Cumberland Times-News

September 8, 2012

Thinking outside the turkey box call

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— When the January wind blows snow across Cherry Ridge Road just a touch west of Mount Storm, W.Va., Denver L. Hight Jr. is likely to be seated in a comfortable chair in his reading room, taking a trip to Africa by way of a Peter Capstick book.

This Grant County resident goes by Charlie, an old family name.

If he isn’t taking a trip without leaving the farm, Charlie will be working on a turkey box call. Give Charlie a piece of wood, come back a day or so later and there will be a sweet-looking and sweet-sounding work of art.

“I’ve made 209 of them so far,” Hight said during a recent interview at his home. Inside each call is written his name and, if the item is intended for a certain person, that name as well. The production number of the call and date are included. The calls also are inscribed with a dedication to his late father.

“I don’t sell them. I either keep them or give them away or trade them for something,” Hight said.

The handmade box call production began in 2007 when Hight started using scrap wood that would have been thrown away by his friend Gale Wilson who makes muzzleloader stocks.

“I saw how beautiful that curly maple was and couldn’t stand to see it just tossed away,” Hight said.

Since then, calls have been made from sycamore, walnut, cherry, poplar, oak, hickory, sassafras and Hight’s favorite, eastern red cedar.

The base of the call can be one piece or glued together, depending upon the type and size of the piece of wood.

I used a number of the calls and each sounded to me as if a gobbler or a hen would come running in at any second. Hight’s ear was a little more fine tuned than mine, apparently. “That one doesn’t sound right,” he’d say. “That one’s better for looking at than for hunting,” he’d comment about another.

Hight also finishes rifle stocks and is partial to those with a thumbhole.

“So I thought, why not make a box call with a thumbhole?” he said. And he did, pulling one out from his lighted display cabinet that holds a substantial amount of handmade mountain-life accessories such as knives with bear-tooth handles.

Hight pulls out a dark box call with light brown highlights.

“I climbed that steep mountain behind Kimble’s Cabins in the Smoke Hole and got an old cedar log that this call is made from,” he said. That one-piece call is #99 and was constructed in September 2008.

Like any craftsman, Hight sees deeply into his finished products, picking out things like mountain sunrises and soaring eagles.

I see gobblers and they are running toward me.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at