By Mike Roux
I give dozens of game calling seminars and demonstrations each year. Every single time I pick up a call, I explain to the folks watching and listening that the device in my hand, although it is described as a game call, is really no more than a musical instrument. I also tell them that game calls operate on the same two principles as do all musical instruments. Those principles being, rhythm and pitch.
If you can master the rhythm and pitch of a given call, you can be successful in the field as you use that call. And, like a musician, practicing their instrument alone, imaging what it would sound like with the full orchestra, you must practice your calls imaging what they will sound like outdoors, at some distance.
Over half of my seminars each spring deal with calling and hunting the wild turkey. The spring gobbler is still one of the toughest and most sought after game trophies to collect and his popularity grows each year. Mastering the turkey call can make you a hero in your hunting group.
My favorite turkey call, by far, is the box call. I have had lots of professional experience calling turkeys. For over 25 years I served on the Pro Staff for LOHMAN GAME CALLS, and I am currently Director of the Pro Hunting Staff for MOUNTAIN SCREAMER GAME CALLS. So, my box call is like an extension of my own hands.
Not all box calls are created equal. You must be very selective when choosing this call. Not only does the type of wood make a huge difference, but also the workmanship itself is critical to the performance of a box call, just like any other instrument. Box calls that are made of plastic, or stamped-out mass-produced wooden calls will not give you the sound or the success you desire. Pay the extra money, up front and get a custom-built box call that will drive the toms crazy.
Once you have decided upon and purchased your box call, you must learn how to play it. I do like the box call because it is so easy to use. But do not be fooled by that statement. It still takes lots of practice to “master” all the sounds that this call can make.
All too often, turkey hunters fail to operate, or play, this instrument correctly. Pressing the paddle onto the box may help increase volume, but will likely cause you to loose the desired pitch. Quality custom-built box calls are designed for the weight of the paddle to be sufficient pressure to make the box play. Most paddles will have a sweet spot. Find this spot and you have found the key to your spring success.
Yelps are easily reproduced on a box call by dragging the paddle over one of the box lips. At this point you are looking for, and listening for, pitch. I will remind you that if you practice indoors, the pitch will sound profoundly different outside. Practice outdoors as much as possible.
Once you have mastered a single yelp, line-up several yelps into a short run of calls. At this point you are working on rhythm. Combining rhythm and pitch will give you a very accurate imitation of a wild turkey.
There are a couple of different ways that you can hold this instrument as you play it. My preferred method is to hold the box upright in my left hand and operate the paddle with my right hand. This allows the weight of the paddle to do its job correctly.
Another variation that I have seen, but do not subscribe to, is holding the box upside down with the paddle in your left hand, striking the paddle with the box, which is held in the right hand. To me, this method is cumbersome and eliminates the true resonance that the call can produce. Either way, learn to play your box call with the method that is most comfortable for you.
By laying the paddle on the lip and popping it sharply upward, you can make an excellent cluck with your box call. Putts can be made in much the same way. By slowly dragging the full width of the paddle over the lip, a very seductive purr can be accomplished.
One of the most exciting and effective sounds the box call can reproduce is cutting. To do this, hold the box in your left hand, paddle up and laying on the lip. Use your left thumb as a “bumper”. Tap the paddle with your right hand allowing it to rebound off your left thumb. Practice this until you get the pitch, then work on the rhythm. This call can really fire-up old tom and vastly improve your chances for success.
The key to this turkey call and to all others is practice. There is no substitution for listening to live birds and reproducing the sounds you hear them make. I would like to recommend a specific box call for you to try this spring. I have developed a box call for MOUNTAIN SCREAMER GAME CALLS. The MIKE ROUX Signature Series box call is available, along with the full line of MOUNTAIN SCREAMER turkey calls at www.mountainscreamer.com. Mike Roux’s turkey hunting book entitled, “IF YOU CALL THEM…THEY WILL COME” is available at www.mikeroux.com.