"Turkey Call Soup" by Al Stewart

Outdoor Life March 1985

If you plan to be one of the more than 250,000 wild turkey hunters in this country who will bring a bird home this year, then you have a unique opportunity before you. In addition to having your turkey and eating it, too, you can make a special wingbone call to do the trick all over again. To get the three necessary bones, you must make a soup. Begin by gathering these ingredients:

2 or more turkey wings (substitute domestic turkey wings if wild wings are unavailable)
3 qt. Cold water
2 leeks (wild preferred), coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, including leaves, sliced
5 carrots, sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. Instant chicken bouillon
1 tsp. Dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. Dried basil, crushed
2 whole cloves
4 peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 tsp. Salt
1 8oz. Package of egg noodles
Garnish of fresh parsley or chives


(Photo shows steps from wing to finished turkey call.) Remove wings from bird at the socket joints closest to body and carefully pluck all feathers. Wash and place wings in a large pot; add cold water. After bringing to a boil, lower heat to simmer and skim any surface residue off the water with a large spoon. Add remaining ingredients, except noodles and garnish, and partially cover. Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until meat separates easily from the bones. Remove wing bones from soup and add egg noodles, simmering slowly until done. Season to taste and then serve with a sprinkling of parsley or chives. This easy-to-make soup serves four to six.

Once you have enjoyed the soup, here are the materials you'll need to make the wing-bone caller; three bones from one wing (humerus, radius, ulna), white glue, cotton balls, a hacksaw, a small wood file, a pipe cleaner or small wire, and a pocketknife.

(Use a Hacksaw to remove the bone ends so the pieces will fit together.) Using a hacksaw cut the ends off all three bones to expose the marrow. Swab the insides of the bones with a pipe cleaner to remove as much marrow as possible. Boil the hollowed bones in water for a few minutes. If matter still remains, use your pocketknife to remove it, particularly in the humerus (large bone).

The small bone (radius) has one round end and one flat end. Insert the round end into the small, open end of the middle-sized bone (ulna). Pack with cotton to make it airtight, being careful not to get any in the hollow portion. Then glue.

Next, place the opposite end of the ulna into the small end of the humerus, which serves as a sound amplifier for the call. Use cotton and glue to seal this joints and make it airtight, too. Allow glue to dry for 24 hours, and then file any rough or sharp edges on the flat mouthpiece of the bone.

To use your new call, place the flat tip of the small bone on your lips, and kiss or suck air through the call's length to create a raspy yelp. Cup your hand over the open end of the call to change the resonance and to produce more realistic sounds. The cluck can easily be made by placing your tongue over the small hole in the mouthpiece and quickly sucking while simultaneously pulling your tongue off the hole. With practice, you can produce all turkey sounds with this call except the gobble.

(Variations are easily made on the turkey call. Many hunters replace the original amplifier to get more volume and to transmit the sound for longer distances.) How many variations of the wing-bone call you make depends only upon your mechanical ability and your imagination. Most people use the radius as a mouthpiece. One variation is to use a hollowed cow horn in place of the humerus for the sound amplifier. The radius is inserted into the small end of the cow horn and secured with cotton and blue. Other substitutes for the sound amplifier include a three to six-inch piece of hollow wood shaped like a trumpet, a piece of can grass, a deer femur, and a spent shotgun shell.

Another amplifier involves attaching a piece of two-foot-long, three-eighths-inch rubber surgical hose to the mouthpiece and connecting the other end to a cow horn. The hose and cow horn add to the versatility and variation in sound. All of these changes tend to give the call greater volume.

The wing-bone call is certainly not a new idea. Archaeological evidence suggests that Indians were the first to use it. In 1787, a man named Beale Bosley was nearly shot by an Indian while calling turkeys with a wing-bone at the site of what is now Nashville, Tennessee. Another young pioneer, William Nowlin, used the three hollow bones from a wild turkey wing to call a gobbler into shooting range in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1894.

Edward McIllhenny, who was a well known Louisiana naturalist 70 years ago and author of the first book on wild turkeys, wrote that the wing-bone call caused the death of more turkeys than all other call devices put together. In fact, the use of calls was so effective than, in the mid-1930's Pennsylvania outlawed their use for several years.

How effective is the wing-bone call today? I have used my homemade models with excellent success, especially on wet, rainy mornings when box and slate calls get damp and don't function. I use a wing-bone call to locate birds on the roost in the early morning and in the evening. This call tends to be louder than others used and will elicit a gobble from birds at greater distances or when other calls get no response. Hunting tradition is another reason I like using wing-bone calls.

Calling adds an exciting dimension to the sport of turkey hunting. There are few things more rewarding than fooling an ol' tom into shooting range, and nothing more satisfying than knowing that you did it with a call you made yourself.