Duck Call Science: Teen Creates Award-Winning Hunting Gear
GRAND COTEAU, LA (AP) — A number of hunters around Grand Coteau buy handmade duck calls from a 14-year-old.
Claude LaHaye started early tinkering with objects, taking them apart, figuring out how they worked and putting them back together again. An avid hunter, he ended up focusing his fascinations on duck calls while sitting in a blind one slow morning.
LaHaye figured he might be able to make a call of his own. Once he got home, he started playing around with wood and other components until he had a simple call in his hand.
"I've just gotten better and better at it," LaHaye said. "The more I made calls, the better I got. A lot of it is just trial and error."
The eighth-grader estimates he has crafted a few hundred duck calls.
Nowadays, LaHaye sells his calls to hunters in the area. Rather than focusing on mass production, he likes to create a custom product tailored to each person's likes and dislikes.
"One thing I've learned is that (one-)120th of an inch can make the difference between something sounding terrible and something sounding perfect," LaHaye said. "The people who have bought them tell me that it's like a piece of artwork and they almost don't want to go out hunting with it. But once they use it, they say it sounds really good."
Recently, LaHaye took home multiple awards at the LSU Science and Engineering Fair. He wasn't thinking seriously about entering the competition, but followed suggestions from teachers at Berchmans Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau that he use his duck calls as the basis for his project.
"He is an extremely intelligent and self-motivated young man," LaHaye's science teacher, Katherine Meredith, said in a news release. "He came up with his project idea and completed the work all on his own." She said she and his math teacher helped LaHaye use data analysis software.
For now, LaHaye spends hours every week working on a lathe on his family's farm in Arnaudville. The process includes placing pieces of wood on the lathe and spinning them, while LaHaye works the wood into specific shapes. LaHaye has gotten so good that he can usually make a call in about a day.
Recently, LaHaye has started expanding his list of creations. He made a pipe for his dad, Dr. Chip LaHaye. A ukelele marked a foray into creating musical instruments. He even made a flamethrower that attaches to his hand and shoots fire into the air — an idea he got from a YouTube video.
While it's a business now, LaHaye said he thinks his duck call creations will eventually become a hobby. He plans to go into medicine — possibly ophthalmology, like his father.
"I'm happy for him and so proud of him," Chip LaHaye said. "All of his hard work has paid off."
Lacey LaHaye, Claude's mom, also shared her enthusiasm for her son's accomplishments.
"We supported Claude by allowing him to make his own decisions about his topic, design of display and explanation of his project that was submitted to the judges," Lacey LaHaye said in a news release. "We were there if he needed us, but truth be known, he did absolutely everything on his own. Claude has learned many valuable lessons during his project, including hard work does pay off. We are very proud of him and his school."
LAHAYE'S RECENT AWARDS
Claude LaHaye's duck call project won the following awards at the recent LSU Science and Engineering Fair:
• Broadcom Masters Award
• First place, materials and bioengineering award
• First place, Naval Science Award
• First place, A.S.M. Materials Foundation award
• First place, Air Force Recognition Award
• First place, in materials and bioengineering division
• Overall 2015 winner of LSU Science and Engineering Fair
In October, LaHaye will compete in the National Broadcom Masters competition.
– by AP/ Reporter Amanda McElfresh with The Advertiser