Why we love to make turkey calls

Family traditions and mentoring run deep among call makers.

A love of working wood, turkey hunting and even music can inspire a call maker.

Jeff Lacey, Grand National Callmaking Competition 2020 Amateur Turkey Call Maker of the Year, hails from northern Georgia. His grandfather — a fiddle maker and master carver — sparked an early woodworking interest.

“At age 9, he started me with a bar of soap and a plastic knife, and then power tools as I grew older,” Lacey said. “With my dad’s help, they built my first wood shop at age 14. He taught me music and how to develop a good ear, and provided a foundation. I use several of his old hand tools on each call to honor his memory.”

Interested in hand-built boxes, Lacey purchased calls from Albert Paul, Al Shoemaker and Jerry “Dad” White — his Box Call 101 class references — built with the iconic Neil Cost design. He gained their friendship, support and advice as top custom box-call makers.

“This was priceless in 2013 as I learned the craft, and was instrumental in any early success,” Lacey said.

He killed his first gobbler in 1990. Years later, Lacey called a 2014 Nebraska longbeard to the gun using a purpleheart and cedar box — the first turkey he’d killed with a call he’d made.


Clay Townsend, 2020 Grand National Turkey Hunting Call Maker of the Year and D.D. Adams Award winner, had his beginnings in his uncle Jeff Lacey’s shop, watching him build box calls.

“It stirred an interest in me,” he said, “so I experimented with pot calls and strikers.”

And through trial and error, he developed.

Sharing his success with his nephew was special, Lacey said.

“We’re best friends, we’re family, and we hunt and run Shag Hill Custom calls together,” he said.


“The GNCC is an opportunity to compete with the top call makers on the planet; to offer up your best work, setting goals for yourself and learning from your mistakes,” Lacey said. “Call makers who attend, talk shop. We never stop learning.”

Kevin Lynch, 2020 GNCC Charles L. Jordan award winner for Best in Class IV, Division 2, agreed. The Kentucky call maker started making wingbone yelpers in 2012.

“Many call makers — such as Jim Groenier, Arnie Jonathan and Fred Cox — were there in the beginning and still to this day,” he said.

As with Lacey and Townsend, call-making mentoring matters.

“They were always available to hand down advice and share anecdotes,” Lynch said. “They allowed me to ask questions, bounce ideas off them, and gave guidance and tips. Thanks to the patience and camaraderie of my brotherhood of friends and call makers, I am now able to do the same.”

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