Roland Martin's Handbuilt Turkey Calls
As you all know, I am most recognized as an expert bass fisherman. However, not everyone knows that I am also an expert Turkey hunter. Much of this has to do with the fact that turkey hunting doesn’t have the same kind of high-profile competitive outlets and television exposure that bass fishing has seen over the years.
For the most part, turkey hunting is something that has been a personal hobby. I’ve done a few videos over the years, but not many. Turkey hunting was something I just did for fun, with friends like Johnny Morris in Missouri. I have also been fortunate to know people at the Wild Turkey Federation where I have served as a judge for their turkey call competition.
This all began when I got to know Neil Cost, the famous king of turkey call makers. We met in the 1980s just as I was getting into turkey hunting. I picked up one of his butternut boat paddle calls and fell in love with it. With my turkey call in hand, I have been turkey hunting a few weeks out of the year every year since 1980. These trips are always the highlight of my year where we spend mornings turkey hunting and afternoons bass fishing.
You all know that bass fishing has been the focus of my public brand and it takes many years to master the sport. It also took many years to master turkey hunting. I can now say that I’ve reached the point in my skill that I often take as many as 25 turkeys a year across several states. In fact, I have achieved the grand slam, double grand slam, and Royal grand slam. If you don’t know what each slam entails, here is a quick breakdown:
Grand Slam - One of each of the following:
Osceola (mostly found in Florida)
Eastern Turkey (east coast)
Rio Grande (Texas and Midwest)
Merriam turkey (high altitudes)
I am happy to say that I have recorded grand slams and double grand slams with a shotgun, arrow, muzzle loader, and pistol. There is also the royal slam, which includes the four above along with the Gould turkey, which is found in the mountains of Mexico. There is one more, the world grand slam, which adds the ocellated turkey found in Central America. I have not achieved this yet, but rest assured it’s on my bucket list.
After all these years and all these hunts with the Neil cost call I have finally mastered the art of making turkey calls. Like the art of the hunt, the art of the call took many years to master. In 1985, I was visiting Johnny Morris at Table Rock Lake in Missouri. We got a chainsaw and cut down a butternut tree, as I wanted this lumber for making calls. The first couple calls I made in the following years were terrible. I called Neil, told him my specifications, and he started to advise me on wall thickness, grain, how to tune, the proper sanding techniques, finishes, and so on. I continued practicing and making these calls throughout the 90s. I had hundreds of them and gave most of them away to friends as it was just a fun hobby.
Recently, as it turns out, there has been major interest in my turkey calls after I made a sidenote on my YouTube channel about this hobby. In the video, I held up a call that I had signed and engraved a story on that I thought could probably sell for a $200. It wasn’t long before my inbox was full of orders. One message asked for 50 of these calls! So now that the cat’s out of the bag on this little hobby of mine I start to wonder – do I have the materials, is there enough wood, I have to upgrade some equipment, a new endmill, etc. My shop is now set up so I can hand build this calls quickly and efficiently. I was able to complete about 75 calls in three weeks! Let me know if I should make one for you!
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