I spent two days with 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion Mitchell Johnston in his hometown of Purlear, N.C., this spring. The idea was for us to kill a turkey or two and for him to make me a better caller.
We had our work cut out for us on the turkeys, which weren’t gobbling, as well as the calling lessons. Let’s just say you won’t find me on the calling competition stage any time soon.
But we did have a breakthrough — I learned to make a somewhat, sort of turkey sound using one of his Dead End Game Calls mouth calls. It was light years beyond the mutant bumblebee hums I’d achieved before.
I tried his Roadkill Mini-Me (youth model/smaller frame) Batwing 3 cut and actually sounded like a hen, albeit one with a high-pitched, super raspy voice. (Surely, a few toms out there that dig that kind of talk.)
I think my humble achievement was due to Mitchell knowing how to make calls. He crafts each one by hand, using the same latex tension as on the calls he uses to compete (and win) contests.
According to Mitchell, it takes less air to make his mouth calls sing, which I was grateful for, since I’m going to need a lot of practice. My little ol’ lungs can only handle so much abuse.
The same goes for a mouth call.
“When a mouth call is not properly cared for, it can lose its effectiveness and overall tone and volume,” said Mitchell, who gave me these tips to help our mouth calls perform to their full potential as well as give them increased longevity.
1. Keep calls out of sunlight. (ex. Do not place them on the dash of your truck.)
2. Let the calls air out in a shady area, preferably at room temperature.
3. Place the calls in the refrigerator after it has dried out. Many callers and hunters do this, however, I do not. I simply place my mouth calls on top of a cabinet, entertainment center, etc., let them dry out overnight, then close my call case. (Why the high location? To keeps my kids from getting their hands on the calls.)
4. Begin using the calls before going into the area you are hunting, which will help separate the latex reeds if they are stuck together. If the latex reeds are still stuck together after a period of time, pull the latex apart by pulling the top reed towards the closed end of the horseshoe frame. Use extreme caution in doing this, because it can tear the latex and ruin the call altogether.
Just so you know, Mitchell has been using some of the same mouth calls for nearly seven years. Talk about rockin’ oral hygiene!
Don’t forget these TLC rules of mouth calls. Yours might last long enough to be an heirloom to pass on to your children. On second thought, that’s kind of nasty. I recommend bequeathing one of Mitchell’s box or slate calls instead. Your kids can thank me later.
Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.
So spread the word, little birds!