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Primitive art and today's turkey callers

By By Otha Barham/The Meridian Star
March 23, 2001
One day far back in time, a hunter took a few of the bones of a big bird he had shot with bow and arrow to feed himself and his family, and fitted the bones together to form an instrument with which he subsequently called forth other birds of that species. He had tinkered with the bones for perhaps months, his thoughts not only on the bird that furnished such succulent meat, but on its hunting as well.
The ancestor knew he could mimic the call of the wild turkey by sucking on a slim hollow cane with pursed lips. After aging the bones, he ground the ends off the slender wing bones and hollowed them with a straw. He found that three of the bones from a single wild turkey wing would fit progressively together, one inside the other like the tubes of a telescope. This formed a horn-like hollow tube. By smacking his lips on the small end of his creation, he reproduced the sound of a wild turkey's call which became magically refined and amplified through the series of hollow bones. Hunters have been making wing bone turkey calls ever since.
In his book, "Turkey Callmakers Past and Present The Rest of the Best," Earl Mickel quotes a poem by callmaker Rick "Hoot" Larson. Larson's last verses attempt to characterize turkey callmakers:
Some say he's a craftsman,
An artist above the rest;
He prefers the term "Callmaker,"
I guess that says it best.
I've watched him long enough to know,
So my opinion stands;
To me this gent will always be
The Man with the Magic Hands.
The ambiguity expressed by Larson in describing turkey callmakers (a word coined by the turkey hunting fraternity) settles down in his last line to his best descriptive word – magic. I see turkey callmaking as an art, and art is meaningless to me, and perhaps does not exist, without the intangible element of magic.
A very few modern day artists produce attractive and useful wild turkey callers from the wing bones of turkeys. Fewer hunters use them. (The wise hunter will learn to use wing bone callers to offer spring gobblers a different but authentic sound.) Their scarcity causes hunters and collectors alike to value them highly.
Some prefer the sound and utility of callers made from just the smallest
two of the bones traditionally used. Others swear by the three-bone caller.
Modern wing bone callers usually feature lanyards and lip stops, and the bones are bleached snow white and fitted together with epoxy glue.
Glen Bufkin of Burns, Mississippi, makes attractive and great sounding
wing bone callers. Glen is a young man who learned turkey hunting from an uncle who took him hunting in Bienville National Forest and other good turkey woods. His artistic leanings led him to wing bone call making. He will make a superb wing bone call for anyone sending him the wing bones from a turkey. His fee is just $35 at present.
Bufkin knows the call of the wild turkey. A few days ago he entered his
first turkey calling competition, the 4th Annual East Central Mississippi
Turkey Calling Contest, which is sanctioned by the National Wild Turkey Federation. Glen took first place in both the Hunter Division friction calling and mouth calling.
Contact Glen Bufkin at Route 2, Box 846, Forest, Mississippi 39074, phone (601) 536-2342.
Otha Barham is Outdoors editor for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at 0lbarham1@aol.com.

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