A box calls is the most popular turkey call, and is a good choice for new turkey hunters. Box calls not only are easy to use, but they can sound very realistic.

A box call can create a wide range of yelps, clucks, purrs, fighting purrs, cackles and gobbles. If you can get yelps, clucks and purrs to sound good on a box call, you’ll routinely bring in birds.

Parts of a box call

Box calls come in two parts – a narrow rectangular box with a paddle attached at one end. Attached with a single screw in the center, the paddle can swing back and forth across the top of the box. It’s a kind of friction call where the sound produced depends on the pressure, speed and intensity of two surfaces rubbing together to produce sound. In the case of a box call, by rubbing the paddle across the top of the box.

Before you use your call, you’ll want to make sure the bottom of the paddle is coated with chalk or rosin. As you cover the underside of the paddle with chalk or rosin, you’ll notice it’s slightly curved. It’s this curvature of the paddle’s underside that creates different tones and pitches.

Take some time to experiment with your box call. Pass the paddle over both sides of the box to see what it sounds like. Usually one side sounds different than the other because of the thickness of the edges or the angle at which they’re cut. Higher pitched sounds usually come from the thinner side of the call; lower pitched from the thicker side. Many calls are intentionally made this way to produce a wide range of sounds.

To make yelps on a box call

Hold the bottom of the call in one hand between your thumb and fingers. With the other hand, pinch the handle between the thumb and index finger. With the center of the paddle about a 1/2-inch to the outside of one lip, lightly drag or scrape the paddle across the lip of the box. Stop dragging when the center of the paddle is about a 1/2-inch on the opposite side of the lip. This short, one-inch stroke is a yelp.

Apply three to five yelps in succession at the rate of about one per second, and you have a series of yelps. Try not to put too much pressure on the paddle or it won’t sound realistic.

To make a purr

Gently slide the paddle one to two inches across the lip. With some calls, the weight of the paddle is enough to generate a quality purr sound. Avoid putting too much pressure on the paddle.

To make a cluck

Quickly pluck the paddle over the lip in an upward motion. With the cluck, the paddle travels only about 1/4-inch, even less, over the lip. Think of creating a quick sharp popping sound with a quick tweak of the paddle off the lip. Use clucks at the end of a series of yelps, and softer clucks with purrs.

To make cutts

When locating toms, aggressive cutts are effective and simple to make with a box call. To make cutting sounds, apply pressure by pushing down on the paddle as you drag it across the lip. Quickly and aggressively, scrape the paddle over the lip, covering an inch or so with each pass. Making a dozen or so loud cutts is a great way to get toms fired-up and gobbling.

To make a cackle

Start with a few yelps, then progress into five or six cackles by quickly striking the lip with the center of the paddle. End the sequence with a few yelps and you have a very realistic sounding yelping and cackling sequence both toms and hens will respond to.

To make a gobble

The best gobbles from a box call come by securing the handle to the body of the call with a rubber band and shaking it back and forth. To make a gobble, hold the bottom of the call with the handle pointing upward. Vigorously shake the body of the call from side to side, sending the paddle into motion. Make sure there’s enough tension on the paddle that it aggressively scrapes the lip with each pass.

Caring for your box call

It’s important to keep the box call’s surface clean and dry while you’re in the field. Some turkey vests come with built-in pouches for carrying and protecting box calls. Some hunters simply carry them in plastic bags.

Some tips for keeping your box calls ready in the field:

  • If your call gets dirty, wipe it clean with a rag. Any debris or moisture on the calling surfaces will affect sound quality.
  • If you do have to wipe down your call, you may need to re-chalk the underside of the paddle. Use only chalks designed for turkey calls, or ones with no oil or sugar base. Carpenter's and billiards chalk work, too.
  • When handling a box call, keep all fingers off the underside of the paddle and the beveled edges of the box. Nothing will render a box call useless faster than getting hand oils on the calling surfaces.
  • When toting your box calls in the field, keep the paddle secured to the box with a rubber band. This will help keep the call quiet and prevent wear.

At season’s end, simply store your box calls in a holster or cloth bag in a dry place.