Caller In A Day

This is a short story for duck hunters wanting to improve their ability to call ducks.

I have been duck hunting in Arkansas for over 30 years. Most of my hunting has been in the flooded timber of the Cache River. I live in southeast Georgia, St. Simons Island, on the coast so I am able to get to Arkansas maybe 3 times each year.

My introduction into flooded timber hunting was done in the 70’s by my ole hunting buddy, Joe Wood from Memphis. Joe and I have hunted hundreds of times over the years and killed lots of ducks.

Of all the times we have hunted in Arkansas, I have never thought about learning to call ducks because Joe was always there to call and was an excellent caller.

Last year Joe called before hunting season and told me he was going to buy a new Snazz duck call and give it to me. I said send it on. I had no intention of trying to learn to use it because Joe would still be able to call my ducks.

I typically wait to go to Arkansas after Joe calls and tells me the timber is flooded and the ducks are there. When Joe called last year and said come on, I went and took along my new duck call.

When I got to the Augusta Arkansas International airport (strip) Joe met me and said, "I want you to meet somebody before we go hunting."

We drove out to Gregory where Joe’s place is and drove up to a house and went in. Joe introduced me to the Snazz duck call maker, Jerry Billy Pendergist. Jerry Billy is a local folk hero from Augusta. He was formerly a municipal bond salesman in Little Rock and Memphis but a few years ago decided to pursue other interests including making duck calls.

Jerry Billy invited Joe and I to hunt with him the next day on the Cache. We accepted and told him we would be at his house early next morning.

Jerry Billy and a few of his select friends have a special private place they hunt on the Cache River. To be invited to hunt with Jerry Billy at his blind on the Cache was very special.

We got to his blind before daybreak. Jerry Billy asked me if I had my Snazz duck call. I, of course, said yes. He said, "Get it out." So I did and he began to walk me through his instructions on how I should use his duck call.

Folks, I will tell you that first I was just trying to patronize him but the more he worked with me the better it sounded.

The hunting that day was spotty so we had plenty of time to practice. Jerry Billy was very patient with me and you could tell that he was a master at working with difficult people like me.

When we would see a flight of ducks come over he would not call or let Joe call, he would make me call. Believe it or not, I called in four or five flights of ducks that morning. We only had 6 or 7 flights to come in all day.

Around noon, Joe decided to get in the boat and go get some sandwiches. Jerry Billy and I stayed to continue my calling lesson. By this time, my lips were getting pretty sore.

I saw a couple of ducks. I called, brought them in, shot them myself. When I picked up the ducks, I saw that one was a black mallard. I had the duck mounted and it sits in my office.

I am not a converted duck caller. Jerry Billy is a lifetime friend. I can’t say enough about the Snazz duck call. If it works for me, it’ll work for anyone.

Henry Bishop is President of First Georgia Bank in St. Simons Island, GA.

The Quickstudy

Jerry Billy Pendergist and I have been hunting ducks for some 47 years. I don't know exactly why, but for the first 15 or so years I never put a duck call to my lips... never had a hankering for learning to call.

Jerry Billy is the very best caller in these here "U.S.'s of A", and I truly mean that. You can find many a duck hunter to testify likewise.

Eventually, I told Jerry Billy, "I'm going to learn to call ducks for myself." He laughed and handed me an old black P.S. Olt duck call. After asking him which end to blow, I walked into a back room of his cabin and started blowing, to everyone's amazement. They all came running to hear the "First Time King" of duck callers.

Today Jerry Billy Pendergist makes the Snazz Duck Call. And, of course, he has mastered the sound and calling technique. The Snazz duck call was introduced to the public in the late 1980s, and has never been matched in sound and ease of calling. If you don't own a Snazz Duck Call then you just might be missing the last piece of the puzzle.

Lynn Ryan Holler, a Gregory, Arkansas native, was a life long hunting companion of Jerry Billy. Lynn went to be with the Lord in 2014.

The First Snazz

When I first went hunting with Jerry Billy Pendergist, we were kids tagging along with his Dad. Jerry Billy got to go because he was blood. I got to go because I could call ducks — barely. My call of choice was a Cajun. It was easy to blow and cost about three dollars.

There were only about three choices of call that I remember: Cajun, Faulk, and P.S. Olt. Most experienced callers preferred Olt, and it became our favorite for several years.

There were four of us callers on Olts by the ‘60s, and we were always trying for a better sound. We found it when we met Mick Lacy and John Liston. We all changed to the Big River Call and used it until we discovered the McLemore. It had a good sound and was the first Cocbolo wood I had ever seen. The reed board in mine was cut.

By this time, Jerry Billy had moved to the forefront of our group in calling ability and understanding of the calls. He spent hours with various call makers, trying to get them to make a call that sounded good through its full range and that had a consistent feel as you blew it at different levels.

One day Jerry Billy confided in me that he was going to make his own duck call because nobody could make one to suit him, and the people who tried had given up.

The first couple of prototypes looked like something in a Mexican card shop. He continually refined and improved until he had one he was proud of. He called it the "Snazz," and offered me the first one in 1989. I told him he should reserve serial #1 for himself and accepted #2.

In the years since #2, I’ve obtained several more Snazz calls. I want every one I blow, but I realize they are like a national treasure and should be shared.

Here’s the bottom line: if you call ducks, you need two Snazz calls in case you drop one in the water. If you collect calls, you may need more.

All other opinions aside, I’m the best duck caller I’ve ever heard, and I use only the Snazz duck call.

Captain Charles N. Mills was a lifelong friend and hunting companion of Jerry Billy.  He went to be with the Lord in 2015.