Turkey Hunting: Making the Box Call Sing

  • My favorite Turkey Call is the Box Call, it can make turkey music.
  • The type of wood can make a huge difference, reasons why some turkey hunters carry more than one box call
  • The 4-Play call is single box call that can make more notes, at more different pitches, than any 2 to 4 standard box calls combined!

By Mike Roux

I give dozens of game calling seminars and demonstrations each year.  Every single time I pick up a call, I explain to the folks watching and listening that the device in my hand, although it is described as a game call, is really no more than a musical instrument.   I also tell them that game calls operate on the same two principles as do all musical instruments.  Those principles being, rhythm and pitch.

If you can master the rhythm and pitch of a given call, you can be successful in the field as you use that call.  And, like a musician, practicing their instrument alone, imaging what it would sound like with the full orchestra, you must practice your calls imaging what they will sound like outdoors, at some distance.

Over half of my seminars each spring deal with calling and hunting the wild turkey.  The spring gobbler is still one of the toughest and most sought after game trophies to collect and his popularity grows each year.  Mastering the turkey call can make you a hero in your hunting group.

My favorite turkey call, by far, is the box call.  I have had lots of professional experience calling turkeys.  For over 40 years I served on the Pro Hunting Staffs for a couple of national call companies.  So, my box call is like an extension of my own hands.

Not all box calls are created equal.  You must be very selective when choosing this call.  Not only does the type of wood make a huge difference, but also the workmanship itself is critical to the performance of a box call, just like any other instrument.  Box calls that are made of plastic, or stamped-out mass-produced wooden calls will not give you the sound or the success you desire.  Pay the extra money, up front and get a custom-built box call that will drive the toms crazy.  That is why my box call preference is now the 4-Play Turkey Call.

Until recently I carried 2 box calls in my turkey vest.  One of these makes the sweetest yelps on the planet.  But its clucks leave a lot to be desired.  Likewise, the box call I cluck with is not worth a plug nickel for yelping or cutting.  That is why the 4-Play Turkey Call is the ONE box call I carry now.

The 4-Play call is made of different woods within the same call.  It has four sound rails, all of which can be different wood types, instead of just two.  By rotating the paddle around one end of the call you put 2 different rails into play.  This single box call makes more notes, at more pitches, than any 2 to 4 standard box calls combined.

Once you have decided upon and purchased your box call, you must learn how to play it.  I do like the box call because it is so easy to use.  But do not be fooled by that statement.  It still takes lots of practice to “master” all the sounds that this call can make.

All too often, turkey hunters fail to operate, or play, this instrument correctly.  Pressing the paddle onto the box may help increase volume, but will likely cause you to loose the desired pitch.  Quality custom-built box calls are designed for the weight of the paddle to be sufficient pressure to make the box play.  Most paddles will have a sweet spot.  Find this spot and you have found the key to your spring success.

Yelps are easily reproduced on a box call by dragging the paddle over one of the box lips.  At this point you are looking for, and listening for, pitch.  I will remind you that if you practice indoors, the pitch will sound profoundly different outside.  Practice outdoors as much as possible.

Once you have mastered a single yelp, line-up several yelps into a short run of calls.  At this point you are working on rhythm.  Combining rhythm and pitch will give you a very accurate imitation of a wild turkey.

There are a couple of different ways that you can hold this instrument as you play it.  My preferred method is to hold the box upright in my left hand and operate the paddle with my right hand.  This allows the weight of the paddle to do its job correctly.

Another variation that I have seen, but do not subscribe to, is holding the box upside down with the paddle in your left hand, striking the paddle with the box, which is held in the right hand.  To me, this method is cumbersome and eliminates the true resonance that the call can produce.  Either way, learn to play your box call with the method that is most comfortable for you.

By laying the paddle on the lip and popping it sharply upward, you can make an excellent cluck with your box call.  Putts can be made in much the same way.  By slowly dragging the full width of the paddle over the lip, a very seductive purr can be accomplished.

One of the most exciting and effective sounds the box call can reproduce is cutting.  To do this, hold the box in your left hand, paddle up and laying on the lip.  Use your left thumb as a “bumper”.  Tap the paddle with your right hand allowing it to rebound off your left thumb.  Practice this until you get the pitch, then work on the rhythm.  This call can really fire-up old tom and vastly improve your chances for success.

The key to this turkey call and to all others is practice.  There is no substitution for listening to live birds and reproducing the sounds you hear them make.  I would like to recommend a specific box call for you to try this spring. The 4-Play Turkey Call is the most versatile and productive box call I have seen and used.  Get one.  You will not be disappointed.

About the 4-Play Turkey Call: This innovative call is hand-manufactured by Cutting Edge Game Calls, a forward thinking company intent on creating and bringing to market innovative alternatives to help hunters be successful. Among their hunting products is the 4-Play Turkey Call. The company is staffed by creative-minded people who love hunting and whose innovative ideas are brought to life by talented craftsmen. To remove all risk about the 4-Play Turkey Call, they offer a 30 day trial! We realize the 4-Play is new and different, but that shouldn’t stop customers from trying it out. Order one today, try it, love it, or return it within 30 days for a full refund! For more visit: https://4playturkeycall.com/.

About the author: Mike Roux is an award-winning outdoor writer. He freelances more than 100 outdoor magazine and newspaper articles each year. Adding to his list of talents, he is also an accomplished speaker who annually books several speaking engagements nationwide – including banquets, game dinners and other outdoor events. Mike Roux has been a professional guide and game caller for over two decades. He has worked with the Pro Staffs of several outdoor products manufacturers. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of American, as well as the Missouri Outdoor Communicators. For more, please visit www.mikeroux.com.

4-PLAY for Christmas! …A Love Story

  • Woodsy turkey call sounds combine screech and scratch controls
  • Henry C. Gibson and Eric Steinmetz each provided sound innovations about 120 years apart
  • Tone and tune change in one box that allows clucking, purring, yelping and cackling is about pure genius 

By Larry Whiteley

Now some of you probably read that headline, and your mind drifted off to another kind of foreplay. However, this is not that kind of foreplay. This 4-Play is something that can get a turkey gobbler all excited to come looking for love.

Let me begin with how this kind of 4-Play started. You see, the first box-style turkey call was patented in 1897 by an Arkansas farmer and fence supply manager, Henry C. Gibson, of Dardanelle. Though there may have been box calls before his patent, Gibson sparked a new industry with many imitators creating box-type turkey calls.

For over 120 years, the turkey box call has never really changed much from the original wooden box and paddle design. Then along came avid turkey hunter Eric Steinmetz. Eric built his box calls for years and had terrific success with them. He even sold a few to local hunters. Eric couldn’t get the thought out of his mind about coming up with a call that was more versatile and more effective than the standard box call design. He would think about it as he drove down the road with his traveling sales job. When he was home and wasn’t turkey hunting, he was in his shop tinkering with different designs and wood types.

He finally came up with the idea of building one with a forward-mounted wheel that would allow the paddle to be moved to both sides of the box. That way, it could be used on any of four sound rails, each made with different wood types to have four different tones. Thus came the name for his call, the 4-Play. He also found that since the wheel allowed the lid to be moved forward and backward, he could strike the sound rails in multiple locations, adding to his box call versatility. The 4-Play is a turkey box call like no other you have ever seen or used.  

The U.S. Patent Office agreed that Eric’s box call was so innovative they awarded him a Utility Patent. 4-Play turkey calls are available with Cherry, Walnut, or mahogany bodies, and all have sound rails made of walnut, eastern red cedar, sassafras, and poplar. If you’re a turkey hunter, you have to have one of these. For more information, watch videos, read reviews, and order, visit https://4playturkeycall.com/shop. Or, give them a call at 610-984-4099. They would love to visit with you.

“It is a versatile call,” says Eric. “With a little practice, you can make an almost unlimited number of tones and pitches. I just want hunters to use it and then hopefully send us pictures of them and their Gobbler. That’s what would make me feel successful.”

Eric has since sold the 4-Play patent to Brian Benolken, but he is still involved with the business, working shows, building calls, and of course, turkey hunting. He’s even won several calling competitions with his 4-Play. Brian is busy growing the business under the name of Cutting Edge Game Calls, and his goal for the company is to offer you products for making you a better and more successful turkey hunter. Brian and Eric both are continuously thinking of new innovative ideas.

This old turkey hunter has never seen anything like it in all my years of turkey hunting, so I just had to have a 4-Play. I love it! I can’t believe all the sounds I can make with it. I’m clucking, purring, yelping, and even fly down cackling with it. I can’t wait until spring turkey season. My wife can’t either! Can you believe she banned me from the house and makes me take my 4-Play and practice out in the barn?

If you are a turkey hunter, you might try hinting to your wife or girlfriend that you would surely like to have 4-Play under the tree for Christmas. If they look at you like you’re weird or something, you might have to just order online or call Cutting Edge Game Calls to order one for yourself. But if they smile, this could be a very Merry Christmas in more ways than one.