Why would anyone make turkey calls at home when you can buy them online or at the outdoors store? Well, one, it gives you the satisfaction of having made your own calls. In many cases, it will save you money (if you already have the equipment available) and it is a vital skill for anyone who is self-sufficient. Besides, making DIY turkey calls can be a fun way to spend the winter months!
Here are five homemade turkey calls that range from easy to very complex to make. Some calls can be made from materials you have around home, while others require some raw materials. The most complex is the box call where the professional box caller maker takes you through the process of making the call from a single piece of wood.
1. Pill Bottle Turkey Call
The pill bottle turkey call is something nearly every hunter can make. It needs no special tools and you probably have these items in your house right now.
Bill of Materials
- Pill Bottle.
- Disposable latex glove.
- Rubber band.
- Permanent marker.
- Sharp cutting knife.
- Cut the end off the pill bottle.
- On the pill bottle’s cap, draw a half-circle and fill it in.
- Cut the half-circle out of the cap.
- With scissors, cut a 3-inch by 3 inches (ca. 8 cm) square of latex from the glove.
- Fit the cap over the bottle and stretch the latex square tightly over the hole you just cut, leaving ¼ inch gap on the flat part of the half-circle.
- Use a rubber band to fix it in place.
You now have your very own pill bottle turkey call. To use, hold the cap with the latex to your mouth and blow. You can make clucks, yelps, and even gobbles with it.
2. Can Clucker Turkey Calls
The guy in the YouTube video actually makes his for sale, but it’s simple enough to make your own, especially if you chew or if you have a buddy or spouse who chews.
Bill of Materials
- Empty can of chewing tobacco.
- Thin piece of cedar, sanded and cut to a round circle that will fit in the can.
- Piece of slate cut to a round circle that will fit in the can.
- Glue. A heated glue gun with glue sticks will probably work best.
- Removed the lid on the can and drill five holes in the can, with one hole in the middle and four equidistant from the middle one in a square pattern.
- Glue cedar “sounding board” about a half-inch lower than the can’s lip. You can do this by applying a bead of hot glue around the inside of the can and then press the cedar into the glue while it is cooling.
- Glue the slate surface to just inside the can’s lip in the same way you glued the cedar sounding board.
- Add the cap and sand any rough edges on the can.
This can is a homemade version of a turkey pot call. You’ll need to find a striker (you probably have a few if you’ve been at calling turkeys) or you could make one with a hardwood dowel that is the side of a pencil. Just sand the end of the dowel so its contact point is rounded and smooth. You can also eliminate the cedar sounding board for a different note.
3. Wing Bone Turkey Call
How to make a turkey call using parts of the last turkey you harvested.
Bill of Materials
- Turkey wings.
- Sharp skinning knife.
- Cooking pot.
- Dawn dishwashing soap.
- Wire brush.
- Hack saw.
- Epoxy glue.
- Remove the wings from the turkey, followed by skinning feather and flesh removal. This requires a very sharp knife.
- Boil water in a pot and then reduce to a simmer, adding Dawn dishwashing soap and Borax.
- Add the skinned and defleshed turkey wing bones to the water and simmer for an hour.
- Clean any meat off by hand, empty the pot and add clean water.
- Boil the new water and then reduce to a simmer before adding the turkey wing bones to simmer another hour.
- Empty water and clean wing bones of all fat and meat using a knife or wire brush.
- Take the three bones from one wing and carefully cut the ends off of the smaller bones with the hack saw. Be careful not to put too much pressure or you will crack the bone.
- Cut the ends off the larger bone by cutting the smaller end just where the bone starts to flare out and cutting the larger end at the widest point.
- Remove the marrow from the bones by blowing through them like a straw, then clean the marrow out of the large bone using a screwdriver.
- Carefully fit each bone end into the end of the other. The largest part of the small bone goes into the smallest portion of the medium bone. The largest part of the medium bone fits into the smallest part of the large bone. You will have to use your knife to shape the ends to make them fit correctly.
- Use epoxy glue to make a permanent seal and to fill in the gaps in your call. Otherwise, the call will not work correctly without being sealed. Glue each part of the turkey bones to each other as you fitted them and be sure to seal around the connections.
- After 10 minutes, add some superglue and wrap the thread around the joints for a clean look.
This turkey bone caller is especially good for realistic yelps. It takes practice and you don’t blow through it so much as make two sharp sounds through it and then add them together for the final yelp sound. He shows you how in the video.
4. Hand Jig Mouth Calls
This is for the person who wants to make their own turkey mouth calls using a special jig made for this.
Bill of Materials
- Hand Jig — the one in the video is a Feather Ridge Hand Jig.
- Three pieces of latex cut for a mouth call.
- Place your support on the jig and lay the latex between the two clamps.
- Clamp the latex and remove the support.
- Set the side tension with the dial.
- Turn the jig on its side and take the frame and bend it on the metal side.
- Turn the jig upright.
- Remove the paper and crimp the frame so it will easily slip over the latex.
- Crimp the frame closed over the latex.
- Remove the tension from the clamps and remove the latex. You now have a turkey call without back tension.
- To get the back tension, gently pull on the latex behind the U-curve until there is a small curve or “smile” in the latex.
- Hold the U with a pair of pliers and bend the tab up so it keeps the back tension in place.
- Use pliers to pinch the tab so it is flush against the frame and is holding the back tension.
- Trim off the excess latex with scissors.
- Using scissors, make the cuts you want.
- Cut an oblong hole in the tape where it can wrap around the frame and give you a nice outside handhold to fit it to your mouth. Do not let the tape touch the latex.
- Slide your turkey call into the tape so the latex is exposed by the oblong hole you made.
- Fold the tape over and seal.
- Cut the tape to fit your mouth.
Although creating this mouth call is more complicated than the pill bottle turkey call and requires an expensive hand jig, the results are totally worth it and you get a professional looking mouth call for a lot less than what you would pay for online or in the store. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing you made your own.
5. DIY Slate Turkey Call
This is a more complex DIY project that requires special tools such as a variable speed lathe and a ring saw. If you don’t have slate, you can substitute with aluminum.
Bill of Materials
- Variable speed lathe.
- Ring saw.
- Belt sander.
- Miter saw.
- Wood chisel.
- Cherry wood.
- Tape measure.
- Boiled linseed oil.
- Flexible clear glue.
- Measure the wood for the pot and mark out how large you want your turkey pot call.
- Using a variable speed lathe, spin the cherry wood and use a wood chisel to round out the wood to the dimensions you want.
- Create your side pattern first before using the lathe to hollow out the pot.
- Hollow out the pot and have a shelf to put the slate into it.
- Pick out your slate and choose hard slate to make the striking surface.
- Draw the circular cut you’ll need for the slate on a piece of paper and tape it to the slate.
- Use a ring saw to cut the slate.
- Use a belt sander to smooth out the slate and thin it.
- Use a finishing sander to give the slate a nice finish.
- Sand your pot so it is smooth and doesn’t have any rough edges.
- Use wire to burn decorative rings around the pot.
- Use a miter saw to cut the pot from excess wood.
- Use a belt sander to smooth out the pot.
- Rub boiled linseed oil over the pot for a nice look.
- Drill holes around the bottom of the pot with a drill to allow the sound to come out loud and clear.
- Use a toothpick to apply flexible clear glue to the inside rim of the pot to put the slate on.
- Add slate and press into the glue.
This turkey call is for the DIYer who has plenty of woodworking equipment. You can make professional-looking DIY turkey calls this way. You can also substitute other materials for the slate such as aluminum for this caller. You’ll have to have your own striker for this or make a striker out of a hardwood dowel that is the side of a pencil. Just sand the end of the dowel so its contact point is rounded and smooth.
6. DIY Turkey Box Call
Like the previous call, this DIY turkey box call requires special equipment such as plunge routers and planers.
Bill of Materials
- Block of wood.
- Chop saw.
- Drill press.
- Plunge router.
- 5-degree plunge router bit.
- Table saw.
- Belt sander.
- Dremel tool.
- Mouse pad with a sander.
- Test paddle.
- Choose your block of wood and cut it to size using a chop saw and planer.
- With your right-sized piece of wood, use a drill press to hollow out the wood.
- Use a jig and a plunge router to set the depth to ¼ inch.
- Switch to a 5-degree plunge router bit to take out the width along the sides.
- Turn the box upside down and run it through a table saw to make the cut along the sides.
- Use a chisel to get the final sides finished out.
- Mark the sides with a ruler at 1/8th of an inch on each side.
- Sand each end down to the mark with a belt sander.
- Use a Dremel tool to lightly take wood out of the inside.
- Use a mouse pad with a sander on the end to sand the wood down.
- Use a test paddle to see if the box produces the sound you want. If not, continue to sand and remove wood until you get the right sound.
This is another complex DIY that will require a fair number of woodworking tools, but once you get one done, you can put a turkey box call together that will look professionally made. Note that this is a professional turkey call maker who does a lot by feel and by sound. Still, you’ll get a feeling of how much work you have to do to put together a box call.