The weather has been rough this spring, to say the least. Because of this striper fishing has been hit or miss, but mainly a miss, for the trophy season openers. The same can be said for turkey season so far. The birds just haven’t been as vocal as in years past. But I was able to catch up with a good friend of mine, Ron Sanbower, owner of Fureather Frenzied Custom Game Calls, to do a little hunting and learn about why the style of calls he builds, pot calls, have been so effective for him this year. Ron and many of his customers have already tagged out for the season while yours truly is still struggling to call a bird within range.
Pot calls, also known as friction calls or slate calls, are calls made up of four main pieces, the pot, the sound board, a striker and the striking surface. Many variables go into determining what type of sounds a pot call can make, from the material of the pot, to how it is drilled out, to the sound board and ultimately the striker and striking surface combination. What I learned from Ron was that each call is going to sound unique depending on the woods used but the overall tone of the call, once it is tuned, is going to be driven by the striking surface and striker combination. Some surfaces are better suited for certain types of calling while others surfaces give the turkey hunter an advantage in foul weather. Below I am going to dive into the pros and cons of three of the most common pot call surfaces, when to use them and why.
Slate is one of the best sounding calling surfaces out there. The tone it imparts is soft and subtle. Depending on the way you play the striker across the surface you can go from soft clucks and purrs to raspy yelps. The other great thing about slate is that it’s very easy to use, even for a beginner, and forgiving when you make a mistake. Slate calls are super easy to take care of and clean. I usually make sure I have used a scotch brite pad to clean the surface off before each hunt. The only true downside to a slate call is that moisture affects it greatly. It’s doesn’t have to be a downpour to get the slate in a condition that it won’t make a sound. Thick fog or a misty morning can render a slate call useless. That’s why I prefer to take more than one call, or have a custom built call with multiple surfaces, but more on that later.
Glass pot calls are one of the best looking calls out there. Most glass calls have one spot where the call maker has roughed up the glass to be able to provide a suitable playing surface. On some calls the glass is all roughed up creating a slightly frosted look. Either way the call maker typically puts their logo or some other picture on the sound board to add to the look of the call. Where slate was easy to call and maintain, glass is difficult to call and keep in playable condition. Glass has a high pitched sound that can be played quite loud which is perfect for those breezy morning hunts as it cuts through the wind. Where the slate calls will stop working when they get the slightest bit wet, glass call can get a little wet and still be playable. But unfortunately when they become really wet they are as unplayable as slate. With glass you will need to condition it with something a little move abrasive like diamond paper. Even though it’s difficult to play I always like to have a glass call on hand in case I need to cut through the wind or even through thick cover.
By far aluminum pot calls are my absolute favorite. Their versatility, weather resistance and ease of cleaning make up for how difficult they are to play. Most call makers use anodized aluminum so the surface can produce the same sound bone dry or completely soaked. While it’s not as soft a sound as slate, it is a bit gravely but not quite as pitchy as glass. Because of this it still does a good job carrying over long distances. I always have an aluminum call in my pocket and if I have to run and gun I make sure that an aluminum call is the call I take with me. The other downside to aluminum, besides the difficulty to play, is that because of the surface it wears out a striker quickly. I always make sure I have some sand paper with me to rough up the edge of the strike to make sure it plays consistently. As far as conditioning the aluminum all you need is an alcohol wipe (which I always carry with me in my vest) and she’s as good as new.
I never like to put all of my eggs in one basket, that’s why I used to always carry four to five different calls with me into the woods (several pot calls, a box call and a diaphragm). I’ve now cut that nearly in half and only take two to three calls, all without compromising my ability to change it up at a moment’s notice, no matter the weather. One thing Fureather Frenzied calls does well, along with a few other custom call makers, is adding a second surface to your pot call. Usually found on the backside, or bottom, of the call they can place a small piece of another striking surface making that pot call doubly effective. My favorite combination is to have my primary striking surface be aluminum and my secondary surface to be slate. That way if I need a soft yelp or a loud screeching cluck I can do it on one call. Not only does is safe space in my vest but also cuts down on weight.
If you are interested in learning more about turkey hunting or the best new gear on the market check out some of my other turkey posts. If you are all geared up and ready to hunt check out all of the operators we have over at Fin & Field who can’t wait to take you on that hunt of a lifetime!
Guest Blogger: Shawn McCardell
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