The Turkey Box Call - Buyers Guide

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The Turkey Box Call - Buyers Guide

by Matt Wettish


A Box Call Buyers Guide:

The Lid or Paddle of the Turkey Box Call sits on top of the Body or Box of the call.
Photo by: Author
The box call is a friction style turkey call that has been around since around the late 1800's.  A simple call to use, the box call has most likely been the reason for more turkeys being taken than any other type of call.  Used by professionals and novice callers alike, it has found its place in just about every turkey hunters vest across the country.

Along with its ease of use comes, great sound, and great volume.  This is a call that can be used to strike gobbles from birds at great distances, even in windy or less than desirable conditions.  It can also run lightly, and do subtle yelps to coax a bird in those few extra steps.  A great call that should not be left behind when heading in to the spring turkey woods.

What A Box Call Is Made Of:

A box call is made up to two main components ... the box, and the lid.  The box portion of the call is usually one piece, or a few pieces put together to make one piece.  It is most often made of wood and in the shape of a narrow box.  With a hollowed out center, the two longer sides of the box are arched and higher than the front and back of the call.  It is on these arched sides that the lid is rubbed across to make the sound.

Now most box calls are made of wood, but there are some made with such materials as plastic, slate, and  aluminum.  These materials are usually added to the standard wood design, and are not the only material used for the call. 

This call shows a piece of slate set in to the lid of this box call. The sound of this call is very high pitch and shrill. Great for cuttin the wind.
Photo by: Author
Plastic is usually used for its consistency of material.  Using more plastic in the structure of the call, and less wood, allows the manufacturer a more consistent sound from call to call.  It also allows for less tooling of the wood.  Holes, buttons, cuts, etc can be done in the mold, where a piece of wood needs to have each thing created as a different step within production.

Slate and aluminum are usually glued to the striking surface, or the lid, to create a different sound from the call.  The aluminum tends to have a very shrill, high pitched sound, while the slate offers a more natural raspy tone.  Either one will work, it's just up to the turkey which one he wants to listen to.

The lid of the call is also called the paddle.  Again, usually made of wood, it sits on top of the box and glides across either side of the call.  It is connected at one end to the box, usually by a screw of some kind, with a spring keeping the lid up against the top of the screw so it doesn't move up and down.  The lid is flat on top, and rounded underneath from side to side.

One of these Box Calls has a one piece box made of one type of wood, while the other has multiple pieces and multiple types of wood. They both sound great.
Photo by: Author
The wood used for the call makes a difference in how it sounds, just as much as the design itself.  More dense woods tend to have higher pitched sounds, while softer woods tend to have raspier, lower pitch sounds.  The thickness of the paddle, combined with the thickness of the walls of the box also play a role in sound reproduction.  Thicker paddles and sides don't vibrate as much so often have a cleaner tone to them, while thinner pieces of wood vibrate more and offer a more raspy quality.

No matter if it's wood, plastic, aluminum, or slate, that is on your box call, or if it's high pitch, low pitch, raspy or clean, it doesn't matter.  They can all call birds.  It just depends on which call the bird wants to answer to on that given day.  That's what makes it such a challenge.

How A Box Call Works:

A box call is a "friction call", therefore it uses friction to make the vocal sounds of a turkey.  It does this by having the lid dragged across one side of the box, in an open to closed motion.  Done in the normal speed or cadence of a turkey's yelp, and you calling turkeys that easily.

The grain in the wood of the box goes lengthwise front to back, and so does the grain on the paddle.  So when the paddle is moved across the side of the box, the grain rubs against itself and creates a vibration.  The grain of the wood is often accentuated by creating deeper striations by using sand paper.  This can also make the call easier to use.

You can see the contour on the sides of the box. This is what helps with the high to low tone of the call.
Photo by: Author
In the open, or starting position, the thick center of the paddle rubs against the shortest portion of the side.  This creates a high pitched note since less vibration can occur between the two pieces.  As the paddle moves towards the center of the box, the thinner portion of the paddle begins to ride on the higher portion of the box.  This allows for more vibration, and a deeper sound.  It is the full movement from open to close that will mimic the high to low sound of a turkey yelp.

Most of the common hen turkey calls such as, the yelp, the adult hen assembly call, cutting, clucking, and the purr, can be reproduced with a box call with very little time put forth by the user to learn.  It can be run loud to strike birds at great distances, or nice and softly to seal the deal up close.

Contrary to popular belief, the box call can be used without excessive movement to give away the hunter's position.  Digging the box into the ground, or my favorite, holding it between your legs so your movement is hidden behind your knees, are just a couple ways that you can use a box call to bring a bird all the way in to shooting distance.

Choosing The Correct Box Call:

There are many types of box calls, that make many variations of sounds ... but they all sound like a turkey.
Photo by: Author
There are many types of box calls on the market to choose from.  Some are made of all wood, some with aluminum or slate added to the paddle, some with plastic bases, and now, some even have waterproof coatings on them so they can be used when wet, or in the rain.  There are also regular box calls, boat paddles, single sided, double sided, cutting style, and curved paddle designs.  All of which work well in the field and will call turkeys. 

For volume, the boat paddle calls have a tendency to produce loud high pitched sounds that will cut the wind and cover great distances.  These are great calls to have when you are trying to cover as much ground as possible, and a perfect call when going in to piece of property you may not be all that familiar with.

The Boat Paddle style Box Call is a much longer call than the standard Box Call. It also tends to be much louder for covering longer distances and cutting the wind.
Photo by: Author
Box calls with the weather resistant coatings on them are fantastic.  It allows the person that may not be able to use a mouth call to still hunt in adverse conditions.  It also allows the hardcore hunter that stays out in the rain to have a call, louder than a mouth call, that will give him the opportunity to strike birds at a distance, or just have a second call to double up with.

Single  sided calls are great, and are usually a little easier to run for the novice box caller, but the double sided call offers up two different sounds in one call.  One side of a double sided box call is usually higher pitched than the other, which gives the caller instant access to a second bird while calling.  A great way to convince a wary gobbler that there is more than one bird at your location.

The box calls with added aluminum or slate also have their own distinct sound and give yet another variety of sound to your calling arsenal.

Similar to any other type of turkey call, each design has its own sound, and although overall some calls may be better, louder, or easier to use, than others, there is no best sounding call.  There is no way to say that all turkeys want to hear a high pitched call, or a low pitched call for that matter. 

Having more than one box call in your vest is the best answer to, which call sounds best.  The reason being, is that there is only one judge that can truly say which call to use, and that's the turkey that answers one you are using.  So pick up a couple box calls for your vest this season.  They may just be the ones that help you take home gobbler of a lifetime.  Hunt Hard, and Hunt Safe.


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