The Historic Simon Everitt Roanoke River Yelper
The Simon Everitt Roanoke River Yelper

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The Simon Everitt Roanoke River Yelper

The earliest known written description of what has come to be known as the Roanoke River Yelper is contained in Tales of Wild Turkey Hunting, only the second book written on the subject. It was authored by Simon Everitt, and old time master turkey hunter, who was born in 1858 near Halifax, North Carolina, and for 50 years hunted and guided Northern sportsmen and others up and down the Roanoke River lowgrounds and many other areas of eastern North Carolina from Aberdeen to Roanoke Island.

Everitt gives explicit directions for making his yelper which consists of three basic tubular sections: (1) the mouthpiece, being the small radius bone from the wing of a wild turkey hen; (2) the coupler or midsection, being a short section of cane or bamboo; and (3) the sound chamber, being a hollowed out 5 to 5 ½” long section of elder wood. In the early days when Simon hunted, such a yelper would (as specified by him) be made from readily available natural materials, i.e., wingbone, cane and elder wood, all three having natural cylindrical hollows throughout their lengths, with which the yelper could be constructed laboriously with hand tools and a little glue.

A particularly interesting feature in his cinstruction involves the use of a thread spool. While not explicit as to just how the spool is to be used, Simon’s direction that the spool is to be trimmed down to fit the inside taper of the open end of the elder piece, implies that it is to be employed in the unassembled condition of the yelper while being carried in one’s pocket until needed. To create this condition the hole in the thread spool is enlarged to accept the open end or the cane, the cane is then inserted snugly into the small end of the spool, and wingbone/cane/spool assembly thus created is then fitted into the elder piece in such a manner as to protect the wingbone from breakage while being carried in one’s pocket.

Such disassembly provision for carrying purposes was consistent with Simon’s primarily fall/winter hunting with dogs when (unlike the springtime hunter who walks and frequently calls from place to place) he was endeavoring to scatter a flock of turkeys, thereby creating a single occasion for reassembling and using his call. When the scatter occurs he then has enough time, while the birds recover from their fright, to assemble his yelper and prepare to call.

In this respect of dual assembly, for carrying or calling, the Simon Everitt is unique.

As interesting aspect of calling with this yelper as employed by Simon Everitt, “Guvner” Roane and others proficient in its use, is that the lipstop consists of the thumb and forefinger of one hand. The other hand grips the open end of the yelper and modifies the sounds by manipulating the air flow entering the yelper. Due to the length of the yelper its basic pitch is somewhat low obviating the need for a two-handed grip to produce low yelps.

Although not mentioned by Everitt the thread spool has another practical use. When plugged into the open end of the yelper it operates as a mute enabling the hunter to make perfect soft muffled tree yelps.

As time went on and lathes and drill presses became more widely available, materials with natural hollows were no longer necessary and the sound chamber and midsection of the Roanoke yelper began to be made from different woods, but the wingbone remains the essential element.