a fistful of change and a little bit of time, you can make a killer
turkey call" by Michael Pearce
Life February 1997
Giving a starving turkey hunter the choice
between a sandwich and a new call, and he'll cinch his belt tighter
and start cackling. It's not that he needs another call--he's probably
got crates of them squirreled away. It's that for serious turkey
hunters the search for the one true yelper is an all-consuming addiction.
And give the cost of calls today, that can really add up. Unless,
of course, you build your own. The materials cost next to nothing,
and you can build both a slate and a mouth call in less than half
an hour. Convenient, since that leaves both time and money for a
nice turkey dinner.
SLATE CALLS Slate Calls are some of
the sweetest in the timber, and they're also some of the easiest
to make. All you really need is a chunk of slate, a ceramic or diamond-tipped
saw and a couple of pieces of sandpaper. With the basic materials,
you'll be yelping in no time.
1 Getting a Rough
Blank Cut out a workable section of slate--say 8 by 12 inches--with
the saw. When finished, it should be about 1/8-inch thick. Slate
shears cleanly, so if you have to trim it to width, turn the piece
on end and split it with an old knife and hammer.
2 Creating the Finished
Blank To grind the blank smooth, wet a section of sidewalk,
then work the blank across it in circular motions. Finish the surface
with some sandpaper until it's perfectly smooth. Congratulations,
you've just made a slate call. Run a striker across it, and it'll
call turkeys. But there's more.
3 Adding a Sound
Chamber If you want to enhance the sound, take a piece of PVC
pipe, two inches high by three inches across, and trace its outline
on the blank. Trim the slate with tin snips and then blue it onto
the pipe with a ceramic glue like Liquid Nail. If you like, get
creative with your sound chambers by varying their shape. Spencer
Tomb, a close friend and an excellent callmaker, uses turtle shells
he finds afield.
4 Making the Striker
Cut a rod eight inches long from a 3/8-inch cedar, walnut or hickory
dowel and push it deep into the center of a dry, shelled corncob.
The peg and the cob need to vibrate well together, so if the fit's
not tight, add some wood glue.
5 Final Tuning
You'll need to do a certain amount of tweaking to fine-tune the
call. First, start with the striker. Shorten the peg gradually and
vary the shape of the tip, from perfectly flat to pointed, until
you get a yelp you like. You will also find that hollowing or shortening
the top of the cob also affect the sound. If your first striker
doesn't work out, make another and try again.
Once you get a sound that's close to what
you want, start working on the slate. Look for "sweet spots"
that sound better than others. Try shortening the sound chamber
until you find your desired volume and pitch.
Slate The best slate come from old
chalkboards, which most schools and colleges are phasing out since
chalkdust and computers go together like bubble gum and hair. Some
masonry supply stores also carry slate tiles and shingles, both
of which will work. Making calls is a process of trial and error,
so once you find a supply, stock up.
Striker Material Most hardware stores
carry wooden dowels, which can be cut into pegs. Broken carbon arrow
shafts can also work.