At the young age of 13, New Kent Middle School student Tate Estis has already found his calling.
Ebb Tide Calls, located in New Kent and owned by Tate, recently celebrated its first full year of turning out mallard duck calls.
Since it opened in December 2012, Ebb Tide Calls has gained momentum and earned a reputation for producing quality, custom duck calls that guarantee customer satisfaction, and repeat business, said Tate’s father, Dave Estis.
In the year that it’s been open, business at Ebb Tide Calls has flourished, and now serves hunters all over the country and even outside the U.S.
“We’ve sent calls to people in 12 different states and one person in Canada called us the other day asking us to make him a call,” said Tate.
Ebb Tide Calls also recently filled an order for a wedding party, whose groomsmen and father-of-the bride were gifted with duck calls.
The best part of making the duck calls for Tate is watching other outdoorsmen appreciate his craftsmanship. He also enjoys using his own calls.
“Putting the ducks on the water with my own duck calls is pretty cool,” he said.
Tate was five years-old when he started duck hunting with his father. Almost automatically, he took a shining to the sport and was fascinated by the duck calls used in the sport.
“He kept pulling apart his father’s duck calls to figure them out,” said Angela Estis, Tate's mother.
Tate said he's always loved duck hunting and the first time he went, he “lit up.” When he first approached his parents about making duck calls, they weren’t sure if he would have the patience or talent for such a detailed skill, so they made a deal with him. If Tate wanted to start the operation, he would have to help pay for the tools and materials – not a small feat for a 12-year-old boy.
“If you would have told me a year ago that this business would be where it is right now, I would not have believed you,” Dave Estis said. “We really are so proud of him and are glad he has found a love and talent for this.”
Tate estimates that he spent nearly $2,000 that he had saved to get started. It also helped that former woodworking family members handed down tools.
Before he even touched the lathe, or woodturning device, and any other workworking tools, Tate and his father spent hours watching online tutorials, including step-by-step instructions on making duck calls and the importance of tool safety.
“We spent several weeks online because my dad said that before I started turning I needed to know what to do and how to do it,” said Tate.
The business was named after the family’s trusty chocolate lab, Ebb Tide, a mascot of sorts. The name, just fits perfectly with the water theme, said Dave Estis.
At first, Tate found it hard to concentrate on the lathe because of the many steps he had to remember. However, within a matter of months, he cut his time almost in half and now seamlessly moves from one step to another.
When Tate started making duck calls, he showed a natural talent for woodworking and has since made 200 or more custom calls.
“One customer sent us a photo of an old call that he needed replicated and replaced,” said Dave Estis. “Tate looked at the photo maybe twice, set it up by his lathe and knocked it out. I couldn’t have done that.”
With guidance from his father and online tutorials, Tate has advanced to constructing the single and double reeds for inside the calls.
According to his father, there are still some sportsmen who see the quality of Tate’s work and don’t believe that a teenager produces such high quality calls.
“He just has a passion and a talent for it,” he said. “He’s out working on the calls every day and he manages the business. I just serve as quality control.”
Tate’s passion for duck calls and duck hunting has blossomed since he became a duck call craftsman.
“Before I started making duck calls, I would enter calling contests and come in second to last, but now I have won a few contests and I’m always getting better,” he said.
According to his mother, it’s with that same determination that Tate has built his business. He is not discouraged by the “scrap bucket” of broken wood and nearly finished calls, but uses them to inspire his next great design.
“Like using a duck call, making them takes a lot of practice. It’s not something you can just pick up and do,” she said.
Tate guarantees that only the best quality duck calls leave his shop. The calls must be completely symmetrical. If they're off by even 1/16 an inch, they go into the scrap bucket.
“I can’t put my name on something that isn’t 100 percent perfect,” he said. “That’s part of being a good businessman and building my character.”
For more information on Ebb Tide Calls, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.