Using a pot call

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Video how to use a slate turkey call

Pot calls, often called slate calls, are friction-style calls that are easy to use and produce a range of turkey sounds.

Parts of a pot call

A pot call consists of three parts: a pot, a calling surface and a striker.

The pot holds the slate and acts as a sound chamber. There are holes drilled in the bottom for sound to escape. To keep from covering the holes, hold the pot with the tips of your fingers, keeping it away from the palm of your hand. Pot calls can be made to be all-weather, with the right striker.

The slate or calling surface can be made from actual slate, glass or other material. Each one will produce a slightly different sound. Actual rock slate is a popular, effective calling surface but it’s useless in the rain. In wet conditions, more common in spring, some hunters prefer a glass or aluminum calling surface.

Finally, the striker looks like a small wooden baton that you’ll hold like a pencil when you drag it across the slate. Strikers, too, come in a variety of materials, each producing a unique sound. Most quality pot calls come with one or two strikers to get you started.

Conditioning your pot call

Before you use a pot call for the first time, you’ll need to condition the calling surface. Conditioning is roughing up the surface with sand paper or other abrasive. This creates groves on the calling surface that the striker skips across to make a noise.

WARNING: When conditioning a calling surface, brush the sand paper across the slate in one direction only. That way when you run the striker across the surface, you’re going across the grain, creating realistic calls. Do not use a circular motion. Your call might skip or miss those times the striker runs with the grain.

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Real slate is relatively soft, and can be conditioned with 200 grit sand paper or a Scotch Brite pad. For those harder surfaces like metal and glass, you’ll need to be a bit more aggressive and use something like 80 to 40 grit material.

You also can use 220 grit sandpaper to sand the tips of your strikers. The tip of the striker can get clogged with sediments from the slate’s surface, resulting on a poor sounding call. To clean the striker, drag the tip across the sandpaper in a single direction.

Making sounds

Now that your pot is conditioned and the striker clean, it’s time to make sounds.

Hold the striker about one-inch up from the bottom, like you would a pencil. Tip the top of the striker away from you, so it’s at a 45º angle when contacting the pot’s surface. This angle should remain constant throughout the calling process, no matter which sounds you’re making.

Also, you’ll want to find the sweet spot on each pot. Most pots sound best when the strikers are “scratched” across the surface about one-third of the way in from the outer edge of the pot. Some have sweet spots a little closer to center.

To make a yelp

Begin by holding the pot in one hand. Grip it around the outer edges with your extended thumb and index finger (or middle) finger. Place the tip of the striker on the pot and draw a small oval shape, about the size of a dime.

Keep the striker constant contact with the calling surface. Don’t lift it at the end of a call or when you’re pulling the striker away from the center.

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A “yelp” is made when you push the striker down toward the center of the call, skipping it across the pot’s surface. When you drag the striker back to the starting point you won’t hear anything because the striker is now angled in the opposite direction and doesn’t “skip” over the grooves. Each time you move the striker downward, it yelps. Repeat making the oval three to five times about a second apart for a series of yelps.

Apply more or less pressure on the striker to get higher or lower pitched sounds. Higher pitch notes simulate young hens, while the raspy yelps of older hens and toms can be made by using less pressure with the striker.

To make a pleading or lost yelp, draw bigger ovals about the size of a quarter on the calling surface. This drawn-out yelp is great for calling in hens and hoping toms will follow.

To make a purr

Grip the striker about a half-inch higher from where you gripped it to make yelps. Exposing more of the striker will change the tone of the call. With light pressure, draw the tip of the striker toward you, from the outer edge of the slate to the middle. As you draw the striker, it will skip lightly across the slate’s surface in a straight line producing a purr. Practice this and the purr will become one of the easiest sounds to make on a slate call.

To create fighting purrs, simply pick up the pace of the purrs using the same motion. Grip the striker a bit lower down and apply more pressure and you’ll create a louder, sharper tone. Increase the frequency and urgency of this call and it will start to sound like an excited flock during flight.

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To make a cluck

Grab the striker about a half-inch from the bottom and press down firmly while you pull in toward you. The peg should make a quick, sharp jump that creates a one-note sound. To get the cluck tone you want, move the striker around on the slate’s surface to find the sweet-spot.

To make a cutt

Make the same stroke as you would for a cluck, but longer. Quickly follow up with five or six more of the same stroke. Start each pull at the same point and return the striker quickly to the starting point to deliver the cutt calls in a fast sequence.

To make a cackle

Add some yelps and clucks to the front end of a cutting sequence and lessen the pressure during the cutting action. This is a great early morning call when working birds off a roost in both the spring and fall.

Caring for your pot call

To keep your pot call in good working condition, never touch the surface of the slate with your bare fingers or hands. Oils from your hands on the call’s surface can render it useless. Some pots come with a plastic lid that snaps over the top to protect the calling surface. Otherwise, put the pot in a plastic bag or storage pouch before putting it in your vest so it won’t rub against anything that might wear down the conditioned surface.

When storing pot calls and strikers, keep them in a cool, dry place to prevent warping and weathering due to exposure to the elements.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>