How to ... make a wingbone turkey call

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: March 6, 2014 - 4:58 PM

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In a few short weeks, amorous toms will start hailing the arrival of spring. Their thunderous gobbles will echo from lofty perches in the predawn hours of each morning.

Then, as daylight creeps into the forest, the gobblers will fly to the ground and perform for their lady friends. The passionate males will fan their tail feathers and fluff their splendid iridescent body plumage. Their heads will glow in what to me looks like a patriotic display of red, white and blue.

The 2014 Minnesota wild turkey hunting season opens in about a month, on April 16. If you’re like me, you’ve already dug out your turkey calls, despite the snow and cold. Much to our families’ dismay, committed hunters like us have already started practicing our yelps, clucks, purrs and cuts.

Turkey calls come in a variety of styles. Perhaps the least known iteration is the wingbone call. There are commercial versions of wingbone calls made from plastic or wood, but, as the name implies, the original wingbone calls were made using the actual wing bones from turkeys.

Want to wile away the days between now and turkey season? Try making your own wingbone call. Don’t fret if there aren’t any spare turkey wings lying around the house. The wing bones from store-bought turkeys work just as well.

Follow these simple steps to make a your own wingbone call:

Step 1. Cut off the birds’ wing at the shoulder. Be careful not to cut through any bones. The bones needed to make a wingbone call are the humerus, radius and ulna. Clean as much meat off as possible.

Step 2. Separate the bones and cut off the large knobby ends with a hacksaw. Clean the marrow from the insides by using a wire and paper towel. The humerus requires a little extra work: It’s filled with a series of bony weblike membranes that can be drilled out.

Step 3. Boil the bones in soapy water for an hour or so. Follow up with a hydrogen peroxide soak to further whiten the bones.

Step 4. Cut the bones to length and bevel the ends with sandpaper until the end of the radius (the smallest bone) fits neatly into the ulna, and the ulna fits into the humerus. Finally, glue the bones together using two-part epoxy and allow 24 hours for the glue to harden.

It takes practice to emit convincing yelps, clucks and purrs on a wingbone call. Put the small end of the call between your lips just off center and cup one or both hands around the end of the call. Never blow on a wingbone call; instead suck on the call with a kissing motion.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

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  • From left, the humerus, ulna and radius bones were boiled, cut and beveled for the wingbone call.

  • WINGBONE WISDOM

    1 The wingbone call produces a special sound, one experienced hunters claim is especially effective for calling heavily hunted toms.

    2 Some hunters embellish their wingbone calls by adding artwork such as scrimshaw or decorative painting. You can also wrap the glue joints with colorful thread, just as you’d wrap line guides on a fishing rod.

    3 To ensure the call is positioned properly between the lips, some turkey callers attach a rubber washer with glue. The washer should act as a stop about a half-inch from the tip of the call.

    4 Use a lanyard to hang the call conveniently around your neck.

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