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Mark Greenig: Calling all crows with Boyd Martin calls

A very nice example of an old Boyd Martin wooden crow call with the proper packaging. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE

Times have changed since I called crows as a child. Back then all calling was done with hand held calls, most wooden. As the years progressed synthetic calls came on the market providing easier care and more durability. Fast forward to the present and new generation calls are electronic, remote controlled and provide very realistic sounds.

However, being somewhat old school, I believe wooden crow calls sound the best and provide the most satisfaction when used properly, resulting in a successful hunt. With that old school mentality let’s talk about the highly collectible Boyd Martin wooden crow call.

Most Boyd Martin wooden crow calls of Delphi, Ind., were made in the 1920s and 1930s. His calls were marketed through department stores such as Montgomery Ward, Sears and others.

One of the reasons crow calls were so popular back then was due to the bounty often placed on those “black devils” as they were so called. Many outdoor enthusiasts believed crows to be deadly predators of duck and upland game bird eggs. There is no doubt such activity happens. Today crows are often seen scavenging on road kill animals. I have personally witnessed crows snatching young birds right out of their nest while the parents watched helplessly. Keep in mind crows are a larger bird and somewhat high up the food chain making them efficient predators.

Martin’s wooden crow calls are easily distinguished by the two red bands on the call barrel. As with most crow calls, the blowing end has two wooden pieces which are pinched between the users teeth creating different tones when calling. Boyd Martin calls are just over five inches long. The barrel end is red with a small exit hole somewhat unique to this particular item. Most of his calls came in a hard cardboard tube with a screw on metal top.

The packaging tube is six inches long, usually deep red in color with two notable characteristics. First, one side of the tube has in capital letters, four lines, Boyd Martin Crow Call. The reverse side comes with an extensive narrative on how to properly use the call.

Those directions state to place the call between the teeth to form a bell shape similar to blowing a horn. You were instructed to make long bursts of air, cupping one hand over the call end to vary the sound tone.

Interestingly, those same directions stated not to shoot the first crow that flew over, as it would call the others to your location. Today, the more common held belief is to harvest that first bird, as it is a scout. If it detects anything wrong with your set up, it will call the others off. If you shoot at that first bird and miss, move, as no additional crows will come in.

One other observation in the instructions is the statement there is no closed season for crows. Be advised, there is a season for crows in Minnesota.

Boyd Martin wooden crow calls are highly collectible and pleasing to the eye. The two red bands on the call, along with the deep red packaging tube help the value of this item. Prices range from $50 for call alone to $150 depending on condition of call and container.

The most sought after Martin container has black wording printed on red. Some packaging lacks that style and has a white paper marketing slip glued to the side. Value is a bit less on that combination.

Even though this is a functional item, I recommend it serve out its’ days on your shelf. Contemporary calls are much less expensive and not collectible. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.