Black River Boss: Bryce Decker
Bryce is a polarizing figure and gave us a rare look at his life. A call maker who stands behind the belief that hunting calls should be available to all for a reasonable price but have a top notch sound. With the rising popularity of the Tyrant specifically it would be easy for him to cash in and charge more but he remains true to his core. Here is a look at our recent interview.
BTB: When did you first start hunting and who got you started?
BD: I got started hunting about age 7, my grandpa and his brothers would take me into the timber and sit me on a dog stand or leave me in the boat to watch. They were a rag-tag bunch of guys and they loved clowning around and having a good time while out in the woods. That’s where I get my weird humor. They started letting me shoot about age 9. My grandpa would hold me up by my wader straps to keep me from falling in and to keep me from floating off. They would always let me have the first shot when we put a big group of ducks on the water and then they’d fire off a volley after I got them up. My PawPaw always told me to line up as many heads as possible when they’d let me water swat them. I remember killing 9 in one shot one morning. Most of those men are no longer with us and their buddies that use to go are all either dead or too old to go now, it sure has taken a lot of wind out of my sails now that I don’t get to hunt with them anymore. The good thing is that they taught me well and I will now be able to pass down their wisdom and humor to my son and his friends.
BTB: What was your first call?
BD: My first call was a white letter PS Olt roundhole that my grandpas cousin, Cicero Jones whittled around on a little bit and gave to me, he didn’t do much to them…not nearly as much as the highly modified cutdowns we all have today. I also hunted a little 1/4” bore echo call some.
BTB: Who was your biggest mentor or teacher?
BD: My grandpa “Windy” Barnes, his brother “Bunk” Barnes, and Cicero for sure. Those guys taught me damn near everything I know. Now that they’re all gone, I have to learn from my own mistakes, which are many and often.
BTB: When did you make your first call?
BD: I made my first call as a project in Agri class, it was a piece of garbage.
BTB: As a call maker we all have that one call we have made that we just love, which one was yours and did you keep it?
BD: I keep a few calls here and there when they come out exceptional but I always end up selling them off. I’m not very sentimental about duck calls except for a couple I had as a kid. I pretty much outsource all of the labor with my calls except for some toneboard work and tuning. I work full time as the director of rehab for a big long term care facility so I just don’t have time to hand turn calls, nor do I really have an interest in it. I like cutting calls and tuning them more than anything. Plus I’m better at getting a good sound out of them than I am making pretty showpieces.
BTB: Who pushes you?
BD: Myself, I never really had anyone show me how to do anything with calls. I’ve messed up several along the way but I always learned from every mistake that I made. The thought of getting the best product possible into someone’s hand for their hard earned money is another thing that drives me. Being able to sell someone a call that performs better and costs less than other brands is something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in.
BTB: The tyrant, it’s your new call this year and is as popular as any call on the market right now. In the world of crazy customs and any imaginable material available, you have stayed true to the “I want to build an affordable call anyone can own” mindset. What does it mean to you to make such an affordable call and still be in such high demand? It’s admirable to not see prices increase with success.
BD: It means a lot to me but it comes with cost. Outsourcing. All of my calls are either machined or molded. I do nearly all of the design work on them and all of the toneboard work other than the milling on the tyrants, I still have to sand and file the entire length of each one of them with the exception of my molded versions. My cutdowns are all molded with blank Olt style toneboards and I cut each one by hand. That said, I have zero interest in sitting at a lathe for hours on end turning barrels and inserts. I don’t hand turn calls or do customs and sell them, I value my time (what little bit I actually have) more than most people and if I was to hand turn calls they would be fairly expensive. Too expensive for me to be comfortable charging people what I’d want for them considering the amount of sweat equity I’d have in them. On the same coin, I don’t think a duck call should be very expensive in the first place. By outsourcing a large portion of the labor and producing calls in decent size batches, I’m able to keep my costs low and pass the savings on to my customers. My profit margin isn’t what it could be but I’m not in the call game to get rich anyways. I’m in it so that guys can have something different, something highly effective, for a decent price. My goal isn’t a display cabinet, it’s around your neck. I don’t have a very big following with duck call collectors as far as I know. Most of my customers are meat and potatoes types of guys that use the stuff that they buy. I’m happy with that.