Making a wingbone call is not that difficult at all. Below is a set of instructions for making the classic three bone wingbone call. The three bones used in the process are the humerus, ulna, and radius. However, it is also possible to make a wingbone call from only two of the wing bones. It is also possible for a call to be made using two of the wing bones and the upper leg bone of the turkey known as the femur.
Here is a list of the tools and items needed to make a winbone call.
- Wild turkey wing bone set (humerus, ulna, and radius)
- Cooking pot (for boiling the bones in)
- Hydrogen Peroxide (store bought bottle)
- Knife or X-Acto™ knife
- Hack saw
- Dremel® tool (with cutting, sanding, and buffing attachments)
- Wet / dry sand paper (varying from 100 to 500 grit)
- Pipe cleaners
- Small chisel
- All purpose chlorine bleach
- Small disposable container (for soaking the bones in bleach)
- Cotton balls
- Tooth picks
- 5 minute epoxy (clear, waterproof epoxy that comes in a double-sided syringe)
- 0000 steel wool
- Light polishing compound
Personally, I like to take the three bones from the wing before cooking the bird. I find that cooking the bones in an oven can cause them to become brittle. Plus, the marrow inside the bones can reach a high enough temperature that it may stain the bone a dark color the entire way through to the outside.
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Now lets go make a wingbone call.
To begin, take the humerus, ulna, and radius from the bird and scrape off the large and easy to remove pieces of loose flesh. Next, remove the end joints, or knuckles, using either a hacksaw or a Dremel® tool with cutting wheel. (Use extreme caution if using a Dremel® tool. The tool will tend to stir up a lot of bone dust which can be harmful if inhaled. Wear a dust mask and always work in a well ventilated area or, even better, outdoors.)
The next step is to clean the inside of the three bones. The two smaller bones (ulna and radius) will be easily cleaned by simply blowing the marrow out of them and using pipe cleaners to clean out any remaining marrow. However, the humerus (and perhaps a small portion of the ulna) will have a honeycomb-like pattern of bone material on the inside that needs to be completely removed using a knife and / or small chisel.
Now that the inside of the bones are relatively clean, place them in a small pot and add a one to one mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide. (Add only enough to cover the bones over about an inch or two.) Also add a dime size amount of dish washing liquid to the mixture. Bring the bones to a boil and reduce the heat to keep them at a slow boil for approximately fifteen minutes. Once the bones have boiled, drain the mixture and rinse the bones off. Then, repeat the same boiling process again using only water this time. Using this particular method will render the bones spotless inside and out. The amount of peroxide that I choose to use also whitens the bones considerably.
With all three bones cleaned inside and out, the next optional step is to place them in a small container and soak them in bleach. The longer the bones soak the whiter they will become. However, the bones can only be soaked up to twelve hours or the bleach will begin to deteriorate them. Under most circumstances 2 to 3 hours is enough soaking time. If you are using a full strength chlorine bleach that has a yellow color to it, such as Clorox, you must dilute the bleach with water until the color is clear. (Because of the high amount of peroxide used in my boiling process the bleach step can be skipped all together if you wish the bones to remain ever so slightly off white. However, if you plan on writing or sketching on the finished wingbone then bleaching is a good step to take. It may leave a "bleach taste" to the call. So, if you plan to actually use your creation and not just display it you have been warned!) After the bones are through soaking in the bleach, simply remove them and rinse them in warm water using a touch of dish soap. This is also a good time to use some of the wet / dry sandpaper to wet-sand the bones. When finished, allow the bones to air dry completely.
Now it is time for the three bones to be dry fitted together. Simply take the three bones in order of smallest to largest and trim the ends of each until the three bones will fit snuggly inside one another. This step often takes time and patience. Remember not to remove too much material each time you trim as it is impossible to add length back to the bone if too much material is removed.
Loose fitted bones.
With all three bones fitted together in a configuration that is desirable, fill the excess space around the joints with small pieces of cotton. The cotton can be shoved down into the joint using toothpicks. It is critical that you not fill the hollow center of the bones with any cotton. Only the small gaps around the outside of the joints need filled. Next, mix up the five minute epoxy and apply it to the two joints previously filled with cotton. The idea is to fill the joints to ensure that all three bones remain firmly joined as one. It is alright if the epoxy comes up out of the joint some as the excess can be removed once dry. However, it is again critical that the hollow center of the bones not be filled or clogged with epoxy. (In fact, that was the main reason for the cotton.) Even though five minute epoxy is used I find it best to allow the call to dry over night before handling.
With the call completely dry and ready to handle, any excess epoxy can now be removed with a knife or X-Acto™ knife. You may also wish to sand the entire call surface starting with 100 grit sandpaper working up to 500 grit for a smoother finish. (Wet-sanding can be done again if needed.) Next, use 0000 steel wool to buff the call well and bring out a shine. To complete the shine, you may even wish to take a Dremel® tool with buffing wheel attachment along with a light polishing compound and buff the entire call surface. This will produce a surface as slick and shiny as glass for any display-quality calls. The wingbone call is now technically complete.
This call was finished using a discarded ring of humerus bone to secure a braided lanyard.
The wingbone can be finished off in about any way imaginable. A small ring of bone from discarded sections of the humerus can be cut and fit over the ulna held in place with epoxy approximately 1/8th of an inch above the humerus to create a small groove used to hold a neck lanyard in place. (Tip: soak the ring of bone in water for about 5 minutes before applying it to the call. This allows it to be formed to fit the call snugly.) Also, the wingbone can be given style by grinding the joints down to a smooth taper and wrapping them with colored thread. While wrapping, you can even serve in a small metal loop to add a lanyard in that manner. The finished call can even be written or sketched on with permanent pen or paint. Sketch designs could include wild turkey feathers or even a sketch of an entire wild turkey. The same designs can also be skrimshawed into the bone surface. It is only limited to the call makers imagination.
Three bone and two bone calls with wrapped joints.
"Natural" call with artwork and leather lanyard.
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And now a note on using a wingbone call.
A wingbone call is an air operated call. However, air is not blown through the call. Air is instead drawn through the call similar to a drinking straw. That's right, the caller actually inhales to make the call function. The call is placed on the tip of the callers lips and the caller inhales air through the call while making a "kissing" motion and sound with their lips. With practice, a caller will be able to imitate a cluck, yelp, cutt, and kee kee call with great realism. I have even heard of some callers being able to gobble with a wingbone even though, I must admit, I have no clue how that is even possible.
The wingbone call is most commonly used as a locator call. This is, in general, due to its tone and loud volume which seperate it from most any other turkey call. The tone (or pitch) of a wingbone call is controled by the type of bone used to make the call. Higher pitched calls tend to be made from the bones of a wild hen while deeper tone wingbones tend to be made from the bones of a wild gobbler. Volume (and some of the tone) is controlled by the length of the wingbone call. Short, two bone calls, as shown above, tend to be very high pitched and excellent for imitating a young lost turkey in the fall. (eg. the kee kee run)
Below are four sound files of myself using a wingbone call. They should give everyone a clear idea of the sound quality that can be achieved from a wingbone call.
Wingbone Yelp (Tom bones)
Wingbone Yelp (Hen bones)
Wingbone Kee Kee
About the Author: Jeremiah has spent most of his young teen and adult life in the hunting and outdoor industry as a long time archery pro shop employee, shooter, and bowhunter as well as former outdoor television production employee for Dave Watson Productions, LLC. Jeremiah is also the owner/administrator of HuntingResource.com and can be reached via the Contact Us link or HR Forums.