The Man Behind the Rise of Custom Turkey Call Collecting Dies
BEACH LAKE, Penn.—Well-traveled author, turkey hunter and call collector Earl Mickel, 69, of Beach Lake, Pa., died July 12 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Mickel wasn’t just a witness of the meteoric rise of custom turkey call making and collecting, he was the driving force behind it.
“Earl was a pioneer in the appreciation and the significance of call makers and in heightening awareness of the fact that call making is an important art form,” said National Wild Turkey Federation CEO Rob Keck. “As the popularity of turkey hunting increased, so did the interest in collecting calls, and Earl was right there, speaking and writing about it so that future generations will know the facts behind every one of those who contributed.”
Mickel authored three books that cataloged the biographies of custom turkey call makers. The earliest, “Callmakers Past and Present” (1994), has been out of print and a highly sought collector’s item for years. Copies in good condition fetched upwards of $1,000 long before Mickel’s death. “Turkey Callmakers Past and Present: The Rest of the Best,” was published in 1999 and is also out of print. In 2005, Mickel completed, “Longbeards, Callmakers and Memories.” In the book he converses how he killed a turkey in all 49 states that have turkey seasons, and he used the custom creations of local call makers in each state. It’s one of modern-day turkey hunting’s most incredible adventures.
Not surprisingly, his dedication to the industry was also marked by his work with the NWTF. For years he coordinated the NWTF’s Grand National Callmaking Contest. He rounded up the judges for each annual competition and teamed up with custom call maker Howard Harlan to provide seminars on call collecting, emphasizing at every turn his belief that custom-made turkey calls would command prices that rival those of other art forms. His name also appears on the Best of Show Call, the Earl Mickel Award winner.
Mickel worked almost as tirelessly promoting call makers as he did collecting their work. In all, Mickel’s collection included some 5,000 turkey calls, including more than 100 calls built by the late Neil Cost, the best-known call maker of them all. His collection grew so much, Mickel added two rooms onto his Beach Lake home to house the works from an estimated 700 to 800 call makers. Worth millions of dollars, the Mickel collection is now under the stewardship of collector Bill Jones, III.
Earl Mickel leaves his wife of 48 years, Janene; a daughter, Robin Zink of Ketchikan, Alaska; two sons, Guy Mickel of Ketchikan and Kyle Mickel of Beach Lake; eight grandchildren; and two brothers, Laverene Mickel of Bound Brook, N.J., and Jerry Mickel of Savannah, Mo.
A private memorial service was held. The Mickel family asks that donations in Mickel’s name be made to the NWTF. Contact Janice Pressley at 800-THE-NWTF or email@example.com for donation information.
I had just spoke to Mr. Mickel about purchasing his third book! He was and is and always will be a legend in the turkey call world. I hope to buy a copy of each of his books. I have two of them now and need the third. Someday these will all be donated to a museum, they are literally that good. My heart goes out to his family and close friends. I am sure he is in heaven talking about calls with the likes of Neil Cost and others and watching newcomers in the world of call makers trying new things. Kevin