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How to Make and Use a Wingbone Turkey Call

The wingbone turkey call is many things. It’s the original call used by hunters to mimic wild turkey sounds. It was used by American Indians to put turkey dinners over the fire. It was also the most commonly used turkey call until the 1960s when other calls became popular. It’s a collector’s piece and a part of America's history.

The NWTF’s Winchester Museum houses the oldest known wingbone turkey call, which dates back more than 4,000 years. These early wingbone calls were necessities, used to hunt and provide food. Today, turkey calls are made by artisan to capture the allure of America’s history and hunting traditions. Each year, many of these craftsmen enter their best calls in the NWTF’s national callmaking championships.

There are 28 different wild turkey vocalizations, many of which are mimicked by hunters to locate and call in male gobblers. Among these calls are the kee kee, a lost call for young turkeys, the plain yelp, the basic turkey sound used by hens and the purr, a soft, rolling call turkeys make when content, often while feeding.

Step 1: Removing the wings

  • Cut the wing from the turkey where the joint meets the body. (The wing bone that attaches to the body will be the largest, known as the humerus.)

  • Next will come the two middle bones and the tip of the wing. The longest and smallest bone in diameter is the radius and the middle sized bone is the ulna.

  • Use a knife to separate the bones and discard the tip of the wing, all you will need is the humerus, ulna and radius.

Step 2: Preparing the wingbones

  • Starting with the humerus, cut off each end, just enough to expose the pith, or the hollow, webbed part of the bone. (This should give you a shank about 3-½ - 4 inches long.)

  • Next, cut the ends of the ulna, the next largest bone, just enough to expose the marrow.

  • On the radius, the last and smallest bone, you will find one end is slightly flattened and the other end is almost perfectly round up to the knuckle. Cut off the round end so that there is no enlarged end.

  • Now saw or file off the flat end a little at a time until you expose the pith and only a small portion of the enlarged flattened end remains. This will give you a bone that is almost straight on one end and the other end will be curved and slightly flattened on the tip.

Step 3: Removing marrow and other matter inside wingbones

  • Clean out the bones with a piece of wire.

  • Then, put them into boiling water or soak them in hydrogen peroxide for a couple of hours.

  • After boiling or soaking the bones, push out the marrow to finish cleaning the bones.

Step 4: Assembling the wingbones

  • Insert the large end of the ulna bone into the small end of the humerus. (You might have to scrape or sand the outside of the middle bone to make it fit properly.) The ulna should go about a half inch into the humerus.

  • Pack the area where the two bones meet with epoxy to create an air-tight seal. Be careful not to get the epoxy into the middle bone.

  • Next, put the round end of the smallest bone about the same distance into the middle piece.

  • Seal this intersection the same way as the first and let it set up for about 24 hours.

Using the Call

To use the call, place the tip of the bone just off center into your lip. Put in just enough of the call to create suction, then pull air through your lips as though you were trying to make a kissing sound. The most common call used with a wingbone is the yelp of a turkey, but with a little practice you can produce gobbles, clucks and even kee-kee run.

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