My bear defense revolver has a black walnut grip. My favorite fishing net has a black walnut handle and rim. This upcoming turkey season, I can already say that my favorite choice will be this beautiful black walnut number known as the Phelps Line 1.
This is not your typical turkey call. While most are built from bulk wood, Jason Phelps and Steven Rinella decided to do this one a little differently.
“If you look at the pot calls out there, no one ever tells you where the wood comes from. There is no story behind this,” Jason told me.
Back in high school, Steve cut down some oak trees with his father that, years later, became his desk and workbench. He pitched the idea of making a call with some backstory to Jason, who was skeptical at first before becoming very enthusiastic. So this past May, the two traveled to the Turkey Creek farm outside Uniontown, Kansas, where Jason killed a gobbler the previous spring, this time looking for something that wouldn’t get away. After consulting with landowner Randy Milligan and veteran logger Joe Butler, they roamed the lush vernal forests in search of the perfect tree, one without too many branches, knots and defects that they could potentially retrieve 1,000 pots from.
They finally found it: a tall, straight-trunked black walnut tree in a strip of wood separating the fields of corn and clover that suited their needs. Steve and Jason felled the valuable lumber to the ground, and also harvested an Osage orange from across the field to make their forwards. They took their lumber to a sawmill in nearby Walnut, Kansas, to cut planks, then Jason shipped it all to a kiln near his home in Washington state. Dried to exactly 7% moisture content for six weeks and cut into blocks, the boulders began to take shape. Once turned and varnished, the finished wood looked like a rich chocolate dessert.
Continuing their desire to build these calls entirely in the United States with all American materials, they then assembled the resonant pots with West Virginia slate soundboards, Illinois glass, floor-worn medallions, and limited-edition sequential numbering. You almost hate to scratch the surface of that pretty call, but once you do, it purrs soft and seductive. Push a little harder and you’ll get bright, high-pitched howls audible for a mile. It is the call of a caller; Palm-sized yet strong, sharp yet subtle, designed by some of the best in the game of calling and killing turkeys.
“It’s a beautiful thing, good for the rest of your life,” Steve told me. “People will love having something that can reference a specific tree in a specific place, with a specific collection of people who sawed it, ground it, dried it, and crafted it. These calls are magnificent and tell a great story.”
Steve and Jason only got 1400 of these calls from that black walnut and they are now available for purchase. You can learn more about this project and watch the video here. Steve and Jason also talk about the call in the first episode of the relaunched Cutting the Distance podcast with Phelps as the new host. These won’t last long, so don’t miss out. You can get yours here.