EDINA, Minn. -- Doug Lodermeier has been collecting game calls and decoys for more than 30 years. As a lifelong outdoorsman and history buff with a background in the publishing business, writing about the history of duck calls and decoys in his home state of Minnesota seemed like a natural progression when the opportunity presented itself.
Lodermeier, of Edina, recently published “Minnesota Duck Calls – yesterday’s and today’s folk artists Volume 2” and “Minnesota Duck Decoys – yesterday’s and today’s folk artists Volume 2.”
At 566 and 643 pages, respectively, the limited-edition, glossy hardcover books are veritable encyclopedias of Minnesota duck call and decoy history, featuring stories on hundreds of duck call and decoy artists both past and present, along with estimated values of numerous game calls.
Included in the decoy book are such northwest Minnesota craftsmen as decoy carver Joel Huener of Roseau and wildlife artist Ross Hier of Crookston, both retired wildlife managers for the Minnesota Department of Resources. Waterfowl enthusiast and champion caller Cory Loeffler of Red Lake Falls, owner of DRC Call Co., is among the featured artists in the duck call book.
Using a line made famous by the late renowned radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, Lodermeier says the new books tell “the rest of the story.”
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“I didn’t want these books to be just picture books,” he said. “I wanted them to be fleshed out with the history and biographies and all of that.”
Lodermeier wrote, researched and designed both of the new self-published books, along with “Minnesota Duck Calls – yesterday’s and today’s folk artists Volume 1,” published in 2003, and “Minnesota Duck Decoys – yesterday’s and today’s folk artists Volume 1,” published in 2009.
The goal, he says, is to help preserve a rich history of waterfowling in Minnesota that might otherwise have been lost.
“A lot of this history wasn’t being preserved, and within the collecting community, Minnesota was grossly underrepresented,” Lodermeier, 67, said. “It blew my mind that nobody was writing about this history or preserving this history, so that inspired me.
“I’ve learned a lot about the history of waterfowling through the perspective of the people who make decoys and calls.”
Lodermeier for several years served on the board of directors for the Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association and the Minnesota Decoy Foundation, which are dedicated to preserving the history and tradition of waterfowling in the state.
A collector who also was a board member of the decoy association had started researching a book featuring duck call and decoy artists, Lodermeier recalls, but didn’t gain the traction to complete the project.
“Like many people who have thought about doing a book, (he) found out it’s not easy and it’s not cheap,” Lodermeier said. “And then when they do the research, they abandon the project, and that’s kind of what happened with this.”
Lodermeier offered to help but said he felt there was enough material for two separate books and began working on the first volume of the call book, which he eventually published in 2003. In the meantime, the collector working on the decoy book never got beyond the research stage.
“After I finished the call book, I just sat down with him and said, ‘Why don't you move over what you have to me, and we’ll figure out some way to reimburse you for your efforts and your time and let’s get this book out,’” Lodermeier said. ““I thought it was very important.
“I made it a priority to take that project over, and basically what I did is, I took a box of broken parts and went from there.”
Perspective of experience
Lodermeier was able to approach the books from a perspective of experience, both as a collector of Minnesota-made calls and decoys – his collection of about 1,000 calls is “without a doubt the largest collection of Minnesota game calls in the country,” he says – and as a graphic designer with more than 45 years in the graphic arts business.
That experience, which includes working for corporations such as Honeywell and Korn Ferry laying out books and other promotional materials, gave him the skill set to write and design the books in both volumes, he says.
“When I first started, I thought I would hire out the writing, but I realized nobody understands my audience or knows what I want better than I do, and I’m capable of doing it,” said Lodermeier, who now is a partner in the Minneapolis design agency L&M Design. “As far as photography, that’s something I was completely capable of doing. Layout and design is something that I’ve done professionally my whole life, and I’ve laid out countless books for Fortune 500 companies.
“What I needed was an editor, so that’s kind of where I went from there.”
As expected, Lodermeier says, the first two books resulted in feedback from readers suggesting other duck call and decoy artists who should have been featured. Work on the second two volumes started almost immediately after finishing the first decoy book in 2009, he says.
“I wound up having another two file cabinets full of stuff,” Lodermeier said. “I figured, ‘Well, it doesn’t do me any good to keep in a file cabinet, I might as well finish this project. And that’s kind of where I am, although I will say this is a bottomless well.
“It will never be done, but I’ve got to say I have a pretty good handle on it.”
Traveling the state
In researching the books, Lodermeier traveled the state from Warroad to Winona interviewing call makers and decoy artists or members of their families, in the case of artists no longer living. He spent countless hours scouring birth records, death certificates and websites such as ancestry.com, in addition to the research material he obtained from the collector who abandoned the initial project.
“When I started the books, I went from a premise of nothing that I’ve ever heard is right,” Lodermeier said. “You’ve got to be a detective, you really do. I’ve learned so many ways to check on people and find people.
“I made trips to every one of these areas,” he added. “I was all over the state visiting with people, relatives and people that knew these (artists). … It was a matter of how much you were willing to dig, and I was willing to dig.”
At a retail price of $85 each, the limited-edition books are collectors items in and of themselves. Lodermeier says he had only 1,000 copies printed of each book, opting to pay more to publish the books in the U.S. rather than China, which undoubtedly would have been cheaper.
“You get what you pay for,” Lodermeier said. “And like I said, I wanted this to be a collectible, high-end book so it was important to me that it was done in the United States and it was done on quality paper and good binding and all of that to showcase the work that I put into it as best as I could from that standpoint.”
The books, he says, are the culmination of nearly 20 years of research, “and lots and lots of gasoline and lots and lots of windshield time.”
Asked if he kept track of the hours spent working on the books, Lodermeier was quick to reply.
“Oh good Lord no,” he said. “If I knew, I would never do it again.
“They’re done over a long period of time. I was more concerned about getting it right than I was about how long it took me to do it.”
So far, Lodermeier says, he’s sold about half of the books, even though they’ve only been off the press about a month. And no, he says, there won’t be third volumes.
“Nope, I’m done,” he said. “Someone else has to pick it up from here. I’ve exhausted it, I think, for the most part.”
For more information:
“Minnesota Duck Decoys Volume 2” and “Minnesota Duck Calls Volume 2” retail for $85 each or $150 for the set. To order or for more information, call (612) 922-9674 or check out the website at www.dougandpaul.com.