Box calls, slate calls, mouth calls and more all vie for the buyer’s attention, but the key to the successful use of any of them is confidence, a quality only available through practice.
Keep it simple
The first thing new turkey hunters are told is that calling is vastly overrated, that knowledge of terrain and the use of geography outweigh everything else and that knowing a given gobbler’s habits is worth more than mastery of every call ever made. Still, the spring game is about the interaction of the caller and the called, and even the greenest hunter is going to have to make some kind of sounds sometime.
Thanks to the profusion of turkey hunting videos available both online and on broadcast TV, the opportunity to learn how the basic calls sound is everywhere.
With those firmly in mind, the only way to learn is to pick out a call and begin mimicking what’s been heard. There may be no better way to begin that journey than with a single-sided box call. The wooden paddle box, as it’s often called because of the shape of its rotating lid, is almost certainly responsible for the demise of more turkeys than any other single instrument. Perfect for reproducing clucks and yelps, this is the call that gives most hunters their start.
The next friction call up the totem pole is the slate. It produces the same sounds as the box but tends to offer the user more ability to vary the volume of the calls. As a gobbler coming in gets closer, hunters must call more quietly, if at all, and the ability to make one last soft call to seal the deal gives the slate its largest appeal. Slate refers to the hard material originally used in this round-pot-style call, but today’s offerings have expanded beyond the stone material to include aluminum, glass and plastic crystal as well, versions that offer the user an expanded vocabulary of tones and volumes.
By far the most popular call with veteran hunters is the latex mouth call, typically known as a diaphragm call.
This small, U-shaped device fits between the roof of the user’s mouth and his tongue and, with practice and experience, can be made to make virtually every useful turkey sound in the woods. It also offers the further advantage of being hands-free, since all friction calls require one or more hands to operate.
These calls do require the most practice, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.