How to Make a Wild Turkey Box Call
Ben Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national symbol until we found out how tasty they were.
The art of calling wild turkey has been around for a long time both for sport and a means of survival. Early settlers learned the art from the Native Americans. As a matter of point, the settlers of America would not have survived if not for the help and kindness of the indigenous people. The earliest known call is the Wing Bone Call. The Native Americans some how learned to use the wing bones of a turkey to attract gobblers. The wing bones of a turkey are hollow and by making clucking sounds, with the mouth, through the hollow bones the resulting sound mimics the cluck of a hen turkey. How this was discovered is anybodies guess but it does work.
The most popular call used by the settlers, and sportsmen today, is the friction call. The first friction call consisted of a small hardened stick, rounded on one end and a thin piece of slate. By rubbing the rounded end of the stick, in short strokes, aganst the slate the friction produces the cluck of hens. It takes a little practice but this too works well.
Time marched on and one day, as luck would have it, some settler, no one knows who, discovered that if you rubbed certain types of wood together it too would make the sound that male tom turkeys loved. So he, I say he but it could have been a she, began to experiment with this new found knowledge and eventually the Box Call was born.
The photos on this page are of the first wild turkey box call I ever made. Since then I have made many more both for sale and for friends but this one is least complicated and cedar wood is easy to find if you would like to make your own. I have also linked to a drawing that I made showing the components of the call that you can download and save to use as a visual reference.
How to make a wild turkey box call
We'll start with the obvious, the wood. I cut a 12" section of dry cedar log to make my call but you can get yours at any place that sells lumber. The secret of a box call is the thinness of the sides. The friction vibrations produced by rubbing the paddle over them creates the sound. Of course you should know what a hen turkey sounds like or it's pretty much a waste of time. So, here's a link for those that don't know.
Once you have the cedar the best place to start is by cutting out the two end pieces. The end blocks for my call, and I'm not an expert, are 1” thick by 2”s wide and 2's high. The end blocks taper down to 1 and1/4” at the bottom. Everything attaches to the end blocks so take your time and get them even and the same size.
Next cut the base for your call. Mine is 7”s long by 2”s wide and 3/8”s thick. These dimensions allow for a 1/4” shelf around the front and two sides and an 1” in the back of the box. The base will need two 1/8” groves cut to receive the sides of the box. Use an end block and center it on top of the base and mark the outside edges. The marks should be about 1/4” in from the sides of the base. Go ahead and cut the groves 1/8th inch deep.
The sides of the box should be thin, no more than 1/8th” thick and arched across the top 1/8th” higher than the two end blocks. I cut my sides on the table saw and shaped the arch with a wood rasp and sand paper. Cedar is soft and easy to cut so you could use a course sand paper to form the arch with little difficulty. Once you have the sides the way you want them go ahead and sand all the components smooth with a fine sand paper It's easier to sand now so get every side and edge.
When the sanding and final shaping is done go ahead and assemble the box by gluing and clamping the sides and base to the two end blocks. Set it aside to dry and cut out, sand and fininish the paddle. The overall length of my paddle is 12" and the width is 2 3/8s". Refer to the drawing to get the proper shape and profile of the paddle. When the paddle is to your liking place it on top of the box to mark for the screw hole. Make sure that the paddle is centered and there is the same amount of overhang on the sides and front of the box. The screw hole should be in the center of the front end block of the box. Mark and drill a hole through the paddle slightly larger than the wood screw you're going to use.
Predrill a pilot hole for the screw in the end block and attach the paddle to the box. I place a small spring between the paddle and the box but I don't think it's necessary for the call to work just fine. A couple of coats of polyurithane will give your turkey call a professional look and protect it from the weather when you're calling in big tom turkeys outside.
Wild Turkeys roost in large trees at night and fly down just before daylight. The best way to locate a flock of wild turkey is to get into the woods early, a little before daylight, and listen or try to get a tom to gobble. Wild turkey Toms either hate crows and owls or they love em. I don't know which it is but they usually repond with a gobble if they hear either one. You can either hoot like an owl or do what I did and buy a crow call. When it begins to get daylight, start walking slowly and quitely, pausing every 5 or 10 minutes to blow the crow call and listen for a response. When you get a reponse move a little closer in the direction and listen for the flock to fly down. 10 or 20 wild turkey make quite a noise when they fly down from the roost.
When you hear them fly down from the trees, sit down and get comfortable against a big oak tree and start making sweet, romantic clucks on your new box call. If you do it right, pretty soon you'll have a big tom turkey headed your way.