Super Yelper Turkey Calls: Specializing in hand-crafted wooden friction calls since 1979.

Let's Talk Turkey
Richard Shively Takes His Calling Seriously

By Linda McCarty
The Winchester Star

Richard Shively can't begin to guess the number of turkey calls he's made in the past 25 years. Probably tens of thousands, Shively said, as he demonstrated some of the 27 steps it takes to make a call in his shop on Marlboro Road, west of Stephens City.

Shively, 61, entered one of those thousands of turkey calls in the National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National Hunting Turkey Call contest in February, winning the 2004 Grand National Champion Call Maker award in the Scratch Box category. Shively and 470 other makers of turkey, duck, and goose calls entered the contest at the NWTF's annual convention held in Columbus, Ohio.

It made me feel great to win, since this is my business's 25th anniversary year, said Shively, who owns Super Yelper Turkey Calls and has been a turkey hunter for 50 years.

Shively began making scratch-box calls after he saw one he liked on a hunting trip to Alabama in 1976. He didn't buy the caller, though, because its $15 price was more than his budget would allow. But I knew that was the one I wanted to use, Shively said. So I came home and made one. I've been offered $600 for that one, but it's not for sale.

Turkey calls, which come in several different styles, make the sound of a turkey and are used to lure the birds to the caller, be it a hunter or someone who likes to watch or photograph turkeys. The scratch-box caller produces its sound by rubbing a piece of wood, called a striker, across the lip of a hollow box that fits in the palm of a hand.

I can teach people to talk turkey, said Shively, who founded the Virginia Wild Turkey Federation in 1975.

As soon as other hunters saw Shively's turkey caller, they wanted one too.

I started making the calls by hand, using no power tools in 1979, and could make about five a week, said Shively, who sold those first calls for $5 each. Four months after he began making calls, Shively had saved enough money to buy some power tools. Then, I was really in business, he said. During the turkey season from February to May in 1980, I was selling 1,000 calls a month, and I tested each one we made. I still do that.

Gary Strosnider, who lives near Star Tannery, said he's been using Shively's calls for years. His are the only calls I use, Strosnider said. I wouldn't trade them for any other.

To keep up with the demand, Shively hired several part-time workers and shipped parts to his parents in North Carolina to glue. My mother has died, but my 88-year-old father, Nolan, still does my gluing. During that time, Shively also worked full time at AT&T, though he has since retired. I'd get home at 5:30 at night and work in the shop from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on weekends, I lived out here.

Although Shively started cutting back in 1985, he still makes more than 1,000 calls a year with the help of one part-time worker who does the finish work and hand rubbing. (Shively) is very particular and is strict on quality control, said 80-year-old Ulysses Veach, who has worked for Shively for about eight years.

Shively also has expanded his selection to two different designs a $20 laser engraved caller with turkeys on it and the original, which has the business name stamped on the caller and costs $15.

The Super Yelper is available in three different woods cherry, cedar, and walnut. Different woods, have different sounds, Shively said. I can look at a piece of wood while I'm making a call and tell what it will sound like.

Strosnider said he likes the sound made by walnut. It has a little courser sound, Strosnider said, if you want an older hen to come in.

Shively, who was inducted into the Virginia Wild Turkey Conservationist Hall of Fame in 1999, has made four limited edition sets that come in carved, hand-painted boxes.

I've got a few left of my 2004 limited editions commemorating my 25th anniversary, Shively said. After those are gone, I won't make anymore limited editions.

Shively's proud of his turkey calls, which have brought as much as $700 at NWTF fund-raising auctions. But his turkey call-making days are winding down.

I plan to make them a couple of more years, he said, and then that's it, because I'd like to go places and do things with my wife, now that I'm retired.