You finally have a boisterous tom gobbling his guts out a hundred yards away from you. You are ready to make that first call to him. It took a huge investment in money, travel, gear, calling practice and hopes and dreams to get here. Now, it all comes down to the first note he hears from your call. Are you going to send him enticing yelps and seductive purrs or is he going to hear something like a farm gate squeak where he knows there is no gate?
This is the moment we live for and it all comes down to call care and maintenance.
No box call 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 them gives you the confidence to call at the moment of truth because you know that first cluck or string of yelps will fire him up, not spook him.
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.
Learn how to make killer turkey vocalisations on your box call in “How to Hunt the Wild Turkey”.