In Memory of Dan Thompson – by Big Mark
A Tribute from Zepp’s Predator Calls to our late friend, Dan Thompson
September 20th, 1943 – December 26th, 2011
The message was from a friend in Nevada who informed me that Dan Thompson, at the age of 68, passed away the day after Christmas. Born September 20th, 1943 in Niagara Falls, NY he was a long-time resident of Rawlins, Wyoming, which is in the heart of his beloved Red Desert, a place he seemed to know like the back of his hand.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Wanda.
I think I am qualified to say a few things about Dan; I was lucky enough to spend several months with he and his late wife Wanda, back in 1997. I was living out of my van, traveling the west and stopped in Rawlins to meet him. I knew then, that instant, that it was a great day for me and have come to appreciate it even more as the years have passed. What a common bond we shared, coyotes, and a great friendship that was formed.
Meeting Dan Thompson, when I did, and how I did, had a profound impact on my life. Without him, the DVD Callin’ Coyotes with Mark Zepp and some of his Friends, and our small business, Zepp’s Predator calls, would have never happened. I am forever indebted to him if for no other reason.
Dan Thompson was a Wolfer in every sense of the word. He was a pilot and had a complete and thorough understanding of aerial gunning, traps, snares, dogging, 1080, M-44’s, skinning, tumbling, was an expert in coyote vocalizations and every other aspect related to coyotes. I can say without a doubt, he forgot more about coyotes than many of today’s most popular names and most guys simply are not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Dan Thompson.
He often told me he was happy to have been born when he was and young when the fur boom hit in the late 70’s… of nights sleeping under his truck and gasoline stashes’ set out in the desert and living off the land. He named some of his calls after the special places that meant the most to him, The Red Desert Howler, and The Sweetwater Howler.
Although I frequently disagreed with his opinion of people, products and politics, I have always said that I am Dan’s Thompson’s greatest admirer. Like all of us he had some flaws, some holes, some chinks in his armor and some of those got a little bigger as he got older, but don’t hold that against him, if that is the Dan you knew. I knew him in his glory and can hear him laughing now, what a great guy to be around. I know what a positive influence he had on my life and countless others and how much he loved this great sport of ours. I am a better man, person, and absolutely 10,000 times better coyote hunter because of Dan Thompson. Some guys can talk a good game, he could walk and talk it…..and shoot like few others. He had over 5,000 coyotes to his name, most of them taken in his younger years.
What an influence he had on our sport, this “little guy” who worked out of a make shift shop in his garage. Many of today’s most popular calls and tone boards are copies of his original designs and ideas and it is a shame that we live in a world where he didn’t get a little more credit for that.
He came from humble beginnings and would give the shirt off his back to you if he liked and respected you. He was uncomfortable in front of crowds and knew nothing about how to “market” himself as the expert he was in today’s world, he simply was what he was, direct and straight forward to a flaw at times. You didn’t have to wonder where you stood with Dan and maybe the world needs a little bit more of that in people. He would be the first to tell you he was far from perfect.
In the days since his passing, I have said to my wife at least one hundred times, “I cannot believe Dan Thompson is gone”, because to those of us who really knew him, it just seemed like Dan was part coyote himself and capable of escaping anything. He aged well and put a lot of miles on his 68 year old frame and, if anyone could, it seemed like he would be the one to find a way to avoid that final dirt hole set, or snare that had hung for several months in a fence line, or get down wind and sniff out trouble and laugh as he went on his way.
But in this precious game called “Life”, Dan’s death should remind all of us once again, that no one gets out alive. Dan passed away in his shop, from a heart attack, almost fittingly, while working on calls.
He left a legacy behind in the calls that bore his name and the students he instructed.
He also left behind family and friends who dearly miss him and scores of coyotes who will sleep a little better tonight knowing he is gone.
Although he was tough and hard and grizzled, he never failed to ask me how my wife and son were and tell me how happy he was for me. He met me when I was young and wild and free but always urged me to settle down and have some kids of my own, “There is nothing like your own kids”, he would tell me. I hope he let his own children know how proud he was of them, how much he loved them, but sometimes, those tough guys are terrible communicators… In our talks over the years and through countless hours walking to and from stands I can tell you that he loved his wife and kids more than anything.
I urge everyone who hasn’t talked to an old friend in a while to pick up the phone and give them a call. A few days before Christmas, I called Dan…. I had not talked to him in far too long and wanted to check in on him and make sure he was alright…. admittedly, most of our communication over the years was one way but that is just how he was. He was upbeat and as positive as I’d heard him in years. His struggling little business was back on the mend and his son was home, he was at peace and some of his inner demons seemed to be gone. I slept a little better last night knowing that the last words I ever said to Dan Thompson were, “Merry X-mas, I love you old man.”
Our sport lost one of the good guys; our country lost one who helped defend our freedoms.
Rest in Peace my old friend; I’ll see you on top of the Mountain.