Craft Your Turkey: Bone Whistle

A turkey bone whistle

A turkey bone whistle

You’re rolling around on the floor, stuffed full of turkey and cranberry sauce and you can’t help but wonder: What do I do with that turkey carcass? (If your dog didn’t devour it while you were distracted by football. My dog ate an entire rotisserie chicken last week. He was just practicing for Thanksgiving.)

Sure there’s the usual: Snap the wishbone and hope your dreams come true or make soup stock.

If you want something more lasting, make a turkey wing bone whistle. That’s right, get all the relatives back at the table and make whistles.

All cultures around the world have made whistles and flutes from bird bones. Native American Indians played eagle bone whistles to signify bravery, and early Americans called in turkeys while hunting. You can find out more about bird whistles these sites.

Alaska Native Knowledge Network

Lewis & Clark: Gifts of the Mandan

History of Whistles

To get started on your turkey bone whistle, you need:

  • turkey wing(s)
  • saw or sharp scissors
  • pipecleaner or other wire
  • sand paper
  • Elmer’s glue

Warning: This project does not work with Thanksgiving Tofurkey.

1. Harvest the wing(s) from the turkey carcass. One wing makes one whistle. Do not wrestle dog for the wings, as you may get hurt. Boil the wing bones to loosen meat. You should find you have 2 bones (1 large, 1 medium-size) that are connected by ligaments and 2 smaller bones that are fused into a single bone. Keep the large and medium bones and dispose of the rest.

2. Scrape off as much meat as possible with a knife.

A pipe cleaner works well removing the marrow.

A pipe cleaner works well removing the marrow.

3. Using a saw or sharp scissors, cut the ends off of the bones, to expose the pith and marrow inside. Using the pipecleaner, knife or other sharp object, clean out as much marrow and boney webbing inside as possible.

My dog, trying to "help."

My dog, trying to "help."

4. Boil again. Scrape the outside of the bones again and run the pipecleaner through the bones to remove the last bits of marrow. The bones will be somewhat transparent when they are wet, and you can see where the marrow still remains.

The flat end of the small bone goes into the large bone.

The flat end of the small bone goes into the large bone.

5. The smaller of the two bones will have a very rounded end and an almost flat end. Insert the flat end of the small bone into the smallest end of large bone. If the bone doesn’t slide in, sand until the small bone fits inside the big bone. Don’t take off too much.

6. Put glue into the joint of the two bones and let dry.

7. Embellish the whistle with permanent marker.

8. You’re ready to call turkeys! Place the smallest end of the whistle between your lips, sightly off center. Purse your lips around the bone and suck in, like you’re kissing. You sound like a turkey! Even more than usual.

One year as a gift, I made a turkey bone whistle from a wild turkey my father harvested for our Thanksgiving. I drew the turkey tracks on the whistle with permanent marker and added copper ring and leather carrying strap.

I made a 3-part turkey bone whistle for my dad.

I made a 3-part turkey bone whistle for my dad.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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