Acorn Whistle

I remember preparing for one of my first deer hunting seasons, my dad and I hiked through our forty acres of forest in northeastern Iowa, and he told me about the importance of carrying a whistle. He said, if I got lost, got hurt, needed help, I could blow on it repeatedly, and it would be easier than yelling, less tiresome than yelling, and carry further than yelling. It’s a lesson that I’ve taken to heart and although it’s not one of the official ten essentials, I consider it the 11th and I never leave on a trip without one.

After he explained this to me, we hiked in a little further to where my deer stand would be built and below an oak tree, he bent down, picked up an acorn, and took off the cap. He told me that in case I ever lost my whistle this was a good second alternative. He put it in his two hands and blew.

shrill whistle
birds burst out from
densely leafed trees

After that, he handed the acorn top to me and asked me to try. Nothing happened, so he rearranged my fingers and eventually I learned the technique.

Finding a Lid for a Acorn Whistle

The larger the lid of the acorn the better whistle you will have, but sometimes it just as easy to find a bunch of lids and try them, or try a lid and if it isn’t loud enough, pick up a different one. Lids are also easy to pry right off an acorn, so if there are no lids on the ground, make one. Usually, any lids from the size of a dime on up will work.

Arranging the Fingers on the Acorn Lid

All the action occurs with your thumbs. Make two fists and put them together, so that your palms touch, then rest the acorn concave side up on your index fingers. Bend your thumbs and push them together at the bent joint over the center of the acorn lid (your palms will probably separate now). This should form two triangles, one forward the joints and one behind the joints. Now, make the forward triangle slightly smaller by sliding your fingers forward, and then blow over the tops of your fingers. Note: You’re not blowing into the acorn as much as you are blowing over it. At first, you probably won’t get a whistle sound, so rearrange you fingers or try and blow at a different angle. Sometime, closing the hole behind the joints works nicely. If you still can’t get it, try a new lid. It takes some practice, but is surprising loud when you finally get it. Included below is a muted mp3 recording of an acorn whistle in use:

An mp3 Recording of an Acorn Whistle

Subscribe! Get PaddlingLight in your inbox. Enter your email address:


  • I will have to give it a try. Thanks for the tips!

  • I like this story, but that photo need to go. I go t a second opinion on it and she said”It looks like something I don’t want to be in the middle of”.

  • The photo is pretty funny, isn’t it? BTW, PBS used this article in a brochure about teaching.

  • Thanks for posting this. I used the acorn whistle alot when I was playing as a child in the woods, but couldn’t figure out how to do it anymore. Especially thanks for the photo..

Comments are closed.