Some wingbone turkey call history

Toby Benoit

If you have spent any time around turkey hunting, you have probably heard of wingbone callers. They are turkey calls that are made from the actual bones found in a wild turkey’s wing. Historians and archaeologists say that wingbone turkey calls date back perhaps 6500 years. Native Americans made yelper calls from the three bones found in the wing of a turkey: the radius (the smallest bone), the ulna and the humerus (the biggest bone).

I wonder who was the first person to figure this out? How do you deduce that you can take the wing bones of something you just killed and fashion them into an apparatus that you can use to call more of the same species within range? How intuitive and inventive is that?

I feel a wingbone call can help stack the odds in your favor while turkey hunting. Especially by mid-way through the season, most gobblers have “heard it all” from the mass-market callers and are becoming call shy. However, few toms ever hear the realistic hen talk from a wingbone call. And I’ve used my wingbone callers several times to get hesitant or hung up gobblers into range when nothing else seemed to work. It’s no secret that I am a fan of the little wingbone yelpers for turkey hunting but also, I’ve always been intrigued by how they played a minor role during the Revolutionary War!

Known as the “Swamp Fox,” Francis Marion spent the war showing the British just how uncomfortable he could make their time in the Colonies with nothing but a few dozen rifles and a refusal to “fight fair”. Like many leaders of the Revolution, Marion had spent time as a young man fighting during the French and Indian War and it taught Marion some important lessons. You see, the Cherokee didn’t fight in the traditional manner. When facing an overwhelming force, they used the landscape to initiate ambushes and sniper harassment.

Capt. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox borrowed from

With the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776, Marion was commissioned as a captain, and led his troops in a series of defeats to the British. Eventually, Marion decided to try some of the tactics he’d learned from the Cherokee. He raised a small force of around 50 experienced soldiers and lead them in a series of Cherokee-style ambushes on the British. Often, the signal to open fire would be given by Marion using three yelps on a Cherokee, wingbone turkey call.

The wingbone caller Francis Marion used was a two-bone style, worn on a lanyard around his neck. He used it so often that the British learned to immediately take cover at the sound of a turkey yelping. So, after a time, Marion discarded the little wingbone yelper and fought on, earning himself a place of honor in America’s history.

If any of you are interested in learning how to make your own wingbone yelper, there are a ton of video tutorials online, or just reach out to me at [email protected] and I’ll teach you all you need to know. God bless and good hunting!

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