Custom Calls Online would like to thank
Howard Harlan for his permission in using the illustrations found
in this article. Without his fine work this article would have been
impossible to complete.
Turkey calls have gained popularity in recent
years with collectors nation wide. This popularity can be
credited to the restocking and resurgence of turkeys and turkey
hunting in all the 48 states, Mexico and Canada. What was once an
almost extinct upland game bird has returned in great numbers. The
challenges of hunting this monarch of the forest have stirred the
interest of hunters from near and far. This interest has also turned
the older and antique callers into prized collectibles. In recent
months calls that sold for only one or two dollars new at the turn
of the century are getting thousands of dollars at auction. The
trend is quickly rising and prices continue to climb in double digit
increases with every passing month. This short article will offer
a brief discussion of the early calls and some historical facts
that may help to steep your interest in collecting.
the first turkey call was made of used is not known. We do however
have a good idea when the first calls were already in use. In 1940
the Eva archaic site located in Benton County, Tennessee was excavated
prior to the construction of the dam that formed Kentucky Lake.
Many early Indian artifacts were unearthed at this time. One of
the more interesting items found, at least from this point of view,
were wingbone style yelpers made from bone and antler materials.
Close examination showed that these calls were made from the actual
wing bones of turkeys. Microscopic analysis showed that the bones
were heavily worked by being scraped, cut and fit together much
like the calls we are used to seeing today. They were accurately
dated to 6500 BC.
Early Call Turkey
discussing turkey call history I will start with the late 1800 and
move quickly forward. The three basic call classification center
around friction calls, diaphragm calls and the trumpet of yelper
style call. Production callmaking is thought generally to have
started in around 1880s by Charles Jordan . Mr. Jordan was
well known for his work with wing bone yelpers similar to those
found in the Eva dig site. In 1881 he wrote a series of articles
for Forest and Stream magazine that discussed the wing bone yelper
and its use. I t is Jordan the must be remembered for the
return of the wing bone yelper to the masses. It was his works that
bridged the gap between the early native Americans and popularized
these calls towards the turn of the century.
and Gibson were the first generation of modern callmakers. There
were followed by the famous Tom Turpin. Turpin was born a generation
later and his work with turkey calls was very much influenced by
these two earlier callmakers. It should be noted that Turpin made
many different types of calls and not just turkey calls. Turpin
produced yelpers and box calls till 1949 when he turned the business
over to Inman, his brother. At the age of 85 Tom Turpin died in
1957. In that same year the Turpin call business was sold to two
different people. Melencon purchased the duck call business and
Roger Latham purchased the turkey call business.
Another famous callmaker was Mike Lynch.
He started making and selling calls in 1939 from Birmingham. His
calls were unique in that he mass marketed his calls. The Lynch
box call, like all the others, was influenced by the Gibson design.
All cedar calls
were made in the beginning and later they were changed to Walnut
lids and Mahogany sides. The calls were of a glued construction
rather then the honed out solid piece box similar to the Gibson
caller. Mike Lynch sold the Call Company to Al Jenkins in 1970 and
the production was moved to Mississippi. From a collectors
point of view the Birmingham calls are the higher value of the Lynch
calls and today are bringing hundreds of dollars at auction. Lynch
calls are still made today.
Mc Clain was awarded a patent for a mouth whistle.
Gibson awarded the patent for the box caller.
was awarded a patent for a crude Friction Slate call.
was awarded a patent for an improved Mouth call.
was awarded a patent for what I can best describe as a push
Other patents were also awarded as late as
1985 for improvements to a yelper type of trumpet caller.
This information is but a sampling of that
available in great detail on turkey calls. For a detailed discussion
I strongly suggest you get and read a copy of Howard Harlans
book "Turkey Calls, An Enduring American Folk Art". They
are available from bookstoresor can be ordered direct from Mr. Harlan
at, 303 Murfreesboro Rd., Nashville, TN. 37210.