Hammer Calls are becoming the go-to for many hunters.
Initially, though, that wasn’t the plan.
The men behind the duck calls — Aaron Halpin of Norfolk and brothers Cody and Kenley Silhacek, both of Pierce — have always been big into hunting and fishing, but they started picking up water fowl hunting only a few years ago.
But after Cody went duck hunting, that was it. He was hooked.
“I went to Wal-Mart right after and picked up a $15 call. Started on that. And then, a buddy of mine in Sioux Falls was laughing at me and he sent me two $150 calls for nothing ... and I’m thinking, ‘What happens when you don’t like a call? Do you put it in a drawer? What do you do with it?’ You can’t return it obviously. That’s where it got started ... let’s make one that we want and then we won’t have to worry about it.”
That was about five years ago, when all they had was a work bench and a 1985 Craftsman copy crafter. Their first workshop was Halpin’s basement, they said.
“A lot of measuring. A lot of trial and error, honestly,” Halpin said. “We got these chunks of wood, and made shapes that we liked and looked them all over and picked one that we enjoyed. Started with that one.”
Then in 2016, a little over a year later, they officially started Hammer Calls and have since continued to reinvest into their company.
“I think when we sat down, we drew up a shape that we thought we’d like and made it,” Cody Silhacek said. “At one time, we had five or six different calls. Different shapes and foam board, and just craziness. Just absolute craziness.”
They since have trimmed the number of calls they offer: three duck calls and three goose calls.
“They all do their separate purpose, got those and perfecting them,” Cody Silhacek said.
That barely scratches the surface of what Hammer Calls has to offer, though.
Also offered are hybrid calls, which are a combination of wood and acrylic, mixed with any color combination customers can think of — even Legos. The finished product is a one-of-a-kind duck call.
“The neat part about hybrids, you’ll never have the same because once you get it down to the inside, you never really know where the wood’s going to end and the acrylic is going to begin,” Kenley Silhacek said. “We started getting into hybrids, and that’s where a lot of stuff we do, a lot of people started picking up on what we did.”
Cody Silhacek said 85 percent of their business is hybrids.
They also offer image rod calls. Cody Silhacek said any image a customer wants can be cast in clear and then spun into the call.
Its most recent addition are calls being designed by a CNC machine. The process is slightly different then Hammer Calls’ custom call process, but it allows them the ability to serve more customers’ needs because the process is much quicker. Custom calls can be completed in three to four weeks.
“The custom stuff is what draws people to us. We’re not just burning out only CNC. We’re trying to keep a good mixture. ... we want to keep doing the custom stuff because the custom stuff is what people see us as and that’s what we want to be seen as, is a custom call company,” Kenley Silhacek said. “And it shows the uniqueness of what we’re doing. And where it all started was with that stuff. And on the flip side of that, we’re trying to find a good balance ... there’s no reason we need to be missing out on 50 sales a year. Find a nice mix between the two of them.”
Either way, the company has hit its stride and has quite the following.
“We’re hitting a nice curve right now. Everything we wanted three years ago is kind of coming to fruition,” Kenley Silhacek said.
They said sales have tripled, if not quadrupled, what they sold last year.
“Last year’s sales, we hit it in April of this year,” Kenley said. “We’re on pace to jam through, about tripled what we did last year.”
Aside from being on Instagram and Facebook, they aim to offer more video and photos, as well as get a website established, as well as a YouTube channel and a TV show.
Asked if they ever thought Hammer Calls would blow up the way it has, Cody Silhacek said, “Not a chance.”
“Three years ago, the main goal for us back then was to pay for hunting stuff and just decoys. We weren’t looking at the big picture at the time. Like what it could be, more of the hobby side of things,” Halpin said. “It really hit us when ... that first busy Christmas, two years ago, it took off.”
And the reason: They offer a high-quality product.
“If it doesn’t sound like a duck or doesn’t feel good to the person who’s blowing it, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. It doesn’t,” Cody Silhacek said. “We started on more of the appeal of stuff and it sounded pretty good, but over the years, we’ve modified the tone board to get where now it’s a rock solid duck call.”
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