If you are a student of turkey hunting you have probably heard of wingbone calls. Wingbone calls have always fascinated me. Historians and archeologists say that wingbone turkey calls date back perhaps 6500 years. North American Indians made yelper calls from the three bones in a turkey’s wing.
Ingenious…who was the first person to figure this out? How do you deduce that you can take the wing bones of something you just killed and fashion them into an apparatus that you can use to call more of the same species within range? How intuitive and inventive is that?
A traditional wingbone call is made from the bones of a wild hen turkey's wing. The wing bones of a domestic turkey are just too thin and fragile use as a wingbone call because they never had to develop the strength to support the muscles used to fly. The wing bones of a wild mature gobbler are bigger and make deeper tones. I think the deeper tones sound more like a tom and are not tones that attract other toms in the spring when you are trying to imitate a hen. I use my gobbler wingbone call in the fall when I’m targeting bachelor groups of toms.
The wing of a turkey is made up of three bones: the radius (the smallest bone), the ulna and the humerus (the biggest bone). You can look up how to make a wingbone call on-line. You’ll find dozens of tutorials out there. It is a great non-hunting season project.
Once you have your wingbone call assembled and air passes through it, you can concentrate on the exterior esthetics. You can fill in any imperfections, round off the mouthpiece, and buff the entire call with steel wool or very fine sandpaper. You are only limited by your imagination on how you finish the outside to your call. Paint, rawhide, beads, Native American symbols can all be used to adorn your finished call.
There is something unique about using materials provided by nature to call in your quarry. It is “organic” hunting at its purest…no plastics, rubber, graphite, etc. To me, it feels like it brings more of the hunt to life.
Wingbone calls are different in another way. Most other calls are made by rubbing something together to make the sounds, wood on wood for box calls, wood and slate or acrylics for other calls. Diaphragm mouth calls (latex and plastics) require you to blow air across them. With a wingbone call, you need to suck air through it. One more thing to add to the,” How did they figure that out,” list.
I get a lot of questions about wingbone calls after I have demonstrated one in my seminars. I’m not the only person fascinated by these calls. People who have never seen a wingbone call seem naturally attracted to them.
I feel a wingbone call can add another dimension to your turkey hunting. By mid-way through the season, most gobblers have “heard it all” and are becoming call shy. However, few toms ever hear a wingbone call. I’ve used my wingbone calls to get several hesitant toms into range when nothing else seemed to work.
I like my wingbone calls too, because you can generate a lot of volume with them. If I’m scouting out a new hunting spot I will use a wingbone call to make my presence known over long distances.
If you don’t have a turkey wing or the time to make your own call, Primos makes a plastic wingbone call and it works well. You don’t see it on sporting goods store shelves a lot because most hunters don’t know how to use them and store managers don’t order them in because they are a “slow sale”. These calls are inexpensive and worth the few bucks you’d pay to get one and try it out.
We have about a month left in the spring turkey season…enjoy it! Send me some stories and pictures about your hunt. I’ll run some of them right here.