During our most recent Adventure Getaway, we had the pleasure of traveling to Arkansas to meet and learn from a legend. John Stephens is three-time World Champion Duck Caller and President of RNT Calls Inc. John is also a co-host of RNT-V, a waterfowl show featured on the Sportsman Channel.  

We were in awe of all that John had to teach us.  His vast knowledge of hunting and calls is evident in the pride and craftsmanship put into each and every call.  We couldn’t get away without getting John to sit down with for our latest edition of Meet the Modern Pioneers to share some of his wisdom with you.

PHOTO: Blake Fisher

What is your favorite part of running RNT?

Creating products, watching them develop, and then seeing customers buy and enjoy something you have created. To me, that is one of the most rewarding parts is seeing someone buy something you have created.

PHOTOS: Blake Fisher

What is a typical day like for you?

The alarm goes off at 4-4:30 am, run three miles then head to the gym for an hour. I do that 5 days a week, helps get me in a good mindset before work. I try and spend the first hour at work answering emails and planning the day. Then meet with employees on different projects the rest of the morning. Take the next hour after lunch on new product ideas or product development, then the remainder of the day tuning calls. After 5 Monday through Thursday and all day on Friday I work on J.Stephens Calls, My custom handcrafted private line of calls.

PHOTO: Blake Fisher

When did you first start making your own duck calls and how did the first one turn out?

I was around 13 when I made my first few calls. They didn’t turn out so great as far as sound. But that’s the way you learn. With [my mentor] Butch’s guidance on tuning, I soon figured it out. Not long afterward I started tinkering with carving and checkering my calls.


We know that you’ve made the conscious decision not to take order requests for your custom calls. Tell us about the thinking behind that decision and give our readers some tips on how they might get their hands on one of your custom calls when you do make them.

Since my day job (RNT) is making duck calls, I didn’t want the J.Stephens line to become work. I have always enjoyed the process of making calls completely by hand and was afraid if I started taking orders, it might become work. I wanted to create and do it on my own time. It has been very enjoyable so far, and I am not totally against the idea of orders as I was when I started. I just need to find the happy medium in that process somewhere, so who knows, I may change my mind later if I come up with a good solution. The best way right now is the J. Stephens social media channels. I keep it updated when and where my calls will be for sale.

PHOTO: Blake Fisher

Who or what inspires you most?

I would say, my Dad. My Dad is one of the smartest and hardest working people I have ever seen. Anytime he did anything he learned as much as he could about it then dedicated himself to working his tail off to accomplish it. He made me realize you can do anything if you study, apply yourself, be passionate about what you do, and dedicate yourself to doing it. If I could pass on anything to my children, it would be a relentless drive to succeed at whatever they chose to do or become.

PHOTOS: Blake Fisher

What do you do to get creative inspiration?

I enjoy reading about any type of design, whether its art, landscaping, product design, graphic design, etc. I get a lot out of seeing other designers/artist’s design elements implemented, as well as their process no matter the subject, which allows me the opportunity to broaden my palette when it comes to my own creative process.  And no doubt anything related to waterfowl history, decoy carving, duck calls, old advertising. I love the old stuff and draw from a lot of the call makers of the past when creating some of my calls. In J.Stephens Custom Crafted Calls,  I wanted to develop a line in old tradition from design to construction. Implement design influences of past call makers. Let the design and products help educate about history and heritage of this craft.

PHOTOS: Blake Fisher

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to create their own maker driven business?

Make your passion your work. Not only does it make work more enjoyable but you will dedicate yourself to being successful. Also, read and study about other successful businesses outside of your industry. There are a lot of successful strategies out there that you usually can learn from and figure out how to apply to your craft.

PHOTO: Blake Fisher

What is your number one tip for novice duck callers?

Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen to as many people call as well as live ducks. Ducks are like people. They all sound different. The more sounds you can replicate the more verse you will be in calling, and the more people you listen to calling ducks will help you read the ducks reaction to those calls.

PHOTO: Blake Fisher

What is your most memorable hunt?

The two separate hunts when my children each shot their first ducks. Both seeing my son Reece and my daughter Riley experience success at something that has been such a big part of life meant a lot to me. My son to this day still loves duck hunting. It’s not my daughter’s favorite thing to do, but she understands and appreciates it. That means a lot.

Describe the Call Competition scene in just 3 words?

270 seconds marathon -(3 rounds at 90 seconds each)

What is your favorite duck recipe to prepare after a successful hunt?

You can imagine we eat a lot of ducks, but still, my favorite way is gumbo. Nothing is better when you finish up a cold day hunting than a nice bowl of duck gumbo!

You’re based in Stuttgart, and we’ve heard you talk about the importance of the community around your business. What type of effect do you want to have on your local community?

Duck hunting, calling, and call making is such a big part of Stuttgart’s Culture, that I want to make sure that we help maintain, cultivate, and bring awareness to that heritage for future generations both locally and beyond. I want to see the craft of calling as well as call making to continue with the integrity it was started with.

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