CALLING AND DRAWING
Thomas Deaton kills lots of ducks and eats lots of ducks.
“I think last year I killed a little over 300 ducks by the end of the season,” said the Oklahoma City resident. “My family, we love waterfowl, and we eat the heck out of it. In order to stay within my legal possession limits we got to eat a lot of ducks.
“I like to cook a lot. Cooking it well is as important as hunting it well, in my opinion.”
Deaton, 47, also calls lots of ducks and draws lots of ducks, as well as many other wildlife and hunting and fishing scenes. He is a duck call maker and a tattoo artist.
He has been making his duck calls, True Death Waterfowl (tdwaterfowl.com), for the past six years. He has been a tattoo artist for the past 20 years and currently works at Skin Addiction Tattoo in Midwest City where he specializes in tattoos for people who love the outdoors.
“I do lots and lots of realistic wildlife and a ton of waterfowl scenes,” Deaton said. “I think it is pretty interesting for a lot of people to get a tattoo by somebody that is a serious hunter who also makes calls. It's all kind of worked together to kind of create a following for myself.”
Deaton has been a duck hunter since the age of 12. Growing up in south Texas, he mostly hunted around the coastal region of Texas that is teeming with ducks in the winter and then moved to Louisiana, considered another duck hunting mecca.
But it is landlocked Oklahoma that he rates as his favorite place to hunt waterfowl.
“Oklahoma is by far, I think, is the best duck hunting state I have ever been in,” Deaton said. “It's amazing. There is lots of opportunity, a large range of waterfowl and the hunting is just so much easier. You can literally pull up to a farm pond and throw out a couple of decoys and get a limit in an hour. It's an incredible place to hunt.
“In Louisiana, there is so much water and so much pressure. The hunting is good. It's just a lot less easy. Oklahoma has been very hospitable to me.”
Deaton decided to move to Oklahoma seven years ago after visiting his sister who lived in Norman. A local tattoo shop was looking for an artist, so he made the move to the Sooner state.
Being a serious waterfowler, when he first moved to Oklahoma he chose to live at Fort Cobb – one of the prime waterfowl destinations in Oklahoma – and commute to work.
He since has moved to Oklahoma City but Deaton is constantly on the go during the duck season, hunting at least 60 of the 75 waterfowl hunting days that are allowed in Oklahoma and often traveling to neighboring states to hunt, as well. He his duck calls online to waterfowlers across the country.
It's not only helped put some money in his pocket, but it's allowed him to gain access to some prime waterfowl hunting locations.
“I send these calls all over the country and develop these relationships with people hunting my calls and then when the season rolls around, I get a few invitations to travel and go hunt with them,” he said.
A former graphic designer who made furniture as a hobby, becoming a duck call maker was just a natural evolution for Deaton.
“I was sitting around waiting for ducks to come in one morning and looking at a duck call and I thought to myself, I can make one of these,” Deaton said. “It just kind of sent me on a journey that has progressed to where I am now.”
Almost every duck call Deaton makes is specifically made with the customer's specifications and then laser engraved with the True Death logo. He makes all of them at his home in Oklahoma City, where his flower bed is decorated in duck calls.
Not only a duck hunting tool, he considers his calls a work of art just like his tattoos. For some outdoorsmen, putting a trophy buck on the wall isn't enough. Some want it on their skin, as well, in the form of a tattoo.
“It's actually rare that I do a deer that they don't show up with a photograph of a deer they shot or their dad shot,” Deaton said. “If I can personalize it, that is really what they are going to go for.
“I have done everything from trophy bucks that they have shot to, not too long ago, I did a river scene with some ducks landing and a man fly fishing that represented where a client was first taken duck hunting by his grandfather and ultimately where his ashes were laid to rest. That was pretty special.
“A lot of times people will have bucket list ducks they haven't been able to shoot, wood ducks, cinnamon teal, stuff like that, and they will ask me to tattoo that on them. I have done big geese with bands that the bands had important information on them like the death or the birth of a family member. Just a wide range of stuff.”
Deaton, himself, also is heavily tattooed with ducks, duck calls and even the Ducks Unlimited logo. However, he says he wishes he would have waited before getting so many tattoos.
“In about the last seven to nine years, with all the influx of research and development in the tattoo industry, we now literally can do everything that we do on canvas on skin. When I got tattooed heavily, it was just not an option.”
Now it's too late for Deaton to upgrade.
“I've used up my real estate,” he said.