How To Call Turkeys With A Box Call

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How To Call Turkeys With A Box Call

by Matt Wettish

The box call is one of the most widely used turkey calls, and for good reason.  First and foremost, they sound like a turkey.  Then, they are easy to use, can cover a lot of distance because of the volume they can produce, some have two sounds in one call, you can use it in conjunction with a mouth call, and on, and on.  There are as many reasons to carry a box call as there are turkeys in the woods. 

Be sure not to grip the box to much. Leave as much area untouched so your hand does not absorb the vibration of the call.
Photo by: Author
Before you can jump right in to making turkey sounds, you must understand how the call works.  It works by friction, and vibration.  The top of the call, or the paddle, is stroked across the sidewall of the box portion of the call in an open to closed motion.  This creates a cross grain friction that generates vibration through the call.  This vibration radiates out of the box and sounds like a turkey.

To allow this vibration to take place, the box and lid need to be held lightly, and it the correct manner.  If the box or paddle is gripped to fully, or tightly, it will reduce the vibration that can occur, and the call will sound muffled.

There are many ways to correctly hold a box call, and the best one is the one that is most comfortable for you.  The box can be held with the hinge facing away from you, or towards you.  It can be held so you strike the box with the paddle, or so you strike the paddle with the box.   For this description, I will demonstrate in the way that suits me best, which is with the hinge facing away from me, and striking the box with the paddle.  Feel free to change it up how you want, as long as the basic fundamentals remain the same. 

Being right handed, I will start off holding the box in my left hand.  I hold only the bottom edges of the call, and try not to allow it to rest on my palm.  I keep it elevated slightly.  The least amount of contact you can have with the box the better.  This will allow more vibration to occur during calling.

Hold your call however feels most comfortable for you. If it works and it sounds good, it can't be wrong.
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Next I hold the paddle of the call lightly between my index and middle fingers.  I only hold tight enough to control its movement.  Similar to the box portion of the call, gripping the paddle tightly will reduce vibration, and dampen the sound. 

Once a comfortable position is found, the basic hen yelp can be attempted.  Start by opening the paddle to about a 30 - 40 degree angle to the box.  Then slide the paddle in to the completely closed position.  This should make some sort of sound.  The adjustment of this sound will come with pressure and speed.

If the sound is slow, increase the speed until the sound resembles and hens yelp more closely.  Be sure not to shorten the stroke of the call when speeding it up.  You still need to get the high to low sounds, so a full open to closed motion is needed.

The volume and pitch of the call can be altered when using the call as well.  Increased by the pressure applied  by the paddle to the box will increase the volume.  It can also increase the pitch as well.  The higher pressure will usually produce a higher pitched sound.

When moving the paddle back and forth, it is not necessary to pick up the paddle between strokes.  It can stay in contact with the box.  It will make a slight sliding noise on the backstroke, but nothing that can really be heard at a distance.  As you get more comfortable, you can begin to lift the paddle between strokes, just be careful not to "clack" the paddle down with each yelp.

The cluck takes very little movement to do. It's a quiet contentment type call, so lots of volume is not needed.
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Once you have the cadence down of the basic hen yelp, you can move on to clucking.  The cluck is performed by having the lid stationary, in contact with the side of the box, and somewhere between the open and closed position.  This position is pending on the sound you want to achieve.  With the lid still, give it a slight twist, and a short skip towards the closed position.  This motion will give a short cluck sound.  Done too drastically, and the sound will be loud and will resemble an alarm put or a cut.  Not something you want to do when calling softly.

The cutting of a hen turkey is done a little differently.  The paddle is held away from the box in the slightly open position, and popped against the side.  This should be done in a short, abrupt manner.  There should be no sliding of the paddle across the side.  It should be one short pop.  This call is usually an excited hen call, so it will be loud, and usually in a sequence of a few at a time.  It's great for striking birds at a distance.

Lastly is the purr.  Now, the purr on a box call can be a tricky thing.  The "sweet spot", where the paddle and box have the greatest amount of friction, needs to be found.  It is in this extremely small area that the paddle will be moved a very short distance, just a fraction of an inch.  The sound should be a soft bubbly sound.  A cluck can be added in for the cluck and purr later on.  This is a great call to use when trying to convince that gobbler to take those few extra steps, but this is a tough call to master on the box.

A box call is a useful tool to have in your turkey vest.  To many novice and intermediate turkey hunters want to learn to use the mouth call, so they don't need to use a box.  But, if you pay attention to so many of the pros out there in the woods, you find that if they aren't using a box call during that specific hunt, I'm sure they have one in their vest. 

So many times I've needed that extra volume to strike a bird in the distance, or in the wind.  Something a mouth call often has a hard time doing.  But most important, as I get older, the same hills I climbed years ago, seem to be getting steeper, and as I get to the top, I just don't have the wind I used to to blow a mouth call right away.  So I carry that box to give a call, and keep on movin' on down the ridge.  So always keep a box call in your vest when you head out into the spring turkey woods, and as always, Hunt Hard, and Hunt Safe.


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