Discover more from THE SPORTSMAN
Frank Sears turns hobby into business
Frank Sears, founder of Drop'em Game Calls, works on tuning a pot-and-peg. Photo by author
As a young boy Frank Sears loved spending time with his grandfather, Lee Streeval. One day while working in his shop Streeval gave his grandson a small wooden box, originally designed to hold business cards. “Put a nail in this and go outside and see if you can make some noise,” he told Sears, as a way to preoccupy the six year old lad.
Sears did just that. He drove a small nail into the bottom of the tiny box and began rubbing it on a rock. “A few minutes later my grandpa came out and said Frank, I think you’re on to something,” he recalled. At that time he didn’t realize the sounds he was making mimicked the yelps of the wild turkey. That single day led Sears down a path that would develop from a hobby into a full time business.
As Sears grew in age and stature he would experiment trying to make turkey calls out of anything he could find. “You name it I tried it,” he said. “I even made one from a turtle shell.” While attending sixth grade at Pettit Park School, Sears had the advantage of encyclopedias and researched game calls. Sears then asked his shop teacher if he could build one, to which he agreed.
In his spare time Sears continued to make calls through junior high and high school. He presented his completed projects to family and friends. “Then I joined the Army and figured serving my country was more important than making calls,” he added, respectfully.
After returning from his service he continued to find pleasure constructing and experimenting with different types of calls. “I guess word got out and I had more and more people asking if I would build a call for them,” said Sears. In 2000, in his small shop on Forest Dr. in Kokomo, he began making them on a full time basis. This was the official start of Drop’em Game Calls. “Our name is actually a funny story,” he explained. “A friend was over several years back and while making a call I kept dropping things, like tools and a small bottle of glue. He suggested I name it Drop’em Game Calls,” he continued with a laugh. “I guess it worked out perfectly.”
There are many types of calls aimed at wild turkeys but Sears primarily produces what hunters refer to as pot-and-peg and box calls. The pot-and-peg basically consists of a thin disc of hard material set in a small wooden pot, which acts as the sound chamber. A wooden peg or striker is scratched along the surface crating friction which, if done correctly, produces the vocalizations of a wild turkey. A box call is literally a small, wooden three-sided box with a “paddle” attached to the top. The paddle is rubbed along the edge of one side. “I think these two types of calls give off the most realistic sound, plus they are my favorite to make,” said Sears.
Every call starts out as an unassuming block of raw wood. Like any serious craftsman he is particular about the type he uses and prefers cherry, poplar, walnut and bocote because he believes they produce the most lifelike tones. On the pot-and-peg calls he will inlay slate, glass, crystal, aluminum, ceramic, titanium or copper as the striking surface. He will experiment with all types of materials until he achieves the sound that pleases his discerning ears.
“It takes several hours to several days to make a single call, depending on the type,” Sears explained. His shop resembles what you would normally expect a woodshop to look like. A table saw, band saw, lathe, and drill press take their place on the floor while all types of smaller hand tools occupy space on the benches and shelves. Missing are any type of advanced, computerized equipment.
The entire process begins with selecting the type of materials. Sears then begins shaping the wood - cutting, carving, chiseling and sanding while his hands deftly move over each piece. Once nearly complete Sears then begins the tuning process where tiny pieces of wood or other material is removed or shaped until it produces the tone he wants. Then the finishing process begins.
“I spend a lot of time outdoors listening to real turkeys so I want my calls to be what I think are perfect,” he explained. “I also want them to look good.”
Drop’em Game Calls continues to grow. Sears has shipped his custom calls all over the United States and other countries. He has expanded his business to include grunt tubes used in hunting deer and different types of duck calls. “Now people are asking me to make predator, crow and squirrel calls,” Sears mentioned. He hopes to one day relive his childhood and begin making a call similar to the original one made in his grandfather’s shop. “I want to call it the Streeval, in honor of him,” Sears said sentimentally.
Being an avid turkey, predator and waterfowl hunter, I couldn’t help but inspect many of the calls in his shop and was impressed with the sound of each one. They were pleasing to the eye and rich in lifelike realism. But one thing became increasingly clear. Although every call is built by hand, they are made from the heart. Try to find that in any mass produced product.
If you’d like to inquire about Drop’em Game Calls you can email Sears at Dropemcalls@att.net or find him on Facebook.