Joey D’Amico’s Tekton game calls: called to be different
By Ford Walpole
“I just fell in love with everything about duck hunting!” Joey D’Amico declares as he reflects on his introduction to the sport. Joey grew up in Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River, but in his early days, his outdoor pursuits mostly consisted of fishing, crabbing and deer hunting.
While working as a golf pro in the Lowcountry, “duck hunting really took off for me,” he says. “I cut my teeth on river-hunting for ducks in the Santee Delta.” Since then, Joey’s pursuit of waterfowl has taken him to North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas and to Canada, where he has hunted and guided the past two years.
“Up there, you get to experience a large amount of birds,” Joey remarks of Canada. “You learn to read and pattern ducks. Also, you just learn what they want and how to communicate. For instance, you can sit near a slough or a dry field and learn how the birds communicate with each other. Some days, they are more vocal than others. Some days, ducks will circle and might want that chuckle — a comforting sound; other days, the ducks will fly straight into an area. Duck hunting in Canada is like going to a foreign country and learning to speak the language.”
Through golf, Joey befriended members of the Charleston community who own a plantation in the ACE basin, where he was invited to deer hunt. He is thankful to have been able to assist in the landowners’ efforts to restore ancient rice fields along the Combahee River to prime waterfowl habitat. This land stewardship project began with 20 acres and has grown to 60 acres, and Joey is fortunate to experience hunting waterfowl on this beautiful property.
D’Amico discusses the infectious nature of duck hunting and how seeking to experience every aspect of the sport awakened within him a dormant artisan’s spirit. “I wanted to build my own boat, train my own dog, carve my own decoys and make my own calls. I wanted to figure out how to become a good caller and potentially get into contests. I started out carving decoys. And I have been successful in training two black Labs, who turned out to be great hunting dogs.”
Of these ambitious goals, Joey focused his efforts on fashioning duck calls. He christened his callmaking company Tekton Game Calls. “Tekton means artisan, or craftsman in Greek,” he explains, “and it is what Joseph and Jesus were referred to as in the original Bible.” A Tekton call is ultimately the culmination of a passion for hunting, spirituality, craftsmanship and art.
“I bought my first lathe in 2015,” D’Amico says. “The first time I called a duck with my own call, it was awesome! To be a good callmaker, you must be a good caller. A lot of people cut corners and buy a design, but there’s just something more rewarding to make a duck call with your own design.”
By 2018, Joey reached the point in his development as a callmaker in which he finally felt comfortable enough with the sound to start giving his duck calls to friends and selling them to other hunters and collectors. In the beginning, he was working in construction during the day and turning duck calls in the evenings. He managed to make 200 retail or production calls a year and 200 custom calls each year. Chip Ervin of Grady Ervin & Co. on King Street began displaying Tekton custom calls in his store. “Chip gave me my first break. He has always been a supporter, and he is always on the cutting edge in promoting new products,” D’Amico says.
“My calls gained traction on callmakers’ pages on Facebook and Instagram, and I started getting out to shows and connecting with other callmakers. Brad Samples, an Upstate South Carolina callmaker who started Blindsided Calls in 2006, is my biggest mentor,” he says.
Joey comments on the diverse approach among fellow callmakers, all of whom ultimately want the craftsman to discover his own way. “Some guys are an open book; others won’t let you see them turn a call. The majority of guys who make calls are willing to help in some way, but they might not tell you the specifics as to how to improve.
“A call is so individual to the maker, but you still have to have something that’s yours–shape and sound,” he adds. “My calls have a very long tone board, which will allow more people to pick up a call and sound good on it. It’s just easy to blow and provides success; someone who is not experienced can use and kill ducks with my calls,” he says.
For the past two years, Joey has been crafting duck calls full time. “Now, I am making about 500 production calls and 100 custom calls per year.” Besides the online market, Tekton calls are now for sale at Palmetto State Armory, Rivers & Glen, Haddrell’s Point Fin to Feather, Grady Ervin, Canady’s Sport Center in Wilmington and Mack’s Prairie Wings in Stuttgart, Arkansas — the duck capital of the world.
“This past year has been a whirlwind,” Joey admits, humbly discussing his recent accomplishments. He was in a competition in Stuttgart, Ark. that was filmed on RNT-V, a show on the Sportsman Channel featuring the makers of RNT (Rich-N-Tone) Calls. He has received honors in several callmakers contests. Recently, D’Amico earned distinction as a runner-up in the outdoor category for Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards for 2022.
“Little areas of exposure here and there” have steadily built upon the growing reputation of Tekton Calls. “Mack’s Prairie Wings was big,” D’Amico explains. “That is the largest retailer for waterfowl equipment in Stuttgart. When you go to Stuttgart to hunt ducks, you’ve got to stop off at Mack’s.” For instance, “I went to Arkansas in December and ran into people from Charleston while I was there.”
Joey has been quite busy traveling and promoting his impressive duck calls. This year, at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE), he will be set up in Grady Ervin on King Street on both Saturday and Sunday. The week before, he will be at the NWTF Convention in Nashville, where he is entering duck calls and a turkey trumpet call in contests. Throughout the year, he will attend a number of trade shows and outdoors expos across the country. Among these events are Callapalooza, hosted by Rich-N-Tone Calls in Stuttgart, Ark. and the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md.
For Joey, callmaking is an extension of his passion for duck hunting. “I love going into the outdoors,” Joey says, offering tribute to the setting that inspired his craft. “I definitely have an attitude of gratitude any time I am outdoors. I appreciate the fact that God would create an activity like duck hunting. I love watching birds react to somebody’s decoys or a call that’s made, or watching a dog fulfill its purpose of retrieving ducks.
“During these times when I am duck hunting, the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I spend time in the quiet. This is when I might get an idea about how to improve a call. Like the retriever fulfilling its purpose in the field, my purpose is sharing the gospel, and callmaking is an avenue to accomplish that,” he says.
Despite the solitude in the outdoors, Joey reminds us that duck hunting — like many experiences in the outdoors — is a social activity. “I’m a relationship guy. There’s something about the fellowship of taking folks hunting and being out there spending time together in the outdoors. I enjoy the hospitality aspect of getting people together.”
This year, D’Amico hopes Tekton Game Calls will continue to grow — and that such new growth will cultivate the social aspect of duck hunting. “I have made contact with other sporting goods stores, and I also have been kicking around the idea of a bigger shop and space for fellowship. I would love to have more space to work on my calls, carve some decoys, and use the shop as a place to host seminars and even bring in another artisan.” If the shop were conveniently located in an area such as the ACE Basin, duck hunters could stop by on their way home from hunting.
“I want to be able to scale up for my business stability, but also for people to know the Tekton story and the reason behind it. It is a business I started that grew out of a love for craftsmanship. My ultimate purpose is to be able to share my faith and my craft — the artisan side. True craftsmen like Tom Boozer are still doing it the old ways. For instance, many hunters swear that Tom’s decoys ride differently and that the birds react differently to them,” Joey notes.
“I hope to combine the heritage of my craft and the creation, but I always want to keep my focus on the Creator,” he continues. “Everyone is running their own race right now and has forgotten what they have in common and their sense of community. People are having to work more and are not necessarily getting to spend time together like they would have back in the day.”
For Joey, selling custom calls allows him to connect socially to a community of hunters and collectors. “Ninety percent of the people who buy my custom calls come by the shop, which provides them the experience of picking out a blank, seeing how the call is made and getting a calling lesson.
“Nowadays, it seems being a successful callmaker is more about gaining popularity online, but for me, it is more rewarding when people come by, and I can share and inspire. For me,” Joey continues, “it’s all about marrying the convenience of a big box store with the old ways of the past. I am trying to ride that fence — the middle line where I have enough production calls to support my family and still have time to perfect my craft on my custom calls.”
Since callmaking became his sole profession, Joey has achieved a clarity of vision. He now spends more time with his wife Tatiana and their daughter Ava. In addition, he has become more involved in his church. “I feel blessed to be doing what I am doing for a living. There is something therapeutic about callmaking. Most of my identity is a follower of Christ, not a duck call maker. I was prideful, and God stripped that from me to start this walk. My view is completely different now.
“My goal is not necessarily to be the best callmaker. It is to be obedient to Him and to share the gospel and share a light in the community. It’s not something that’s been easy to do, but I have found peace, and more doors have opened up since I have been doing this full time,” he says.
Joey has accomplished most of the dreams that took flight upon his first duck hunting experience. He has trained his own dogs, mastered his calling skills, crafted his own duck calls, begun making decoys and sharpened his hunting skills. He has yet to make his own duck boat, a poling skiff or sneak boat, but a new expanded shop would permit the space for just such a project. In addition, he plans to devote more time carving decoys, which he hopes will become an off-season endeavor.
“My wife Tatiana teases me that the last thing I need is another hobby!” he laughs. But for D’Amico, of course, such diversification is hardly just another hobby. “It’s yet another way to connect to what I love doing — putting together all the parts and pieces of duck hunting. It all comes back to ducks!” he says.
The motto of Tekton Game Calls is “Called to Be Different,” which comes from Romans 12:2. “To me, callmaking is more about sharing the art of it,” Joey explains. “I want to get my priorities right, and when I do, I always have more opportunities — to hunt, to create duck calls, to share, and to answer the calling of my own life, the call to be different.”
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at email@example.com.