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Deer Calls

Fall is here… almost! Deer season with bow has started here in Wisconsin! In celebration of this fact, this blog will feature a fun project I have been working on… an Ojibwe Deer call.

This summer, I was reading through some of the hunting and trapping stuff in Frances Densmore’s Chippewa Customs and came across and image that I have looked past hundreds of times without thinking about it. It was an image of an Ojibwe deer call (waawaashkeshi noondaagochigan). It intrigued me and I decided that I would have to try to make one.

Carving out the body was quite easy and quick, but the reed mechanism was much more difficult. I only had one image of a reed (from Densmore) and a few other images (see photos below) of the bodies. From those, and “back engineering” from some modern calls (none of which were deer bleat calls though), I finally got the first one to work. It sounds remarkably like a doe bleat. With minor adjusting, I can make it higher pitched to sound like a fawn.

I have now carved out another call but am having difficulties getting it to sound as good as the first. The reed is so touchy, and messing around with it gets me very frustrated. My original hopes to be able to produce these for sale is about dashed; and I may be give up, keeping one good working call for myself. If that happens, I am happy that one worked and I can try it out hunting this year.

An interesting note about these is that Densmore mentions that Ojibwes would chew up boneset and milkweed roots and apply it to the call to help bring in game. This has me curious. Did the smell attract the deer? Did it just work as a cover to “camouflage” their breath, was there something more to this? Additionally, there are other plants mentioned that were smoked to attract deer (another project and future blog).

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