No turkey caller will sound right forever without being maintained. Don’t find this out in the woods on opening morning when the woods are ringing with turkey calls and your box call screeches and squeals or makes no sound at all. The effort to maintain it gives you the confidence to call at the moment of truth because you know that first cluck or string of yelps will fire a tom up, not spook him.
A good box call is the most expensive call you will buy. But it will last you a lifetime with good care and maintenance. First, protect it from mishaps like sitting on it or falling on it by carrying it in a place where this can’t happen. Don’t carry it in fanny packs, back pockets or the back pouch of a turkey vest. Good turkey vests have a dedicated pouch for box calls that allow fast access and prevent them from being crushed or broken.
The enemies of a box call are moisture, extreme heat and dirt on the paddle or sideboards. Store it in a dry place off season and protect it from getting wet while hunting. In wet weather keep it in a plastic bag. If you use a bag large enough to get your hands into you can even run the call in the bag. The bag will muffle the sound slightly but not ruin the sound like moisture will. If your call gets wet dry it out slowly in the house and not with extreme heat near a fire or in an oven.
When a box call gets screechy or loses it sound there is not enough friction between the paddle and the sideboard. Keep these areas clean by keeping your hands and fingers off them so skin oil and dirt can’t be transferred to them. With normal use, the bottom of the paddle and the top of the sideboards can become burnished or polished reducing friction. The remedy is a light scrubbing with a medium plastic scrubbing pad like a green Scotch Brite pad. Scrub across the grain of the wood so you don’t hollow out softer areas in the grain by scrubbing along them. Don’t use sand paper and don’t bear down with the scouring pad. The goal is to remove any dirt and sheen, getting down to bare wood without removing any wood. If you grind off any wood and change the shape of the paddle or sideboards with gorilla strength scouring you will change and possibly ruin the sound of the call.
Box calls need chalk need but not a heavy dousing. Lightly chalk the bottom of the paddle but not the sideboards. It’s worth the few bucks extra to buy box call chalk from the sporting goods store because it is pure chalk. Blackboard chalk and sidewalk chalk have a wax or a binder in them which will cake up on and polish the surfaces of the call. These chalks work initially but fail quickly and need to be removed often to restore proper sound. Violin resin can be used as well but grime sticks to it so extra care to keep the call clean is in order.
Water proof box calls have a coating on the paddle and sideboards. Never scrub or sand this coating with anything abrasive or you will remove it. The only cleaning they need is a wipe with a clean damp cloth.
The paddle screw and spring on a box call are tuned by the maker and set for the best sound. They don’t work loose and very seldom need adjustment. But if you think the quality of sound has diminished and you call is properly cleaned and chalked, try only minor adjustment of this screw. Before you turn it, take note of and mark the original position of the screw so you can get it back there if the adjustment goes bad.
Learn how to maintain all types of calls in How to Hunt the Wild Turkey, on the right side of the screen at the top of this post