About IHW Custom Calls
Irving Whitt was born and raised in the mountains of Virginia along the scenic Roanoke River. He had the luxury of hunting the mountains or trout fishing the cool waters of the Roanoke whenever he wanted until he had a terrible accident that ended up being a blessing. At age eleven, Whitt fell from a tree and tore his left arm completely off at the elbow. Miraculously doctors successfully reattached Irving’s arm, but he spent eight months in the hospital recovering.
It was during the long hospital stay that Irving discovered that he had a real talent for drawing. After all, he didn’t have much else to do. He has been drawing and painting ever since.
When Whitt was thirteen, he learned a new passion. One day while squirrel hunting he found a piece of wood. He was patiently waiting on a squirrel, so he began to carve the wood. It came out pretty good, sot hat was it, he knew he wanted to carve. Not long after that Irving made his first turkey call by copying one that his father owned.
His father had a wood shop that Irving was always tinkering around in, and he took every shop type class that his school offered. He also continued to paint and draw. For many years, Irving entered art contests, and won every one that he was in, but nothing really came of it. When his daughters were born, work and family took over, and Irving’s art was put on the back burner.
Irving’s passion always existed, and as his daughters grew up, he knew he wanted to get back into something where he could use his talents. In 1998 Irving was with one of his daughters when she harvested her first deer. After season he thought that he would like to see her take her first turkey, so he decided to build a call for the job. He made three or four calls before he was satisfied, but he finally built one that suited him. The hunt lasted only 35 minutes!
Irving made his next call for Dale Earnhardt, and it was a great looking carved piece. Dale told Whitt that he collected calls, and that peaked Irving’s curiosity. He began keeping an eye out for calls, but didn’t have much luck until he bought a computer. He found E-bay and typed in “turkey call’, and that opened the door.
Irving bought a few calls and met some collectors. He sent photos of his calls to some of the collectors and they encouraged him to do more. Three and a half years later, Irving is making calls full time and has been nationally recognized for his work.
In 2002, Whitt entered calls in the NWTF Nationals. He took home a 1st place ribbon in the decorative calls scratchbox division. 2nd place in decorative calls turtle shell (other than real) and third in decorative calls carved not painted. He has sold calls to some of the nation’s top collectors including Earl Mickel, Davis Love III, Bill Jones, William Henkel, George Denka, Rod Bauer, Dalton Dowdy and Howard Harlan.
Irving makes beautiful hand carved decorative boxes, and has also come out with a hunting line of calls. The spring of 2002 tested his longboxes in the field, and they were a smash hit. Irving harvested five old longbeards with just a longbox, and many who bought his calls reported similar success. His new short boxes are both beautiful and functional. He already has over 100 orders, making this call one of the hottest and most sought after box calls in the U.S.
More on IHW Calls…
When Irving decided to make calls, he wanted to make a design that was original. He first came up with the unique style that is indicative of all IHW calls, then he set to work perfecting the sound. Irving wanted a box call that looked like his but sounded like a Neil Cost call.
Whitt is lucky in the fact that he lives in Greenwood, SC, the same town where Cost lived. Irving talked to Cost about calls and was not willing to change his design even though Neil said he didn’t think Irving could get his calls to sound “right”. That was all the challenge that Whitt needed, and he went to work determined not to change his design, but achieve the sound he was looking for. After many calls, Irving finally took a call that he was happy with to Neil Cost and let him run it. Cost said, “looks like you got it, now make me one out of the walnut I give you.” That is when Irving knew that he had “The” IHW call.
All IHW calls are built by hand one at a time. Irving does not mass produce calls, and he puts a lot of time into each box call. He cuts the blocks out with a saw and then drills them out, but virtually everything else is done by hand tools. All of his calls are hand tuned with a pocket knife, and his carved calls are done the same way. He doesn’t use carving machines or even a dremmel tool, he carves with a knife. The quality of Irving’s calls is apparent in look, feel and most importantly sound. Irving says that if he isn’t positive that one of his boxes will call up a turkey, he absolutely won’t sell it, no matter how good it looks.
Irving prefers walnut, poplar, butternut, cedar, sassafras, and willow for his short boxes. Butternut, mahogany, Sitka spruce and Alaskan cedar coupled with cedar lids are his choices for longboxes. He is experimenting with other woods, and will periodically add others to his list. Irving uses only select woods for his calls that meet his rigorous standards.