Turkey Calling Inside the Box
Dr. John Woods 03.03.15
Walk down the aisles of a hunting supply store in search of turkey calls, and you will either be amazed or depressed. Today there are dozens of brand names and numerous trade names applied to the various marketing ploys to get hunters to buy them.
The display racks are weighted with so many different models and claims that is becomes hard to decipher the good ones from the junk. There are so many models of latex layered diaphragm mouth calls one can get dizzy examining them all–single layer, doubles, and triples with edge cut outs and differing frames styles, colors, and sizes.
Friction calls such as real slates and fake slates are mixed among the ones with various metal tops, synthetics, plastics, and glass. The pots can be plain woods or dull plastics or expensive exotic woods. Some are beautiful, near works of art, but can they call a turkey gobbler?
Then there specialty calls like the newer fangled push-pull calls, push button calls, and other one unit mechanical devices. There are small wooden “coffin” calls, open on top and chalked on both rims. A separate dowel or block is used to rub out a call.
But then there are the traditional, classic, and original wooden box calls with the paddle lids screwed down on one end and a screw and spring affair to allow flex movement of the lid across the chalked top lips of the box chamber. Ah, sweet music to my ears these box calls. These turkey calls are my favorite and for many good reasons.
Box Call Basics
Keep a lid on it indeed. Box calls on the surface might seem to be simply constructed affairs, but they are in fact quite complicated in their fabrication. They need to emit seductive hen sounds to fool even the wiliest gobbler, and the really good box calls do this quite well.
A box call can be held and worked two different basic ways. The box is held in the off hand with the narrower part of the paddle lid handle worked back and forth with the primary hand and wrist. When both the underside of the box lid and the edges of the top of the box chamber are chalked, the lid is dragged ever so lightly across the top of the chamber to make the sound of a hen. The nuances are many.
The other way to use a box call, which I personally prefer, is to reverse the hold with the handle part of the lid held away from the body. Using the forefinger and the next finger holding the handle in a “pinch” of the two fingers, the lid is worked back and forth across the top of the box chamber. This method allows for a more precise control of the lid movement and pressure on the box chamber edges.
The motion of the paddle across the top of the box creates the friction that creates the clucking and yelping sounds of the hen. Once you obtain a box call and start to work with it, you will see that both the speed of the cranking motion of the paddle and the downward pressure will elicit different call sounds.
It becomes fun just to see how lightly and subtly you can make calls with a box, but also how loud you can make them. There are times and places for both modes. Go lightly when a gobbler is within sight, but may be hung up on something. Use a choppy series of calls to spike the sound of the hen in a series of yelps.
One of the best attributes of the box call is using it to make exceedingly loud and robust calls when the wind is blowing hard. I have called in gobblers with a box call in winds of 20 miles per hour with tree limbs thrashing around wildly. Only a box call can make really loud, effective calls in my opinion.
Today there are specially treated wooden box calls that are impervious to being wet. They can be used just as effectively in a rain, where more traditional boxes or slates will go dead flat when wet. Now I admit turkeys are not going to respond well in a downpour, but I have seen them come out in a sprinkle or a light drizzle rain. That is when you want a waterproof box call to work.
Some turkey hunters wonder about the best ways to carry a box call, which for sure is larger than most turkey calls and a bit more cumbersome. They make fabric and leather holsters for belt carry of box calls, but I do not favor these. I carry mine in a shoulder satchel with other calls and turkey gear. That way it is held safe and easy to access.
When I set up inside my ground blind and while in my fold out turkey seat, I put the box calls and other stuff out on the ground around me within easy reach. I lay out my binoculars, water bottle, slate calls, owl call, mosquito spray, and whatever else I use.
In order to keep the box lid from inadvertently scratching against the box chamber to make an errant call, I wrap a strong rubber band around the lid handle and the box. I like the large, thick, wide rubber bands that come on bundles of broccoli from the grocery store. I keep a supply of them in my turkey gear box at home and a couple extras in my turkey gear satchel.
So, I like the box call best. I like that I can barely scratch the lid to make light, faint calls when a gobbler is near and acts interested. On the far end of the spectrum I can bust the wind to make gobbler hear me two hundred yards across an open field in a bluster. There is much more in between these two.
The next time you search to buy another turkey call, consider a box. Buy plain or go fancy, but try it out first to make sure it issues decent sounding calls with no squeaks, squawks, or squalls. Crank it light and heavy and listen closely.
Chalk it down good with real chalk, not that slick junk that held out until the end of real chalk boards in the school houses. Re-chalk each time before you go back into the woods and field to hunt. Protect your box call, put a drop of oil on the spring and screw once in a while, keep it clean and it will last you a long time. I still have one box I bought in 1970 and it still sounds good, just like a real turkey hen coaxing a gobbler.