Craig man releases new elk call in time for holidays
December 16, 2016
Craig — Hunting elk in Colorado is hard work that can be aided with the use of a quality elk call.
When Craig man Steven Walls was no longer able to find calls like the ones he learned to use as a youth, he decided to make his own.
His calls are now available through area retailers, just in time for Christmas gift giving.
The story behind the development of his new brand — Shield Mountain Outdoors — is a story of redemption, survival and the relentless pursuit of a dream.
A family of meat hunters
Growing up in Northwest Colorado, the Walls family had a tradition of hunting to provide food for the table.
"I am the first generation of archery elk hunters, all before me had been rifle hunters — subsistence meat hunters," Walls said. "We would drive out, poke a gun out of the window and get our meat for the year. I decided to try something different, and I bought a bow from Day Tripper."
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For Walls hunting the wild places of Northwest Colorado not only offered food for the table but also an escape from a violent home.
"Growing up, it was pretty crazy. My mom was hospitalized three times and my Dad died when I was 13. He had amphetamines in his system. Before that there was a time of serious domestic violence and abuse," Walls said. "One thing that I have always connected with is the woods."
At age 15, the school district gave Walls a choice between expulsion or counseling. He chose counseling and met therapist Roger Reynolds who became Walls' mentor.
Despite Reynolds help, Walls was trapped in a cycle moving in positive directions only to self-destruct, regroup and try again. By 17 he had dropped out of high school. At age 19 he was back in school and learning how to use game calls to bring elk close.
"In those years I had two good things — hunting and my wife Jolene," Walls said. "My passion is super close encounters with elk. I learned to, as closely as possible, mimic the sounds of cow and bull elk."
Therapy healed a broken man
Although Walls found comfort in hunting and in his family, tragedy struck when he was 25 and his older brother Michael died of cancer.
"He was an honorable man, a hard workingman and a decorated solider," Walls said. "Michael had a mass in his chest. He wilted away to an infant state. When he died, I lost it. I hated the world. I would see other people and ask why are they still alive."
Walls was in a dark place, unable to get past the image of "my brother's cold dead eyes. I was a high school drop out with a GED, had failed out of collage two or three times, but after therapy things were clear," he said.
Reynolds introduced Walls to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) used to help people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Walls said.
This time therapy helped. Walls was able to finish college obtaining a Master's Degree in psychology.
In 2008, James Anthony Noble and Walls started A & S Counseling specializing in individual, couples, and family therapy.
Shield Mountain Outdoors was born
With his life and his work settled, it was time for Walls to pursue his dream to help others hunt elk. He's starting by making elk calls based on an old design.
"Elk calls are fun. They are a part of chasing a dream. Mr. Conrad from wood shop would read a Paul Harvey story. The inspirational stories gave me a picture, or an idea, of what life could be and an entrepreneurial spirit," Walls said. "A & S is part of that. Ever since wood shop, it (his dream) was a light out of the misery and poverty that I came from."
The calls he used as a youth had changed and when they didn't seems to work as well, Walls said he used the creative side of his mind to figure out how to make a better call.
"I have been thinking of doing this for awhile. This year I found an abundance of supplies I needed to mass produce the calls," Walls said.
His family supports Walls' dream.
"It's been a nice transition between therapy," Jolene Walls said. "It allows his mind to be at ease and relax. He experiences high stress moments and high stress cases when he gives everything to those patients and this allows him to really relax."
The Duck Commander brand has proven that modern family dynasties can be built on game calls.
"I've looked at the state of affairs. I want to continue to exist in this part of the world and help other people," Steve Walls said. "Chance favors the prepared mind. Part of (Shield Mountain Outdoors) is a way for me to ensure that in case of economic collapse that I could still stay here."
When asked if this is the start of an elk call dynasty, "I prefer he not grow the beard out, but shoot for the stars and build a dynasty," Jolene Walls said.
Shield Mountain Outdoors calls are receiving good reviews.
"Before this year I could never get any sound out of any calls before. After a few moments I could make sounds, not beautiful sounds, but sounds, and I am getting better. They are easy to use," Jolene Walls said.
"I have tried three of the calls. I have become familiar with how to use one. I will use them next year," said Northwest Pawn Shop Owner P.J. Nichols. "They seem to be as good as any of the name brand manufactures and are easier to tune and on your mouth then the name brands."
Walls also hopes Shield Mountain Outdoors will contribute to growing and diversifying the local economy.
"Counseling comes first," Walls said. "Eventually, I'd like to hire people in Craig and put people to work here and help this economy out. That would be my biggest dream and if it put enough in my pocket to hunt out of state then that would also be terrific."
As in hunting, Walls wants to achieve his ultimate goal of success, but he'd like others to do the same.
"If you got a dream you need to chase it," Walls said.