April 25, 2022
If forced to use only one turkey call, I wouldn’t hesitate with my choice: It’s the pot-style call, hands down. Widely referred to as a “slate” call (slate was once the most common material for the playing surface), pot calls are perhaps the most versatile turkey calls out there.
In the hands of even a moderately skilled caller, pot calls can mimic virtually every turkey sound going, and do so well.
Even better, they’re among the simplest calls to run; give me 20 minutes with most newbies, and I can have them making realistic clucks, purrs and yelps on a pot call.
However, like any instrument, there are tips for running and maintaining a pot call. Follow the steps below to become a pot-call master during turkey season.
PREP THE SURFACE
Virtually every pot call comes out of the box with a sound board too slick to play. Prep the call by working the surface with a small piece of light sandpaper (100-grit or finer). Sand lightly across the surface in one direction only. This will create slight ridges in the material that will grab the tip of your striker, creating the friction that results in turkey noises. Don’t sand heavily, just enough to rough up the surface.
Pot calls come in a variety of surfaces (slate, glass, ceramic, aluminum, etc.), and each material might require its own type of sandpaper. I usually buy a variety pack that includes different grits so that I can experiment and find the proper grit for a particular call.
SAND THE STRIKER
Like the pot call surface, the tips of most strikers are often too slick to make good turkey music. Use sandpaper to rough up just the tips of your strikers. Sometimes, I’ll sand hard enough to slightly alter the shape of the striker tip, but only if I feel I’m not getting the right sounds when I run the striker against the pot.
Strikers also come in a variety of materials (wood, plastic, carbon, etc.) that require different amounts of work and/or sandpaper type for best results. Again, experiment until you find the right one.
HOLD IT UP
The most tempting way to hold a pot call is flat against the palm of your hand. However, doing so only deadens the sound the call will make. In fact, if you flip over most pot calls and look on the bottom, you’ll typically see a series of holes drilled in the pot itself.
These are designed to let sound escape from the bottom of the call as you scratch the striker against the surface. Holding the call flat against your palm closes these holes and wrecks the acoustics.
Instead, hold the call up with your index finger and thumb around the frame. This allows sounds to come from the top and bottom of the call, resulting in much more realistic—and louder—notes.
SCRATCH A DIME
Although a standard pot call is typically about 4 inches across, you’ll only work a section of the surface not much bigger than a dime at any one time. Resting the edge of your striker hand lightly against the rim of the call, make a single stroke toward your chest with the tip of the striker. This single note is a “cluck.”
To make a yelp, repeat the cluck motion several times. Create a purr by dragging the tip of the striker along the surface. Cutting is achieved with the exact same action as a yelp, except you press the striker harder against the surface and speed up its motion. Practice these three basic calls until you’re comfortable, and you’ll be able to call in most gobblers.
Note: Most pot calls seem to have a “sweet spot” where the notes you produce either sound better or are simply easier to make (or both) than at other spots on the call. Turn the pot call in your hand and use the striker in different areas until you find that one dime-sized spot where it sounds best.
Once I find the sweet spot, I like to make a pen mark or other indicator on the edge of the pot (not the playing surface) so I can find it quickly and easily when I’m calling to a turkey.
SWITCH THE STRIKER
One reason pot calls are so versatile is that using a striker of a different wood or material can produce different tones from the same call. I like to have a striker with a hardwood dowel, one with a softwood dowel and at least one synthetic (carbon, metal, etc.). Often when a gobbler has shut up on me, I’ve been able to fire him up again simply by switching to a different striker.
KEEP IT CONDITIONED
Run a pot call long enough and you’ll inevitably hear the sound deaden or change, or you’ll have difficulty playing a good note on your sweet spot. This is almost always because the striker tip or the call surface has become slick or taken on some moisture. Keep a small piece of sandpaper and/or a Scotch-Brite pad in your vest and use it to lightly touch up your call surface and striker tip, and you’ll be back in business. I glue a Scotch-Brite pad to the back of a piece of sandpaper. When dry, I cut into smaller pieces, which I store in a baggie in my vest.