Making a Wing Bone call
While yakking away with Neil about my addiction, and therapy for it, I mentioned using a wing bone call. This lead to him asking where he could get one, and my response was “Just make it.” He asked how, I briefly explained the procedure, and he asked me to write a piece about it for Hunters central. So, here we go; I will also provide a link or two on the subject at the end by people that are much better writers than I am. I will also provide a little background that may or may not be of interest, or help in this little project.
Wing bone calls are a part of American History. Some people can call Wild Turkey’s using only their mouth. Most of us need a little assistance though, and so it has been for centuries. Native Americans were the first to use wing bone calls, and our forefathers were quick to learn about them. They passed on the knowledge of their construction, and I have been told that the skill is still taught across the Appalachian region. I first learned how to build this type of call from a retired Marine that had been raised in the back woods where as often as not; a successful hunt was the difference between eating well or not at all.
Like most new Turkey hunters I was not very good at getting a bird. The better hunting areas were also restricted by license “Draw” that most often did, and still do require several years accumulation of preference points. I was talking about this one day at the now defunct Al’s Sporting Goods in Arvada Colorado. Jeff, the old Marine that became my mentor asked a very good question of me; “Why don’t you put all that whine into a bone? You might even get close enough to get a bird if you do.” I looked at him like the idiot tyro that I was, and things went from there.
First, I needed the wing bone from an older Wild Turkey hen. Second, those previously mentioned hard to get licenses are very easy to get for the fall season, and, you can shoot hens as well as toms. I combined my deer season with a fall turkey hunt and the solution was at hand.
Domestic Turkey’s bones are too thin for making the best calls from, but I learned a work around for that problem which I will cover later.
I cook the bird first myself. Others say that is a “no no” so I am of a mind that it probably does not matter. What does matter is not cracking or crunching the wing bones!
I separate the wing from the carcass, and remove the very tip. Then remove all the meat from the remaining three bones. The technical names are Radius, Ulna, and Humerus but if you don’t have a background in Physiology or Medicine you can simplify them as big, middle, and small. Use a fine toothed small craft type saw and cut off the large ends of the bones. Then place them in a pot of water, to which I add a drop or two of dish soap, and also a few drops of chlorine bleach. That will soften the marrow in the center of the bones, as well as stabilize the colorization. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the bones for a short time. About ten to fifteen minutes seems to work, but don’t toss the water just yet. You might need additional baths for he bones. Remove the bones, and rinse them in clear water. Then, use a small wire or flexible piece of plastic to push out the bone morrow. An old ball point pens inner plastic tube seems to work well, just make sure that the ink is completely flushed. I have seen others recommend small pistol or rifle brushes for this task but all that has ever happened when I tried them was cracking the bones, rendering them useless. Repeat as needed to remove all traces of bone morrow.
Now, after drying the bones fit them together; the big bone to the middle bone, to the small bone. Some fine sand paper or crocus cloth will help to accomplish this. Don’t force the issue just sand the ends for a smooth fit. About a half an inch insertion is about right. Find the best position for you by turning the bones in your hand until you get a fit that feels right for you. Once you have located that, then use epoxy, JB Weld, or a similar product to glue the bones together. Let that set, and you are ready to go. I improve the joint strength by wrapping the joints with thread like you would a fishing rod guide, and coating them with lacquer or fly tying glue. I have also seen some that were supported with shrink tubing.
If using a domestic turkey’s bones follow the above instructions and after fitting coat the exterior of the bones with clear lacquer. A single coat seems to work although I have used as many as three coats before.
No two calls sound exactly alike, and that is a good thing when you are hunting birds that are well educated when it comes to staying alive in hard hunted areas.
To use a Wing Bone Yelper place it in your hand, cupping the call, then make a kissing or smacking noise over the end. It does take a bit of practice and you should try different positions in order to find out the best combination of kissing sucking angles and so on. Basically a yelper call, using bones from young and old birds, as well as from both Toms and Hens can have different results that can be a great boon in different hunting or photography situations. I once “froze” a Mountain Lion while Turkey hunting long enough to get a once in a lifetime picture using a Wing Bone Call made from two different Jake’s.
Patrick Sperry © 2009
Permission granted for not for profit, educational or brief review purposes.
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