to the sound.