Turkey Hunting: Inside the Box

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Every year, I make certain goals of things I will do during the upcoming spring season.  While some of these, such as calling softer and being more patient, seem to repeat on the list from years past, I do try to add new goals each year.  Sadly, goals are much like New Year’s resolutions in that they often get neglected as the season progresses.  However, this year I will make a valiant attempt to carry a box call in my vest every time I go out. 

The box call has long been a staple in the turkey hunters’ arsenal, from the Neil “Gobbler” Cost and Lynch boxes our predecessors used on up to the present day offerings.  Realism has never been the question for me; a good box call in the right hands is pure turkey.  I have mistakenly ducked for cover numerous times at the sounds produced by my brothers’ favorite box, which was made by a close friend in our hometown.  If you get 75 yards off from someone who can run a box call well, it will send chills up your back. 

My issue has always been the box call making an errant noise at the wrong time, but I have decided it’s simply not worth denying a good box a slot in my vest for its slight flaws.  It is really my fault for not storing the box call properly to avoid noise when moving through the woods.  So this year, the box call is coming off the bench and is suiting up with the starters.

Sadler McGraw, of Camden, Alabama, has been a mainstay on the calling circuit over the past decade, most recently winning the 2012 World Calling Championship.  While he may be known for his prowess as both a mouth caller and a slate or glass guy, he always carries a box call with him when he hunts.  “I carry a box call in my vest for two reasons, the first being that they are incredibly realistic if you have the right one.  Secondly, I have found that I strike more birds at a long range than with any other call or locator.  On average, they have more volume than you can produce with a mouth or pot-style call.”

“I use a box that Tony Reynolds from South Carolina made,” said McGraw, a 31 year veteran of the spring woods.  “It is a double-sided trough style call.  With two sides, you automatically have two different hens, and with some practice and learning how to master the box call, you can produce up to four different sounds with that one box call.  It has been very effective for me and I do not leave home without it.”

Like McGraw, Matt Van Cise of Brookville, Pennsylvania has had great success on the calling circuit using primarily the mouth diaphragm.  He too never hits the spring woods without a box call.  “I always carry a box call, as I think they sound more like a real turkey than any other call.  They also cut the wind better than a mouth call.  When you get up in the day and the wind picks up, you need a call with a higher pitch that can penetrate the wind, and my box of choice, a Shady Lady by MAD Calls, has that quality.”

“I like to cutt and run, and sometimes a just get tired of using a mouth call,” confesses the 2013 Grand National Calling Champion.  “So I mix it up a little bit.  Again, box calls are very realistic, but to be more effective, people need to remember to practice and listen to real turkeys to get the most out of them, or any other type of call.”

Few families are as synonymous with the box call as the Kirby family of Quaker Boy Calls’ fame.  The late Dick Kirby was a master box call maker, and instilled a passion for these calls-and the sport of turkey hunting in general-into his son Chris.  Chris, who serves as the President for Quaker Boy Calls and lives in Orchard Park, New York, also advocates frequent practice before using a box call in the woods. 

“If someone waits until the night before the season to practice their calling for the mornings’ hunt, they have waited too long,” says Kirby.  “In most cases, people who do not practice much need to look down at their call to run it, instead of watching the woods.  I always encourage people to get to the point that they can run a call with their eyes closed; you want to be able to run a call off of feel, rather than visual aid.  Practice with more and/or less down pressure on the lid, as this will give you the ability to create personality in your calling.  Know your call and its abilities, and do not get caught in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again.  You want to be a versatile caller, and the only way to do that is practice!”

Like McGraw and Van Cise, Kirby also has his favorite calls, but is not afraid to shift it up based on what the gobbler is responding to on that particular day.  “What is my favorite box call? The one the gobbler is gobbling at that morning!  In all seriousness, there are always two boxes in my vest and a few others in the truck.  I carry our Hurricane, which is a ‘traditional’ style box call as well as The Curve, which is ‘boat paddle’ style call.  The bigger Boat Paddle is a much louder higher pitched call that will hold a consistent sound at greater distances.  It will cut through the wind on those nasty days as well.  But again, you have to have options, and if one style of box is not working, grab another!  Different tones give you the ability to create the illusion that there are multiple hens in the area.”
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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