Frank Heidelbauer could call a duck using just his throat. While growing up in South Dakota, he raised domesticated mallards and memorized their calls. When his voice changed at puberty, he tried to mimic ducks with the commercial calls that were available at the time but was disappointed by their sound.
"There was a fault in every call he came across," says his son Jeff. "He went about fixing all those flaws by building his own custom-made calls."
In the early 1950s, when Frank set out to handcraft the perfect duck call, he never anticipated that his labor of love would grow into a family business. Today the legacy of Heidelbauer Wildfowl Calls is carried on by Jeff and his son, Todd, who continue to produce quality handmade duck and goose calls that live up to the standards of the company's legendary founder.
The family patriarch fostered another type of legacy as well. Like Frank, both Jeff and Todd are Ducks Unlimited Major Sponsors and volunteers. Jeff and his wife, Rebecca, are also Feather Society members, having made a bequest to DU that will live on long after they are gone. "Rebecca and I actually made Ducks Unlimited one of our kids," Jeff jokes. "She has two heirs on her side of the family, I have two, and DU is our fifth heir."
Jeff has been a DU volunteer for 40 years and now serves on the organization's board of directors as a regional vice president for the Great Plains Region. Todd is an area chairman and zone chairman in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He completed his grandfather's Diamond Life Sponsor pledge and then became a Sponsor in Perpetuity in his own right. "Having a son in DU is great," Jeff says. "Everyone in DU is family. When your family members are part of the bigger DU family, well, that makes it even more special."