Stu Bristol is a custom game callmaker living in southern Maine, building custom turkey deer and owl call for three decades. He is a widely published outdoor Writer . His features and columns have been published nationwide for more than 60 years.
BRISTOL’S WORLD FEBRUARY 2024
IT’S NOT THE CALL, IT’S THE CALLER
Way back in the early days of learning how to hunt wild turkeys a well-known southern turkey hunter warned me, “It’s not the call that makes for a successful hunt, it’s the caller.” It doesn’t take special knowledge to strum a guitar but very few have put in the massive amounts of practice time to match licks with Jimmy Hendrix or Chet Atkins. The same is true when it comes to imitating wild turkey vocabulary.
A hunter can spend a small fortune on calling devices until he or she gets one that comes close to sounding like a real wild turkey. When the piggy bank is almost empty a lightbulb should light up over your head and understand what that old-timer was telling me back in the early 1970’s. “It”s not the call, it’s the caller” meaning the person running the call.
A hunter cam buy the cheapest turkey call on the market and kill a turkey with it. Heck, I’ve killed turkeys using a juice box straw and another with the stem from my corncob pipe and still more with the cleaned out barrel of a ballpoint pen. Every time I go out to eat with my wife she immediately grabs that tiny little straw that stirs my cocktail. She knows i can’t resist running a few yelps.
Even today i often use just the 3-inch slate or aluminum sound board from one of my pot calls to kill turkeys.
Turkey hunters need to understand that call makers and the more successful wild turkey hunters have the imprint of each and every turkey call or vocalization in their heads. How and when that vocabulary plants itself into the hunters brain will determine future success.
Back in the day I would spend hours sitting in the back forty with a turkey call and a small tape recorder. I would run a series of calls up close then walk away calling then play back my turkey music time and again until I thought I had it right. other times were spent in the off season when turkeys were less wary and i would tape record their different vocalizations.
My turkey speak education was along the same curriculum as learning to speak proper English back in Kindergarten and all through my schooling. It was a lot of years before I was proficient enough to sell my weekly outdoor columns and magazine articles. Rejection after rejection made me work harder to get it right . . . to produce what editors wanted.
So it was in my schooling of turkey talk. Rejection was a way of life for me when it came to talking turkey with the real thing. I could fool a few of them and some i outright ambushed out of frustration. I can’t really say how many years it took me to produce successful turkey talk, spoken well enough to fool the old longbeards.
One of my early mentors, Ben Rogers Lee told me, “You can’t just sound like a turkey you need to become one.” By that he meant scratch the leaves like a turkey, hoot like a barred owl, not just any owl and while you are at it learn to imitate just about anything that walks or crawls in the forest.
From that time on my game call making company was born. Deadly Imposter Game Calls. I began telling audiences all over the Northeast, I’m a fake. I’m a fraud, I pretend to be something I’m not. I am a play actor and my stage is anywhere the wild turkey lives; “The Turkey Woods.”
I learned to hoot like an owl, bark like a squirrel, rustle leaves like a feeding turkey flock while at the same time call out with my list of vocalizations that provide any longbeards within earshot the image that I am a feeding hen looking to breed.
The “Yankee SratchPot” is available in Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Sassafras and Purpleheart. Also available built to customers wishes. All calls are custom built.