As turkey hunters, we are so fortunate to have thousands of calls at our disposal to help lure in a lovesick gobbler. Some calls are mass produced and others are undoubtably works of art that have a special place on a shelf during then off-season. Best of all, they all work and they all are designed to fool that big strutting bird to come in just a little bit closer. But just because you might have 16 pockets in your vest, doesn't mean that they all need to be filled, right? I'll admit, I like to have "stuff" and when it's "hunting stuff" I love it that much more. So naturally when I went to clean out my vest, I had to ask myself, "if I could only have 2 turkey calls, what would they be?".
Back in the late 90's, I didn't wear a vest during turkey season, I kept a push button "yelper" strapped to the barrel of my 20 gauge and paired that tune with whatever calls people around me had. Typically someone had a box call and a diaphragm in their pocket if they knew what they were doing, I for one did not. We killed plenty of birds during those spring seasons, some real good ones too. Eventually, as I got more hooked on the idea of hunting gobblers, I started using more friction calls and eventually kept a rotation of 3 in my pack.
I think it was around 2001, I recall getting a L.L Bean "Plenty O'Pockets" vest for my birthday and I filled up every single pocket in that thing with calls. Box calls, slate calls, 5 strikers-- you get the picture and yet at the end of every season, I probably only used 3 different calls depending on varying weather conditions and hunting setups. Truthfully, at one time I had so many calls with me that I couldn't even tell you what was in any given pocket.
I've scaled back over the years, carrying calls that I'm comfortable with and will work in different conditions. I think that a lot of what you carry really needs to pair well with what you're most effective using and what matches your terrain. For example, every year, I so badly want to keep 3 different mouth calls with me, but I'm terrible when I use them. I don't practice nearly as often as I should and it would end up spooking a bird rather than bringing him in, so I stick with what works for me. It really needs to be a personal preference.
To go back to my initial question, if I only could have 2 with me at any given time they would be a slate call with 2 strikers and a hardwood box call and here's why. Most mornings I'll run a slate call, right from the very crack of first light. They give me different pitches, volumes and call styles, all while using this one pot. My favorite striker is an acrylic because it gives me the volume and range needed to call birds from longer distances and they're better to use if the weather is wet. For softer tones and to seal the deal when that bird is coming in, I switch to a rosewood striker. If it's super windy and I'm covering ground, I'll break out a box call. Though I don't use them too often, they will almost always cut through heavy wind and are quite weather-proof in tough conditions. With these two call types I can cover long range, call in rough weather and can help close the deal when birds come in close.
As you prep your gear and ready your calls for this spring season, think about what 2 calls are most critical for your success.