Before he became widely known as a turkey call maker whose products have been responsible for the demise of thousands of gobblers for nearly 50 years, Al Holbert was a turkey hunter.
The Rome area resident, now 78, got into the call making business almost out of necessity, and his work eventually grew into a full-fledged business, Enticer Turkey Calls.
“I started making turkey calls back in the 70s; back then you couldn’t buy a turkey call. The very first mouth call I made I shot a bird over on that mountain,” he said from his shop along Cadis Road. “It’s a good thing I did because the call fell apart right after that.”
While he still makes and sells mouth calls today at a bargain basement price, Holbert is best known for his pot calls, notably the popular “Wet Series” of calls, which when matched with a carbon or aluminum tip striker will continue to work magic in the woods on the rainiest of mornings.
Holbert still chuckles at his initial foray into call making, which came when he worked as a machinist in Elmira.
“I worked second shift all the time because I liked to hunt,” he recalled. “I made mouth calls all morning then went up to Elmira and sold them while working at Bendix. I sold a lot of them right there from the back of my truck.”
Eventually, Holbert decided to make pot calls.
“When I first started I didn’t even know how to make a pot,” he said. “I borrowed a router; I didn’t have any equipment. But I was a turkey hunter and I knew what I had to have, and how it had to sound.”
Turkeys and turkey hunters have been liking the sound of Enticer Turkey Calls for decades; his calls are shipped across the country to hunters, and he also makes calls for other businesses.
Enticer Turkey Calls do exactly that; it’s not unusual, as Holbert tunes a call outside his shop for the right tone and rasp, that a little while later a longbeard – or longbeards – shows up in the driveway, lured in by his calling.
These days, Holbert still makes calls, but his focus now is solely on his mail order business through his website – www.enticerturkeycalls.com. His son, Al Jr., has now entered the business and sells identical calls under the Team Enticer banner (TeamEnticer.com).
“I taught him the dimensions and helped him set up his shop,” the senior Holbert said. “He’s all set up and gets glass and slate off me. Team Enticer is exactly the same as Enticer Turkey Calls only my son makes the calls. I’m on my way out. The mail order gives me something to do besides hunt.”
Team Enticer calls can be found in several local shops, made by Al Holbert Jr., a retired contractor.
Meanwhile, Al Sr. continues making calls when he’s not fishing the Susquehanna River out of his jet boat with his wife Phyllis.
“She’s a deer hunter, not a turkey hunter,” Holbert says.
Al Sr., despite scores of invitations over the years to hunt other turkey subspecies in locales like Florida, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, chooses instead to hunt only Pennsylvania and New York.
“Two birds in each state each year; that’s enough,” he says.
Turkey hunting, Al Sr. says, has changed a lot over the years.
“When I first started nobody hunted them,” he said. “No matter what you called with they’d come in. Those days are over, and I learned a lot over the years.”
Holbert spent his early days of the business working various sport shows, often alongside turkey hunting legends Dick Kirby and Ben Rodgers Lee.
“I did fewer shows as I got older and about four years ago I told my son if he wanted to get into the business now’s the time,” he said.
When he heads into the turkey woods this spring, Al Holbert Sr. will be using one of his calls. And that’s bad news for gobblers in Pennsylvania and New York.
(Steve Piatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)