Step-by-step details to make hunting memories live on in a turkey call
OK, you’ve got a wild turkey in hand. That was the hard part.
To build a wingbone yelper, find where the bird’s wing joint and body meet.
Remove the wing from the turkey by twisting and cutting it free from the socket joint. Do this with both wings. Be careful not to break the wing bones.
After, remove the radius, ulna, and humerus bones, all still attached. After, separate these three bones.
Scrub Your Bones
Separate bones carefully. Gently scrape feathers and meat away with a knife.
Place the radius (the thinner of the two middle wing bones), the ulna (the thicker of the two), and the humerus (the largest bone) into a small pot of gently boiling water with a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Twenty minutes or so will do.
Carefully remove, cool, then scrape the remaining residue off the bones.
Next, cut off both ends of the three bones with a small hacksaw — just enough to expose the insides.
A quarter-inch section of a radius bone — cut from the round end of the radius bone before you build the call — can be glued onto the wingbone yelper for a lanyard ring (see photo above).
Remove the marrow with a pipe cleaner, piece of wire, or thin nylon cable ties. Carefully clean the interior bone ends with a knife tip.
Gently boil the bones another five minutes for one more cleaning.
TIP: Soak all three in undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide overnight to brighten the bones. Then dry the bones thoroughly.
Fit Your Bones
Study the bones. The radius has both a rounded and a flattened end (a perfect mouthpiece). Handle the other two. Two-bone yelpers make clucks and yelps just fine. Other call makers add the humerus bone for sound projection, as I have here. To do this, insert the ulna’s other end into the smaller end of the humerus.
Check bone fits before gluing. Sand ends gently if needed. I even cluck and yelp on the call a bit to double-check it sounds decent.
Carefully sand off any rough edges, especially near the radius bone’s flat mouthpiece tip.
Once you're ready, and all bones fit nicely, epoxy glue for an airtight fit. Let dry, balancing non-glued ends.
TIP: Check the glue seals again. If necessary, add just a bit more adhesive, let dry again, and gently touch up with sandpaper.
Dress Your Bones
Some call makers strengthen glued connections with thread wraps, or inscribe hunt memories with an ultrafine permanent marker. You can also use acrylic paint to add earth browns or leaf greens to your yelper.
Light epoxy or a spray fixative can preserve written details or drawings, though most fade a bit with time.
Good news is, the sweet memories of the hunt memorialized in your custom call likely won’t.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.