Building Your Own Mouth Calls

Assembling diaphragm yelpers is enjoyable and lets you create a custom sound. Here, two turkey men share their love of the craft.

As a child, New Jersey’s Anthony Virga watched his uncle Richard Kinney, of Uncle Dickie’s Yelpers, work on calls. On the calling circuit, his fascination grew even more. Vermont’s Brett Ladeau, also an accomplished competition caller, started building mouth calls after watching a few turkey hunting friends do it.

Tools and Materials

Virga uses a Feather Ridge air press for his private-label company’s calls.

“It’s easier for my production numbers,” he said. “At first, I used a small hand jig, and then a regular press from Feather Ridge.”

His tools and materials also include a regular pair of scissors, a smaller pair with fine tips (for top-reed cuts), a Feather Ridge tape cutter, a custom-made frame bender and a sharp handmade needle-like punch for stacking the latex.

Ladeau’s tools include tape, frames, needle-nose pliers, fly-tying scissors, a Feather Ridge hand jig and tape cutter, and reeds of various thicknesses and material.

Basic Build Steps

“I stack the reeds (usually three reeds, but two are also common) and use the hand jig for the desired stretch,” Ladeau said. “Next, I add the frame and use pliers to lock in the stretch and back tension. After this, I cut the tape.”

Virga inspects the latex, looking for consistent, wrinkle-free material.

“I check my top reed, typically .004 latex, and my two bottom reeds; .003 natural latex,” he said. “I’ll stack latex with spacing for the desired tone (stacking reeds closer or farther apart can change the tone).”

He preps his frame next, bending it with the frame bender and removing the paper backing protecting the adhesive material.

“From there, I drop my latex in the press on top of the frame, top reed down,” he said, “and with my finger give a slight bend of the frame, and then start crimping.”

Virga stressed that back tension is important for a call’s sound, with just enough to get the wrinkle out. When the call is pressed, he makes the desired cuts and applies his tape, cut with the tape cutter.

Personal Touches

“I use pliers to lock in the stretch,” Ladeau said. “I also pull the reeds from the back of the frame to add back tension and use the pliers to lock that in, too. I put the frame on one side of the tape and use my index finger to hold the frame in place to fold the tape over.

Some people hand-cut their tape, but he prefers the manual tape cutter.

“The tighter the stretch, a higher pitch can be achieved,” Virga said. “Loosen the stretch, and expect the opposite. Somewhere in the middle can achieve the entire spectrum of turkey vocabulary.”

And with a little investment in tools and materials, you can too.

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