Diaphragm calls aren’t the only yelpers that present challenges. Despite their relative ease of use, friction calls also can be frustrating. Here’s how to optimize your box- and pot-call sound.
Revisit the basics, starting with your grip. The biggest mistake people make with pot calls is gripping the call and striker too hard, limiting the sound quality. Rest the pot on your fingertips, and grip it so lightly that it could fall out if you turned your hand over.
Same goes for the striker. Whether you grasp it with two, three or even four fingers, use a light touch, and make sure your fingers are about an inch above the striker tip. Use light, even pressure to drag the striker across the call surface. Focus first on creating a whistle, which is the front end of a yelp.
Box calls require similar finesse. Don’t plop one in your palm and run the paddle like you’re pounding a nail. Grip the bottom of the call lightly with your thumb and fingers, and hold the paddle between your thumb and forefinger or index and middle finger. Keep the paddle pressed to the sound board, even when you’re drawing back the paddle to call. Then, use just enough pressure to produce a whistle as the paddle travels across the board. That sound is built into every box call; you don’t have to force it.
Also, make sure your friction calls are conditioned correctly. Use a sandpaper or a sanding stone to scuff the surface of glass or crystal calls. Run them in a straight line back and forth, not in circles. Blow the dust off the call’s surface, or even use a disposable alcohol pad to clean the area. Don’t worry about conditioning slate- or most aluminum-surface calls. Simply use a cleaning pad to wipe dust, oil and grime away from the calling surface.
Keep your striker tips clean with fine sandpaper. Place a square on one palm, and press the striker tip directly down onto it. Then lightly twirl the striker clockwise and counter-clockwise, which evenly cleans the tip without changing its shape.
Box calls don’t require as much maintenance, but you should keep them dry and clean. If chalk builds up on the sound boards and paddle surface, use fine sandpaper to wipe away excess. Then, reapply a light coating of chalk to the paddle but not the boards. You want chalk on wood, not chalk on chalk.
After you’re correctly running well-conditioned calls, focus on realism. Listen to turkeys, and mimic their cadence and pitch. Concentrate more on soft calling. Lots of folks can hammer on friction calls, but it takes more skill to produce soft, subtle whines, whistles, purring, clucking and yelping.
With practice and an eye for detail, you’ll soon be making beautiful friction calling music. The gobblers at your hunting spot this spring will probably agree.