HUNTING: Howlers of Heritage
Special addition to Bill's Coyote Hunting Website
Nearly lost, but
We know today that many of these ways of old were undoubtedly better by far, but have been lost arts so-to-speak, over time. If you're a turkey hunter, you've probably heard the age old arguments of what's better to fool a turkey with: a modern day latex mouth call or a yelper call made from a real turkey wing bone. And if you're a resident of Texas, I doubt that you're rattling bucks in with anything but real deer antlers. The type of wood or plastic hasn't been invented yet that I know of, to completely imitate the sound that only antler on antler can make, to fool another antler bearing deer into coming to the hunter.
Around the time that I was first introduced to calling coyotes - back in the mid-to-late 1960's, I learned that some howler calls were made from cow horns. My father, who at some point in his early life had carved a cow horn into a miniture trumpet like noise making device, gave me stern looks on more than one occaision when I'd go around the place blowing it just to see how much racket I could create. His carving of the small, pointed end of the hollowed bovine appendage into a mouthpiece like a trumpet. Where the vibrations of ones pursed lips created the brass instrument-like sounds of a trumpet. Magnified by the (musical) bell shaped end, the resulting sounds were amplified immensely.
Field and Stream magazine was a favorite of mine as a kid and, I lived for each months subscription to arrive at our mailbox. Byron Dalrymple, who wrote articles for Field and Stream for many years, had made mention of howlers hand carved from the horns of cattle at some point during the Sixties. Advocating that the natural animal horn/bone howler emmited sweet, true sounds that could not be imitated by calls made from any other material(s). And it's caused me to be on the lookout for one ever since.
By the time I found out that Bill Austin, famed Wyoming predator caller, trapper, and game control officer occaisionally made cow-horn howlers, I didn't know that he'd then recently died. I gave my condolences to his widow, Paula, when I telephoned to inquire, and apologized for my ignorance of her loss. Sometime later I learned, Paula turned the Bill Austin Game Calls business over to another entity who -- I believe -- still make his all-in-one call. But I've never seen mention of a cow horn howler since.
Bearing all of this history in mind, you can well understand my glee when I discovered that a long time friend of mine had a hobby that involved working with cow horns. Needless to say, I cornered him one day and explained what I had in mind. It took a lot of work, not to mention a lot of searching for the right materials. We've tweaked and tuned and tinkered. But my friend, Ken, made for me an original work of art. A cow horn howler that indeed, sounds sweeter than anything else I've ever tried off-the-shelf from modern day materials (Aka: plastics). The resonance is profound. Yips, barks, and howls from the au-natuaral howler call are magnificent. With very little exertion on my part, the cow horn with its natural bell, causes the howls to amplify loudly. Requiring less air pressure to blow the call leads to howls of longer duration --more like the real coyote howls, I think. With a slight rocking side-to-side motion during the howl, I'm able to re-create some of the off key notes that are fairly present in serenades by lone coyotes. (If you ever listen to a group of coyotes howl, you'll hear these wierd notes predominantly.) Something I've not before been able to do with my modern, plastic calls. And, in experimenting, I was able to move my lips over the horn, completely off the mouthpiece/reed portion of the call. Thus creating the buzzy, owl-hoot sounds that I use for shocking gobblers in the spring, to sound off and divulge their whereabouts to me.
Personally, I find that using ingenuity and a few "tools" to call wildlife in, for either the camera or gun exciting. It has been a hobby that gives endless hours of pleasure and, as many interesting results as there are an equal number of facets to "talking" to animals. Communicating in ways that stimulate one or more of their senses to make them respond. Mixing primitive, yet natural components with todays technology to create a better tool to call coyotes with is well worth the effort. And while I may never know all that the hunters of old knew to fill their polk. I can pass along more of the information to you. In hopes of preserving and promoting a small piece of heritage for sportsmen and hobbyists, alike.
Last updated: -24Oct2003.