(This Scott Basehore trumpet yelper is made with a hen wingbone, a rubber stopper, a .25-06 rifle casing and bubinga wood. Henry E. Davis’ book The American Wild Turkey serves as a backdrop.)
Why spend your hard-earned cash on a custom trumpet yelper when a serviceable friction or mouth call will make a gobbler roar into range? Here are some thoughts.
Call makers, ever innovative then and now, advance the craft.** This includes early literature written by now iconic turkey hunters, documenting emergent and prevailing call making trends at the time. First, some origins. Native Americans built wingbone yelpers to lure in turkeys.
By the late 1800s, Charles L. Jordan crafted his yelpers using bone, silk, nickel and cane. The Wild Turkey and Its Hunting — the 1914 book bearing Edward A. McIlhenny’s name, though arguably Jordan’s posthumously published work (he was murdered by a poacher) — included instructions for making one.
In his Tales of Wild Turkey Hunting (1928), Simon W. Everitt mentions call variations, including cane joints, a wingbone mouthpiece and cocobolo wood.
Tom Turpin’s slim classic, Hunting the Wild Turkey (publication date unlisted and debated), captures this spirit. In it, the trumpet-style call emerges, using the Jordan yelper’s hen radius and a modified cork-stop mouthpiece.
Henry E. Davis references Turpin in his 1949 book, The American Wild Turkey, specifically the turkey wingbone mouthpiece paired with 6 inches of cocobolo wood (also known as the trumpet yelper).
Turkey bones. Exotic woods. Even spent rifle casings as callmaking parts. All have moved the wingbone yelper forward into trumpet territory. And many turkey call makers and hunters have thrived on that rich history.
Scott Basehore, “a wingbone guy,” as he calls himself — though his box calls are also legendary — took an interest in the trumpet yelper after hearing Zack Farmer run one. “That sound was all turkey,” Basehore said enthusiastically.
Ever keen to reflect turkey hunting history in his award-winning call making, Basehore began building trumpets close to the original design. A hen wingbone mouthpiece, rubber lip stopper, spent brass rifle casing and exotic wood include the basics, with a neck lanyard. “The trumpet yelper is more subtle,” Basehore said. “Calling hard on a trumpet loses authenticity.”
The Pennsylvania call maker will often use a box to strike a bird and then finish it with a trumpet.
As illustrated in the Davis book, the caller’s hand position plays a role. “It dictates what the trumpet sounds like,” Basehore said. “Cupping your hands tighter or more open over the sound chamber changes tone quality.”Lip action also does. Drawing air through the mouthpiece, as with a wingbone yelper, affects a trumpet call’s sound quality.
“I’ve changed over the years to draw yelps out longer,” Basehore said, “with a high front end leading into some raspiness.” Just like a real turkey hen. And with a custom trumpet yelper in your hands, you’re also holding part of turkey hunting history.