CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When you start talking about turkey calling, Nathan Taylor’s eyes light up. The Jackson County native who works for the West Virginia Department of Education, Taylor has a passion for turkey hunting and even more so for making turkey calls.
“Turkeys have a distinct language and distinct things they are trying to say to one another. Being able to have a conversation with bird is what you’re trying to do,” he explained on Northside Automotive West Virginia Outdoors.”To do that effectively, you need to take his temperatures and see what it is he’s wanting to hear.”
The gobbler may want an aggressive, loud screaming turkey for which Taylor offers his crystal call, but there are other times the gobbler is in the mood for low volume, sweet talking hens. Taylor said those sounds are more compatible with a slate or copper surface on the friction calls he produces under the name “Game Over” Turkey Calls.
It was a combination of factors which led Taylor to the cottage industry of custom made turkey calls. His dad got into the game in the early 1990’s by replicating a “trough” style slate call which his buddies teased him he couldn’t make. When his dad’s interest in the hobby waned, Nathan was unable to find the right sound in the calls he bought off the shelves of sporting good stores.
“I was becoming frustrated with mass produced pot calls. I just wasn’t happy with the sound,” he explained. “I started thinking I could make these, I’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos and I’ve seen other guys making these pot calls.”
He managed to get a lathe which was a castoff from his father in law. He cut an old pot call he’d bought off the shelf and went a woodworking shop to get the right jigs and tools to create the same kind of blank. Soon he had his first batch of calls put together and realized quickly, there was much more to the game than just creating a pot and gluing it together. The sound was horrendous.
However, through the miracle of the Internet he came across an old timer who offered some sage advice in a phone conversation.
“He asked about my measurements and I told him I just eyeballed it,” Taylor said. “He told me you’re making something that’s the same as a musical instrument. If you’re off just a few hundredths or thousandths of an inch in the gap between the soundboard and playing surface, or your playing surface and several other measurements it won’t sound right.”
Armed with his new knowledge and a ballpark of what those measurements should be, Taylor went back to the lathe and started off with a rough product which started to sound better. Through trial and error and some tweaking, he found ways to manipulate the materials and make other adjustments to give him the exact sound he was looking for. Soon, others took notice and he started customizing calls for friends and eventually friends of friends.
“People are starting to find smaller call makers, like myself or maybe people who make a few more calls than I do, but people who make them one at a time, can get that uniqueness,” he explained. “Especially with pot calls or box calls, you can get more unique woods or you can tune calls to meet someone’s needs. You can talk to them and ask them what sound they’re trying to achieve.”
A one-on-one conversation helps Taylor create the sound every turkey hunter is looking for which can’t be found among 500 calls on the shelves of a sporting goods store.
“When you’re just picking something up off a shelf in a package, you don’t know what you’re getting as far as the sound,” he said. “You may just know what you’re getting because you saw so-and-so on the Outdoor Channel promoting a particular name.”
Beyond the sound, Taylor also takes great pride in the color of his wood, the curl in the grain, or the finish. He can also even further customize the calls by putting a picture under the calling surface, creating a keepsake and work of art while also generating a tremendous sound.
“Life’s too short to hunt with ugly turkey calls,” he laughed.