Before heading to the turkey woods, old-timers used to perform a ritual that is lost today. They would sit on their front porches and rosin up their calls.
In order for a friction call, such as a box call, push-button call and scratch box, to work, it needs some sort of treatment to cause friction between the pieces that are rubbed against each other. This resistance causes the wood to vibrate and make turkey sounds.
Today, we use a special, oil-free chalk to create the friction on modern turkey calls, but back in the early days of turkey calling, hunters brewed their own rosin.
An easy way to add a personal touch to your turkey calling, without making the calls yourself, is dusting them with homemade rosin and reliving an almost forgotten turkey hunting tradition.
The first step in making your own rosin is to find a pine tree that has a wound. Woodpeckers and porcupines, in their search for food, makes holes in the pine bark. Other wounds come from limbs snapping in high winds or from lightning. Sap oozes from these wounds to protect the tree from insects and diseases. Look for wounds that have some age. Wounds that are several weeks old are best, because the sap has hardened and is easier to pull from the bark. Find a tree with an existing wound, don't scar a tree intentionally. Collect an inch or two of the dried sap in the bottom of a tin soup or coffee can.
A melting pot
Put the can of sap on a heating surface, such as a small fire or propane camp stove. The process is kind of messy, so you may not want to do this in your clean kitchen. Using a bark-free stick, stir the sap slowly as it melts. Once all of the pieces have turned into an amber-colored liquid, reduce the heat. Careful not to let the sap get too hot, it can burst into flames.
Using a sheet of aluminum foil, make a flat-bottomed boat that is about two inches wide and three inches long with sides that are about one inch high. Lay a small piece of window or door screen on top of the boat and pour your concoction through the screen into the mold. This filters out the big pieces of bark, bugs and other debris. Use a pair of pliers to handle the hot can.
Let the rosin cool between 10 to 30 minutes. Tap the top of the rosin with your fingernail. If it makes a plastic sound, it is ready. Carefully unfold the boat from around the rosin. A matchbox is a perfect storage container for your homemade rosin.
Rosin up your box
To apply your rosin to a box call or a push-button yelper, turn the call upside down where the bottom of the lid is showing. Break off a tiny chip of rosin (about 1/8 inch) and work it into the wood with your finger, rubbing in one direction with the grain of the wood. A small chip of rosin goes a long way, so use it sparingly. Once you have the entire playing surface dusted, a small puff of air will blow off the excess and you are ready to call in a gobbler. The result of homemade rosin, as compared to commercially available chalk, is that it makes the call more raspy, which is often desired by many hunters.
Homemade rosin will last a long time, and one treatment should last an entire hunting season. If you happen to play the fiddle, your homemade rosin will work great on your bow, too.