When David Halloran takes a trip to the lumber yard, the employees there think he’s crazy. Whether he’s looking at a domestic wood like maple or something exotic like purpleheart, David lifts, prods and examines each and every rough-cut piece, analyzing things like density and grain. He’s looking for the little things, the tiny details that other people just can’t see.
“There’s all the different woods, and that’s a big part of what makes it interesting to me,” he says. “I can get them all to sound like a turkey, but each one will sound like a different turkey. You can mix and match paddles on a box call and get a higher pitch or lower pitch or clearer tone or raspier tone.”
Most turkey hunters probably think of their calls simply as tools, albeit essential ones. But to David, turkey calls—and the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into them—are about his obsession with turkeys, and about furthering his connection with these birds he’s loved and chased since boyhood.
David’s put the intricate details at the front and center of his call-making since he first started hand-crafting turkey calls at the age of 12. He made and sold calls all through high school and college, blending his passions of woodworking and turkey hunting into the career—and life—he’s crafted for himself.
In addition to building calls, David’s followed in his father’s footsteps as a custom home builder. He built his first calls with the same tools his father used to build custom cabinetry. The greatest compliment he’s ever received on a call came from a fellow home builder who’d ordered a box call.
“He told me it was like a fine piece of furniture that he could take into the woods,” David says. “I always like hearing that, when people appreciate the craftsmanship and attention to detail in addition to the turkey hunting aspect of it.”
David’s built his life around turkey hunting and crafting calls—it’s what’s fueled him since his boyhood when a neighbor began bringing him sacks full of old issues of Turkey Call Magazine and then taking him out for time in the woods.
That Christmas, all David wanted was turkey calls. When he got those first calls, even at age 11, he analyzed how they were built. Already familiar with the tool’s in his dad’s shop, he knew that with practice he could craft calls by hand that would be both more beautiful and more effective than the mass-produced store-bought ones he’d gotten for Christmas.
The pursuit of turkeys led him to his wife, Ashley, whom he met at a National Wild Turkey Federation event. And it led him to build their house in New York state in a spot where they could watch turkeys out the back window.
“There’s just something about turkeys,” he says. “I could be having the worst day in the world driving down the road, and I could see a flock of turkeys and just completely forget about everything. You’re in that moment just watching.”
Though David loves just about anything to do with turkeys, his real passion is actively pursuing them in their own habitat.
“Every time I go into the woods, I learn something different about turkeys,” he says. “I’m always trying, more or less, to make it his idea to come to me. It’s a chess match and that’s what makes it fun for me.”
David likens selecting just which calls and gear will fill his vest to selecting the right lumber and using all the tools at his disposal to creating the perfect final product. On any given call, he might use everything from planers and joiners to the drill press and table saw. Though his wife and parents help out in the shop on occasion, David is intimately involved with the creation of each and every call.
“I’m very hands-on,” he says. “It’s a blessing and a curse. It’d be great to have somebody help me more—take some pressure off—but I can’t help it. I’ve got to have my hands all over them to make sure they’re the best thing they can possibly be.”
There are two things David loves most about crafting calls, and they both come after a call is finished. The first is being able to step back and see what he’s built, and the second is getting the photos people send when a call has led to a harvested bird. With every turkey call he crafts, David says, he feels like in some way he gets to go hunting with that call’s eventual owner.