What is a cut down duck call, and how did all the fuss get started?
The history of duck hunting and duck calling is a rich one that goes back many years. Many legendary figures have emerged throughout the history of duck hunting, and a number of favorite hunting locations have emerged as the most prominent places for both ducks and duck hunters to congregate. For nearly every legendary figure and for nearly every infamous hunting spot the methods, gear, and setup the local hunters employ varies and has developed over time. Hunters in Arkansas that shoot rice fields and flooded green timber do they things a little differently than the open water hunters of Reelfoot Lake in North West Tennessee. Likewise the dry ground hunters of Southern Canada and the Central Plains states of North and South Dakota hunt a little differently than the guys who combat the fierce Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri rivers in pursuit of mallard limits. Despite all of the differences in geography, tactics, gear, and conditions one thing remains constant: Duck hunters want to kill ducks. Anyone can watch ducks from a half a mile away and photograph their beauty, but only a select few folks posses the desire and the ability to convince a wild duck to land in their spread of decoys.
The history of the Black Stick of Death begins here, with the pursuit of all duck hunters to gain that coveted advantage over nature and other hunters. In a world where duck hunters long for the advantage, the secret, the mystery that unlocks nature's hidden code and makes shooting a limit of mallards consistent, duck hunters are always at work. Many have said that the only consistent thing about duck hunting is that it’s not consistent. It often seems that the ducks want to do something a little different each day and from season to season. Some years there's not enough water, other years there is too much. Some years there is no food for the ducks and other years there’s far too much food. The bottom line is that successful duck hunters have to learn the art of adapting to the harsh conditions and wide variances of weather and geography as they pursuit of their prey each winter.
In the late 1800's in Pekin, IL Phillip Sanford Olt began using a converted chicken coop on his farm to produce duck and goose calls. In 1904, Mr. Olt officially opened his game call company: P.S. Olt. Through his company, Mr. Olt invented what is today known as the Arkansas style duck call. Olt calls featured a one piece insert that held a straight reed resting above a curved tone board used for channeling the sound. Nearly all duck calls (and many goose calls) made today utilize Phillip Olt’s insert design by combining straight mylar reed and a curved tone board. The most popular P.S. Olt game calls were the Model D-2 keyhole and the Model A-50 goose call. By the 1950’s the P.S. Olt duck call Model D-2 was the market standard. The Olt family advertised their call as being “sold the world over”. Most duck call historians and collectors widely consider Phillip S. Olt to be the father of the modern duck call.
In the midst of the Olt Model D-2’s popularity during the 1950’s and 1960’s duck hunters began doing with their equipment what all duck hunters do with their equipment….they modified or customized it for their particular style of hunting. Because of the durable “hard rubber plastic” that the P.S. Olt duck calls were made from hunters were able to modify the rounded tone board in order to adjust the volume and pitch that the duck call produced. The finished product after the modification of the tone board became known as a “Cut-down” call. Because the P.S. Olt Model D-2 featured a keyhole style channel for the sound to exit, many hunters called the modified Olt’s “cut-down keyholes” or “Keyhole cut-downs”. When a later model of Olt’s D-2 was produced with a round hole instead of a keyhole notch, other hunters began to refer to their modified cut downs as “Old Style Cut Downs”. To this day, the most popular nickname given to the Model D-2 keyhole (and the namesake of Rolling Thunder’s model) is the “Black Stick of Death”.
The success of these modified P.S. Olt Model D-2’s was tremendous, yet since the modification was only being done 1 or 2 at a time by individuals and was not completed commercially, its popularity was kept rather quiet. In fact, those in the “know” guarded the secrets of their cut down with great care. For a short time, the P.S. Olt company commercially produced an “Old Style Cut Down” Model D-2 in an attempt to capitalize on the call’s popularity, but the company as a whole was struggling for unrelated reasons would cease mass production not long after the “Old Style Cut Down” hit the market.
With the introduction of the internet and the growing popularity of web forums, blogs, and chat rooms in the late 1990’s, many of the closely guarded secrets of the cut down D-2’s began to be discussed across the country. Instead of 1 or 2 guys modifying calls in their garage, discussions began happening all across the United States. These discussions led to the sky rocketing price and the scarce quantities of Olt Model D-2’s that exists today. Additionally, because of the primitive plastics that the P.S. Olt calls were made of the barrels that still exist from the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s are extremely fragile forcing hunters to spend significant amounts of money in order to have a complete cut down D-2.
It was into this market that Rolling Thunder Game Calls saw the opportunity to make the hunting effectiveness of the cut down duck call available commercially. Black Stick of Death has been engineered with only the most durable materials available. Made of material that is resilient to temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with UV stability, the durability of the Black Stick of Death makes normal duck call discussions regarding moisture and temperature changes seem awfully silly. While by no means the easiest call to blow on the market, its effective ability to kill ducks puts it into a league of its own and gives any hunter more than enough incentive to practice, practice, practice!
**Information gathered from www.psolt.com and other credible sources was used in research for the writing of this article. Rolling Thunder Game Calls is grateful to the P.S. Olt Comapny for their tremendous contributions to the duck call industry.