your own Turkey Calls" by Jerome B. Robinson
& Stream January 1998
Making your own turkey calls is a sure way
to extend the pleasure of the hunt in the off season. Just ask call
maker Mike Morton of El Dorado, Arkansas. Morton, a retired school
principal, hand crafts custom duck, goose, and turkey calls that
are fast becoming collector's items among knowledgeable hunters.
"Every turkey call you make puts you
in the woods," he says. "In your mind's eye, you can see
the turkey coming in while you shape the wood. You can hear him
gobble and drum each time you make some trial sounds with the call.
I kill a lot of turkeys in my head when I'm making calls.
Morton has been hunting with home made call
most of his life. He has an old raspy cedar box call, the base of
which is heavily notched to indicate the number of turkeys it has
taken, and he carries a flute toned wingbone call made from the
bones of a hen turkey. But what he relies on most are slate-faced
NOTE: Custom Calls has omitted
the slate call portion of this article.
To make box calls, Morton chooses 1/4-inch-thick stock to make the
bottom and paddle and 1/8-inch-thick stock for the sides. "The
best way to make a box call is to copy one," Morton says. "Then
you can experiment with different lengths and widths to suit your
There's not much to the construction. "You
just need to recess the sides into channels you cut in the bottom,"
he says, "and use blocks of various dimensions at both ends
to hold the sides and bottom together.
Use tight-grained, thoroughly dry wood. Different
combinations of woods produce different sounds. Experiment until
you get a tone that works for you. If you want to use cedar sides,
buy cedar-closet paneling.
The tonal break in a box call comes from the
curved top edge of the sides of the call. Most box call sides are
curved at the top from end to end so that the sides are about 1/4
inch higher in the center than they are at the ends.
here to enlarge picture
Use a file to round the paddle on the bottom,
then drill a small hole near the end. To attach the paddle to the
block, pass a fine-threaded 1-inch-long screw through the hole and
then through a 1/2-inch section of 3/8-inch-diameter coil spring,
which must be inserted between the paddle and the end block. Continue
to turn the screw into the end block. The spring is used to stabilize
the tension on the paddle as it is scraped over the top edges of
the sides of the box.
WHERE TO GET MATERIALS
To make a turkey call, you need very dry wood. Mike Morton says
that old furniture is the cheapest source of call wood. (The tight
grain gives the call its tone.) The legs and tops of older tables
contain gems for turkey call making--maple, walnut, cherry, mahogany,
poplar, and basswood. You might find suitable examples sitting unused
in an attic. But check before you saw; you don't want to destroy
Great-Aunt Bessie's irreplaceable heirloom.
Use a bandsaw to saw the wood length wise
(with the grain) into broad strips 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Store
the pieces in a dry place.