Friday, January 11, 2008

Getting My Turkey Calls Ready

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My turkey hunting vest hangs in a far corner of my office. It is loaded with box calls, diaphragm calls, and some other slate calls.

I’ve studiously avoided the bulging vest for several days because I can feel Turkey Fever building a fire inside me. To look at the vest and its contents means to pull it on, and I’ve been too busy to mess with it lately. What will happen if I pull it on is predictable: I’ll be practicing my clucks, cutts, purrs and yelps all day.

The vest hangs where it can’t be seen from my desk, but I had to go over that way today for something else, and that was it. I was a goner. It may as well have had a “Pick Me Up” sign hanging off it.

Oh well, the turkey bug bit me bad this morning. Each one of my calls came out, one by one, and each one was carefully inspected and cleaned. My favorite diaphragms were washed in warm water and allowed to air dry. Mouth calls work best when kept cool.

My vest is cool, and when I not hunting, I wash the latex reeds and insert a flat (not round) toothpick between the reeds to clean and separate the multiple reeds. A few callers I know store their diaphragm calls in the refrigerator when not in use, but I don’t go that far.

I don’t do too much to my box calls. I dust them off, including the paddle and sound chamber, and make certain there are no twigs or anything else inside them from last season.  Many of my box calls require chalk although I also use chalk-free calls, and I try to lightly remove as much old chalk as possible. Once they are cleaned and dusted off, I allow them to sit on a shelf near my desk. They are thoroughly dry when it comes time to use them, and I try not to let them get damp or wet. Too many wood box or push-pull calls have been ruined by using them during rain or snowy conditions.

My aluminum, crystal, glass and slate calls require little care. I clean the surface with a soft, slightly dampened cloth, and they are wiped completely dry moments later. Most receive a light sanding with fine grit sandpaper just before use and not before. The peg or striker requires a good deal more attention.

It took me some time for me to learn, because I love to experiment with pegs, but gradually it became clear that certain pegs perform best with certain call. I’ve used wood, plastic, glass and graphite strikers, and they all work ... on specific calls. I’ve yet to find one striker that works well with each call.

A major problem for some hunters is they keep all the strikers together, and invariably try to use the wrong peg on the wrong call. The sounds that come forth are not those of any hen turkey any of us has ever heard or seen.

My trick, if that’s what it is, is to keep the peg with the proper call. I try to wrap each call (and especially my box and slate calls) is an old soft washcloth. A thick rubber-band is used to keep everything tight so it won’t rattle or make an odd sound while walking to a spring hunting site in the darkness. A box call is notorious for squawking at the wrong time as a hunter hurries to get into position. Bump the call or hit it against a tree limb or trunk as you sit down, and the hunt may end with an untimely noise.

Many hunters have learned to put a layer of dry washcloth across the top of a box call, and then wrap the paddle in another layer of cloth. Rubber-band it tight, and you won’t have those telltale squeaks or raspy noises coming out of your vest if you accidently bump the call.

One tip on using a wash cloth. Use an old one that has been washed many times, and choose a dark color. Do not use a blue, red or white wash cloth for obvious safety reasons. A dark brown or green cloth works well for me.

A cagey old gobbler, who has made it to three or four years of age, may not hear human footsteps in soft soil or pine needles, but they can hear an untimely squawk if the box call or push-pull call makes a noise at the wrong time. Sometimes the sound may not spook the bird, but why take a chance?

Now is the time to sew up any holesor tears in your vest once your calls have been cleaned and are ready for the hunt. Barbed wire or sharp tree stubs have a nasty habit of ripping holes in a hunting vest. If a favorite call falls out, and is lost, you’ll never forgive yourself for not doing it when time permitted. And now is a good time to remind turkey hunters that the application period for spring permits ends Feb. 1.

All of this can be done at home in an hour or two. Use that time wisely, and make certain all decoys and stakes are ready to go when the season opens/ All you’ll have to do is grab a bag of decoys, the hunting vest, shotgun and shotshells, and it’s off to the woods. Doing this job early removes the doubt that something needed will be left behind. I makes the hunter more confident as well.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/11 at 09:20 PM
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