On my way to Downsville to visit Jerry Antley, one of this year’s recipients of the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame award, a hen turkey crossed the road. I mentioned the turkey to Antley and he asked a question that is totally in keeping with who he is and how he thinks.
“Did she have any poults (young turkeys) with her?”
One of the main reasons Antley was selected for this prestigious national award is his passion for the wild turkey. Having spent decades as a volunteer for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) from the local to the national level, it’s not surprising that Antley’s focus would be on these magnificent wild game birds.
When I questioned him about why he thought he was selected for the national award, Antley in his usual humble manner answered, “I haven’t quite figured it out yet. You think about something like this and you think you’re certainly not worthy, but after spending 40 years in the game call business and almost 40 years as a volunteer for the NWTF from local chapter president to state chapter president to the national board of directors, I guess somebody paid attention to what I was doing,” Antley said.
I watched a video clip of Antley’s comments as he stood at the podium after receiving his award. Two things impressed me as he started his talk, comments that included brief periods of silence while he fought off tears.
First of all, Jerry Antley is a Christian and he unashamedly shared his faith with the 300-plus people who attended the event in Nashville. Then he mentioned the death two years ago of his wife of more than 50 years and what her support had meant to him. His tears were absolutely in order.
Antley recovered and shared with the gathering what motivates him to do what he does. As founder and CEO of Cedar Hill Game Call Company, his company, housed in a small metal building in the woods off Vic Allen Road north of Downsville, has been turning out some of the sweetest sounding game calls to be found anywhere.
The most popular call he produces at Cedar Hill is one he and his cousin, Van Tucker, “invented” more than 30 years ago. The call was activated by scraping a striker across the lip of the little cedar call that fits comfortably in your hand.
“Because of the way it worked, we named it our ‘Scratch Box’ call, and we’ve produced and sold them all across the country for a long time,” Antley said.
Having been named recipient of the Legends of the Outdoors Award is not the first time the work Antley does and the service he provides has been noticed.
Last year, Antley was recognized in his local community when Cedar Hill Game Calls was named by the Union Parish Chamber of Commerce as Outstanding Citizen Award for Business for his home parish.
“I was blown away when I got the call. There are all sorts of good businesses in bigger places in the parish like in Farmerville and Bernice and for them to pick our company located way out here in the woods was overwhelming,” he said.
What effect has getting tapped for a national award had on Antley?
“When I found out I’d been selected for the award, people asked me if I was excited and to be honest, the word ‘numb’ fits better. Now that I’m back home and beginning to get calls to do radio interviews around the country and getting e-mails and texts from all over, the numbness has begun to give way to being on ‘cloud nine’.
If anybody deserves to soar through the clouds and find a comfortable seat on number nine, it’s Jerry Antley, one of the most down-home genuine good old boys who has given Downsville, Union Parish and our state a reason to be proud.