2016 was a banner year for turkey hunting gear heads who are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest gobbler-getting gadget. Manufacturers outdid themselves with the release of a plethora of new calls, turkey hunting ammunition, shotguns and other wizbangs.
I have to admit, my co-workers coined me “Inspector Gadget” nearly two decades ago, and it was for a good reason; I enjoy new tech, new guns and anything with bells, whistles and switches. Now, I don’t believe the hype that these things will make me a better hunter or will guarantee I get a world-class longbeard every trip afield; it’s more that I appreciate innovative minds, creativity and the thought processes behind developing a new tool or technology, especially it if is useful.
When evaluating the 2016 products offered by a selection of manufacturers, many of them partners of the NWTF, I looked at several criteria: Is it really something new, or is it putting a new face on an old product; what does it bring to the mountain of other hunting gadgets that makes it stand out; is it durable; does it do what is promised; and in which direction could it evolve into something even better?
I’m just a lone hunter with my own preferences, experiences and abilities. You may have a different opinion of the same product. Experience them for yourselves to see if you agree.
Testing turkey calls is a little more subjective. It’s really all about preference, and a calls’ effectiveness is difficult to determine because of the numerous external factors that play into the fruitfulness of a turkey hunt. I’m no championship caller, nor do I claim to have the best ear. In fact, my wife tells me all the time to get my ears checked. So, with that in mind, the information offered here is purely based on what I like in a turkey call.
The first call I’m going to talk about isn’t even a call. It really should go in the Accessories section, but due to its design and use, I’m listing it here because it makes the most sense. Hunters Specialties has started shipping its Diaphragm Call Clip in every package of H.S. Strut Undertaker mouth calls, and it also is available for individual purchase online. It’s a horseshoe-shaped caddy that clips to the visor of your cap and secures a diaphragm call within easy reach. Attach one on either side of your brim, and it’s easy to switch back and forth with two or three different style calls, adding to the realism of your setup. Apparently, the design has been available for several years as the Boss Clip sold by a different company, but I’d never seen one before 2016. I used it all season with a variety of mouth call brands. One of the best benefits I experienced was that between calling sessions, it allowed my waterlogged calls to air dry and kept them performing consistently. At just $4, the H.S. Strut Diaphragm Call Clip was the cheapest and best tool I tested all season.
In the box-call realm, Primos released a compact variation of their innovative and popular magnetic-hinged Hook Up box call. Taking the standard short box and scaling it down, the Lil’ Hook Up is a compact, high-pitched call that screams with pressure or goes soft for whines, tree yelps and kee-kees. Take your time with this call to make sure both sides of the box play well. The one I tested in Texas at the Clear Fork Ranch had a dead left side, but the right side was excellent. A little shaving with the pocket knife and sandpaper brought it back to life, but it is something to keep an ear out for when putting your money down for one.
Now, I have to admit this up front. At Moultrie Feeder’s founder Dan Moultrie’s private farm south of Birmingham, Alabama, I did not even touch a turkey call in the day and a half I was there. Surrounded by turkey hunting legends Harold Knight, David Hale, Mark Prudhomme, Michael Waddell and the like, I made the smart decision to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. Hunting with gazillion-time Grand National calling champion Chris Parrish, my calls stayed in my room, which served two important roles: keep my vest light in the rolling Alabama hills, and keep my ego intact by not embarrassing myself by calling in front of Parrish. Parrish employed very convincingly the Metal Yell pot call with an aluminum calling surface. And turkeys did come into the deep draw with us, but even for a Grand National champion, it is hard to compete with real hens that are willing and able.
Chris’ calling on the pot call was sweet, with a bit of pleading whine on the front end and a delicate rollover. His purrs were so realistic, I cut my eyes in his direction to make sure a hen wasn’t between us. While I didn’t handle the call, it’s definitely one for the vest if you like a metal pot call.
With some many great new products in 2016, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll come up with for 2017. Whatever it is, though, I’ll be ready to give it a try and pass along my honest opinion.