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Friction Call Tips: Care & Conditioning

A friction call can be a very valuable tool to carry into the spring turkey woods. Unless it is raining, I never leave the truck without at least two slate calls and a handful of mouth calls. As we will discuss later in these friction call tips, there are even a few friction calls that I carry when it is raining. The main thing to take away from this segment will be learning how to properly care for and condition your call so that it will last for many more outings to come, rain or shine.

Care will be the first topic that we discuss, because if you do not properly care for your call, you won’t have it to use for very long. There are many items on the market today that can make caring for your calls a breeze. Several companies, such as Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear, offer carrying cases that either attach to your vest or a belt loop to store box or slate calls, as well as strikers. These cases offer padded protection in case of falls or other bumps and spills not anticipated while hunting, and also keep your calls close at hand for quick use if needed. Some companies also sell plastic containers to store your slate or pot style calls. A measurement of your call diameters and a few minutes on the Tupperware aisle at the grocery store can leave you with some cheap storage to protect your calls from the elements. Not only will Tupperware containers keep your calls dry, but they also protect the surface from unwanted hits and bumps. I always keep a few gallon size plastic bags in my vest, too. You never know when you are going to get caught out in a rainstorm and these bags are useful for storing calls, licenses, camera, phone, etc. These days a custom friction call can sell for $100 or more and often times if they get wet, they can swell and cause the surface to come unglued. A simple sandwich bag can prevent this, but it’s always better to watch a weather forecast and try to prepare for these conditions. If I know that rain is forecasted, all of the custom wood calls are left at home and I go out with a plastic pot, Zink Thunder Ridge aluminum friction call. I take several different strikers that run when wet (carbon, plexiglass, aluminum) to use on this call, and because the surface is aluminum, it does not absorb moisture. As for a box call during the rain, some companies offer calls that claim to “run when wet” that have been dipped in a waterproof coating, and I keep one of these handy for such occasions. These calls are fairly inexpensive and I have found that some yelp extremely well when wet or bone dry. If I know rain is forecasted, I primarily call on a mouth call, but the added volume of friction calls can often be useful to cut through the rain to locate or work a gobbling bird.

Conditioning your friction call is one of the most important parts of getting the right sounds from your call at the right time during hunting situations. You do not want to have a gobbler to be hung up just over the ridge with you needing to condition the surface of your slate call for clucks and purrs. If he can hear you scratching in the leaves, he can hear you sanding that call. I always start out my day conditioning the surface of my calls and strikers before I ever leave the truck. Depending on the moisture in the air and the frequency of calling, I may need to do this quite often while hunting. To make this task easier, I keep a string with a couple of pieces of scotchbrite and a couple of pieces of sandpaper of different grits, tied to my friction call case. This simple creation keeps the conditioning pads close at hand for quick use so that I do not have to dig through my vest for a piece of sandpaper. Between hunting setups and as often as needed when trying to locate a gobbler, I sand the surface and striker tips to keep them as fresh as possible. Conditioning the striker and surface of a pot style call makes the two surfaces that are rubbing together more coarse or abrasive. As you call, the friction made between the objects produces the sound, hence the name “fricition call.” By keeping your calls conditioned, you are maintaining roughened surfaces that will produce the friction needed to make true turkey sounds. In addition to sandpaper and scotchbrite, some other useful items to put in your vest are conditioning stones and chalk. I have found that conditioning stones work much better to roughen the surface of a glass or crystal surface than using sandpaper alone. I often times roughen the surface with the stone first and then finish it off with a fine grit sandpaper. This really allows for the striker to “grab” to the surface to produce clucks, cutts, yelps, etc. Last but not least to keep in your vest for friction call conditioning would be sandpaper. A box call can be a great call to locate and work tight lipped gobblers, but if you do not have some chalk to condition the lid with periodically, you are not producing the best sounds achievable from your call.

These are just a few tips to help you care for and condition some of your friction calls. These tips may not work on all calls, and may not be the best for all situations. I am always trying to learn more tips and tactics to make hunting simpler and more successful. I hope that these tips will do that for you in some of your hunting affairs as well!

Terence Williamson
2 X Yellville National Friction Champion, 2013 World Championship 1st Runner Up – Two Man Team, 2 X 1st Runner Up – NWTF Grand National Calling Championships, 5 X Alabama State Champion, and Prostaff Member for Zink Calls & Avian X Decoys, Patternmaster, HeviShot Ammunition, Mossy Oak Brand Camouflage, Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear