Photo courtesy of Mike Lapp
Champion call maker
Pennsylvania has carved a solid reputation as home to some of the finest turkey call makers in the nation. Expert craftsmen D.D. Adams, Dale Rohm, Bill Zearing, Lou Stevenson, Scott Basehore and Pat Strawser all are nationally recognized as masters of their craft. And don’t forget Mike Lapp, whose list of NWTF Grand National Custom Call Making Competition awards is quite impressive.
Lapp started hunting small game and deer with his dad in 1972. In 1986, he turkey hunted with a good friend and got hooked. Lapp began building calls in 1996 to add an extra challenge to his turkey hunting experience by using a call he built. The rest is history.
Lapp first entered the Grand National Custom Call Making Competition in 2003, where he took home third-place honors for a short box in the hunting division. He won the same third-place award in 2004. Lapp continued to hone his skills, and in 2005, put himself on the map as a champion with two first-place medals — one for short box and one for long box. In addition, he took home Best of Show honors, plus the Gibson Award for best-sounding hunting call.
Since then, Lapp has racked up many accomplishments, including becoming the first call maker to win first place in all three box call categories: short box, long box and one-sider box call in 2006. He repeated the feat in 2008. Other highlights include winning the Gibson Award for best-sounding hunting call three times (2005, 2006 and 2008); winning Hunting Call Maker of the Year several times; taking home the Don Chancy Award for best-sounding box call set three times; winning the Jeremiah Stevens Award for best-sounding scratch box or trough call twice; and being named Champion of Champions back to back (2011 and 2012). For a complete list of Lapp’s call making accomplishments visit www.mikelappturkeycalls.com.
More about Mike
At the 38th NWTF Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn., I interviewed Mike Lapp to learn more about him and his craft:
Reich: How did you get started as a custom call maker?
Lapp: Being a carpenter by trade, building handcrafted calls was a natural fit and an exciting hobby. My first efforts were of the sawn and glued design in 1996. Although I harvested a young gobbler while using it, I was not satisfied with its sound. I wanted to improve my skill and knowledge. I met some other call makers and learned how to build Neil Cost-style calls, which sounded much better. For the first few years, I only built calls for family and friends. Eventually, I started selling a few to other turkey hunters, and my hobby turned into a serious part-time business.
Reich: What other call makers have helped you along the way?
Lapp: Albert Paul from Mississippi was a big influence and encouraged me through my early years of trial and error in building Neil Cost-style calls. The late Dick Kirby also encouraged me to enter a call in the Grand National Call Making Competition in 2003. I am very grateful he did.
Photo courtesy of Mike Lapp
Mike Lapp is an award-winning custom turkey call maker from Honey Brook, Pa. He crafts all types of calls including long boxes, short boxes, one-sider boxes, push-pins, trough and vibrating tongue calls.
Reich: What sets your work apart from other call makers?
Lapp: I handcraft each call one at a time and tune it until it achieves a sound consistent with what I think a hen turkey sounds like. Every step of crafting my calls has a purpose, from wood selection to the inlays and checkering. I carefully select the best quality wood available and let it age. Each call must meet my standards for quality, tone and workmanship, or it will not leave my shop. I personalize each call by revealing where the wood came from and for whom the call is crafted. Each call is then signed and dated.
Reich: Looking back at your call making accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
Lapp: I started out building short and long boxes, which are still my most popular calls. Over the years I’ve expanded into other friction calls. I enjoy the challenge of building calls such as push-pins and trough calls. I’m proud to have won first place awards at the Grand National competitions with these types of calls too. However, it’s the many other custom call makers that I have met and befriended that I cherish most. The call making community is a great fraternity. I also cherish the many photos I receive each year of successful hunts using one of my handcrafted calls.
Reich: How has the NWTF helped you?
Lapp: Over the years the many how-to hunting stories in various NWTF publications have provided the knowledge on turkey hunting and that has helped me become a better hunter. Plus, the NWTF Convention and Sport Show gives call makers like myself a place to showcase our calls to potential customers and compete on a national level with some of the finest call makers in the world.
Reich: How have you helped the NWTF?
Lapp: I joined the NWTF in 1996 to become a part of its mission to restore wild turkey populations throughout the country, and they succeeded. I have supported my NWTF local chapter as well as chapters within my home state by donating calls to be auctioned at fundraisers. These donations have helped raise more than $45,000 in the past decade. I am still a member because I support the NWTF’s goals of helping conserve hunting land, wildlife habitat and the future of hunting rights for the next generation. — JJ Reich