It takes a special kind to enjoy call of the wild

SUNDAY, NOV. 1, 2009

My wife obviously has a tin ear. She neither appreciates – nor tolerates – the beautiful sounds of nature.

Magnificent elk bugles drifting out of the bedroom. Ducks quacking in the living room. Turkeys gobbling from the bathroom. All of these are definitely out.

In fact, that’s what she told me – again – the other day.

“Out! Out! Get out!” my normally soft-spoken and tolerant wife said as I was brushing up on my elk- calling skills. “If you’re going to keep tooting on those game calls, you will do it outside of this house!

“This house isn’t big enough for me and that elk call,” she added, sounding a bit like a script from an old Western movie. “It’s me or the call. One of us has got to go. And you’d better think long and hard, here and now, if you want to eat your own cooking for eternity.”

Hmmmm. Tough decision. I like beans and weenies a lot.

I relented, as I always have in the past, and put the elk call du jour back in my pocket.

After all, the situation wasn’t anything new to our long-standing marriage. I’ve been through this many times.

Over the years, I’ve spent brief periods of time testing and trying to perfect many different game calls in my house. There were bull elk bugles, cow and calf elk calls, duck calls, goose calls, coyote calls, coyote howlers (very briefly), a mouse squeaker for predators (that one almost caused instant divorce), turkey calls, deer calls, antelope calls and I’m sure a few other calls that I’ve long ago forgotten.

Much to the disappointment of the cheering section – my two black Labs who absolutely love all my calling, even the sour notes – I was banished once again to the truck.

I was left to toot my way around town, to and from work and out on the open road.

It took me a long time to perfect the inside-the-mouth, diaphragm-style elk calls. These calls were typically used with a grunt tube, a 12- to 18-inch section of corrugated vacuum cleaner hose which provided resonance.

You’d put the end of the hose to your mouth, hold the diaphragm to the inside top of your mouth with your tongue, then blow the call into the tube and rock back with an emotional, high-pitched squeal of a lovesick bull elk that trailed off into a series of guttural grunts.

Other calls were a bit more subtle to use and didn’t cause quite so much of a stir, unless you left your windows down as you cruised through town and all the neighborhood dogs began to cheer when you passed through residential areas. It felt so good to be appreciated that I went out of my way to cruise everywhere from one end of town to the other.

I keep hoping that with time and continued exposure to nature’s beautiful sounds, my wife will grow to be equally appreciative.

For example, a call-making friend makes a life-size decoy of a magpie for predator hunters which includes a sound player that emits recorded magpie calls. I mentioned to my wife that this would be a striking and festive addition to the top of our Christmas tree, sure to brighten the holidays for family, friends and children of all ages.

She never said a word.

My wife left the room and when she returned, she said, “Here, if you’re bound and determined to practice your calls here in the house, practice with this one. It’s right up your alley. You’ll be the envy of all your friends and children of all ages. It’s a fish call.”

She handed me a bubble pipe.

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