Going to pot

This is the time of year when my hands are either working a keyboard, shoveling snow or holding a turkey call. It's one of the many benefits of working out of a home office; my practice sessions on a variety of slate, glass, crystal and aluminum pot calls bother only our black Lab Hailey, who usually slinks out of my office and hops up on our bed.

I can save the mouth call practice sessions for when I'm on the road, but grabbing a friction call a few minutes several times a day is great preparation for the spring gobbler season. Occasionally I'll yank out a box call, but I generally use that only in windy hunting situations when I need to crank out some loud yelps, and I can do that with a minimum of prep work.

I'll be honest: I have a serious weakness when it comes to pot calls. I like their looks and love their sounds, and although I enjoy the hands-free hunting environment offered by diaphragm calls, when I'm really looking to close the deal on a stubborn longbeard it's usually a friction call I turn to. That said, it probably doesn't excuse the incredible stack of pot calls I've accumulated over the years (eight of them on my desk right now). Nope, make that nine. A Halloran Twisted Sister was hiding under a stack of photos. There would be more piled up in my closet, but I typically dole out a few to young hunters each year and let them torture their parents with their own practice sessions.

But my home office setting is ideal for these mini-sessions leading up to the season. Finish a column, grab a call and offer up some soft yelps, clucks and purrs. Back to work, answer some emails and make a couple phone calls, then pick up another model and do the same.

While there's no real system here, there are a few things I like to do to tighten up my calling a bit heading into the spring:

  • I like to wear the camo gloves I'll be wearing afield when I practice. You'd be amazed how cumbersome even your favorite pot call becomes when you put on a pair of gloves and fire it up. You sometimes feel like you're wearing boxing gloves. It can take some getting used to. Get used to the gloves now.
  • I always, always, always practice my soft calling – clucks and purrs. These are often the difference between bringing that gobbler into shooting range and watching him strut at 50 yards – which is NOT, by the way, shooting range.
  • I always pick up a call feeling that my first sequence has to be perfect. It's a philosophy I've carried over from my archery shooting sessions; make sure that first arrow is perfect, because that's the one your sending a deer's way. Those first calls you make to the bird had better be solid.

I also make sure the calls are properly sanded, and the tips of the strikers are clean as well. I picked up some interesting tips lately from custom callmaker Glen Marrer of Finger Lakes Calls in East Rochester.

Marrer suggests turning your slate call upside down every once in a while and putting the flame of a lighter to it, making circles around the call's surface. "You'll be amazed at the amount of moisture it wicks off," he says. "It only takes 5-10 seconds and then scrub it with Scotch Brite and you're good to go. You'll have a call with much-improved tone."

Marrer also warns of taking any kind of abrasive to a bead-blasted, anodized aluminum call. That will remove the anodizing. Instead, clean the call only with an alcohol pad. "Also, if you're a fan of Dymondwood strikers, I wouldn't use them on the aluminum," he says. "The plasticizers they're impregnated with will fill the bead-blasted pores and the striker will skate on the surface."

Bottom line, practicing with a friction call is no different than a golfer going to a driving range. Get used to having it your hands now, before that longbeard offers up a thunderous gobble from the roost. You're hands will still be shaking, but you'll kick into autopilot and with a little luck will be putting a tag on him that morning.

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