By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
The attraction of spring turkey hunting runs deep. Beyond the give and take of calling itself, countless hunters add to their enjoyment by making the sounds of the woods with tools made of elements from the woods. For the Rev. B.F. Lee, of Tupelo, an introduction to call making complemented a passion for the outdoors that had grown during a lifetime outside.
A child of the Delta, Lee’s time on family land in Carroll County began with bobwhite quail in days when the small, fast-flying birds were numerous and wild turkeys were nonexistent. As turkeys were reintroduced and thrived, and as agricultural practices led quail numbers to dwindle, he became acquainted with the bird whose springtime pursuit today captivates sportsmen continentwide.
“It’s something to be out there as it’s beginning to get daylight and hear that turkey yelp or cluck,” Lee said. “So much of the joy of turkey hunting is in just going. It’s not such a big deal whether you kill one or not, but the anticipation of getting out there in the woods and working a turkey, playing the strategy, calling and having them respond, that’s the attraction.”
For springtime devotees, turkey sounds produced by the hunter forge a connection with the birds and intensify the experience beyond any found elsewhere in nature. Anything that binds this close connection closer is welcome, and building unique, personal turkey calls by hand is about as endearing as it gets.
“When I was pastor at First United Methodist in Columbus, I was turkey hunting regularly with a group of hunters there,” Lee said. “They gave me a call made by a local man. I got to looking at it and thought I could make that call myself.”
Lee’s carpentry experience was limited, and the only recreational woodwork on his resume now is confined to the scores of box scraper-style calls he went on to make, but once that first call of his own creation made the first sound that was true, he was hooked.
“I had a friend in Starkville who had a super workshop,” Lee said. “He would do the milling and get the calls roughed out, then I would fine-tune them to get them ready to go. I gave away lots of them.”
In these calls involving a reed, a resonating block and a striker all hewn from cedar, there is captured a magic, a series of perfect notes that bridge the gap to the language of the birds who know every facet their home woods hold. Communicating with them on their own terms with a call created by one’s own hand brings something wondrous to bear.
“The key is getting that reed the right thickness and tuned to the right tension,” Lee said, advice that matches the strategy of turkey hunting itself. Just the right tension in the hunt, keeping the subject’s attention without overdoing it: good direction for call-making, for turkey hunting and for life.