Article Written by Steve Savage
When I was asked to write an article about the art of call making, I had to let out a little chuckle. Thinking back decades to the first calls I’d made and the materials I used, it was far from being art. Out of necessity (I’d lose and break so many calls) I started making calls, if you could call them that. I made trough calls out of paint paddles and flattened copper tubing, dip cans and butter bowls with slate and aluminum discs crudely glued on, tinker toy sticks and wingbones for strikers. Heck, I even made a call out of a business card holder! They were effective but ugly. You see at this time in my life I was consumed with the “disease” as my good friend Dean Redbeard Mundhenke calls it. The disease of turkey hunting. Every spring I was in the woods at least 5 mornings a week, work or not, and the crude calls I made were mere tools with no meaning other than helping me get closer to my goal of a limit of gobblers. Little did I know that those crude calls were the beginning of another symptom of my turkey hunting disease.
Not long after this time I started making boxes and scratch boxes, and my feeling for what a call should be was changing. I found great satisfaction in taking the time to make the calls sound and look good, and even greater satisfaction when they started pulling gobblers in. In fact, that’s all it took. Now, if I wasn’t turkey hunting I was making calls and experimenting with new designs. Yes sir, I had done found a way to extend my passion for turkey hunting to 312 days a year. Sunday and Christmas, I’m not allowed to say, play, call, build, hunt, or even look at a turkey! Yes, I’m married.
I’m a box call maker, that’s what I know. I had no wood working experience when I started and by some miracle I still have most of my fingers. Being bull headed and self taught I learned through trial and error about what it takes to make a box call work. So many things can change the sound, pitch, and rollover (high to low pitch of a yelp) on a box. The soundboard or soundboards (one sider or double sider) on a box are rubbed by a hinged lid causing friction which causes a vibration or noise. The thickness, length, and height of the sound boards changes the sound. The size of the sound chamber (the inside of the box) changes the sound. The thickness and length of the lid changes the sound. The lids are arched on the contact side, this is where some of the roll over comes from. It also comes from a slight arch on the soundboard. So, changing the arch on either one changes the sound. The lid is held on by a screw with a spring between the box and lid. The pivot or angle of the lid contacting the soundboard and the tension of the spring can also change the sound! Oh yeah, all the different woods have different densities, so when you change woods it can change everything. I wonder if I hadn’t been lucky on my first box what I’d be doing now.
My Father-in-law used to have a saying, “a farmer can’t count his time son, his reward is in the satisfaction of what he’s doing”. Well, that applies perfectly to call making. The countless hours spent carving, wood burning, painting, inlaying, laminating, tuning, sanding, applying finish, etc. will never be accurately compensated with money. The reward comes when you get a message from a hunter you just made a call for, and he’s telling you how he called that gobbler in from two counties over, made him fly across the river and he was in at full strut so fast there was sparks shoot’n off his wing tips.
There is another reward also. With this new invention of the Internet and what they call social media I have been able to do call trades with some of the finest call makers and craftsman in the turkey world! I’ve got boxes from Neal Impson and Preacherman Game Calls, Wingbones from Uncle Pete, Kevin Lynch, Lee Bowles, Kevin Rouse, John Morton, Ron Jordan, Shawn Irish, and the master Andy Snair! Can you tell I like wingbones? Over 30 pot calls including one from the Madhatter Dean Redbeard Mundhenke. I believe I have enough calls now to last 8 or 10 years… maybe.
In conclusion, there is an art to call making, but I dare say it can be explained. It’s a passion for all things Turkey, and that passion flows thru the mind, eyes, ears, and hands of the call maker to create masterpieces of turkey lore that can be handed down for generations.