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by John Maynard

At the 2000 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) convention in Nashville, I had a chance to talk with some of the biggest turkey call manufacturers in the nation about the future of turkey hunting and what's in the future for turkey calls.

What surprised me was that virtually every call manufacturer said the same thing -- "The industry is going back to the old standbys and looking to improve them."

Dick Kirby, owner of Quaker Boy, said that for the past few years there have been a lot of "gimmicks" in the turkey call business but today hunters are looking for two things, better quality and better sound. "We're seeing the rebirth of older calls," Kirby said, "and the quality is improving every year.

This year Quaker Boy had the hottest "gimmick" with their "Triple Threat" call which featured three slate type calls in one. The "pot" or sounding chamber has a glass, aluminum, and slate surface all in one call giving you three different sounds. The package comes with two strikers and it's been almost impossible to produce them fast enough for the retailers.

Preston Pittman, long known as a manufacturer of outstanding diaphragms, has started a new line of box calls that spells quality all the way. But you're going to pay $150 for his custom made box calls. "Good sounding calls are becoming more and more important to knowledgeable hunters," Pittman stated.

Pittman said that ten years ago a huge number of new turkey hunters went afield. They were all looking for the "magic bullet" in calls and bought every new gimmick that ht the market. But now those hunters have
become more knowledgeable and realize that there is no magic answer. The real key to a good call is achieving the best sound possible and that means you're gonna have to pay more for a custom made call. You could see that happening at the recent NWTF convention as the smaller custom call manufacturers received a lot of attention.

Pittman said that next year he would be introducing a new line of diaphragm calls that are "radically different from anything else on the market." He refused to give any hit of what was coming though. In the meantime, Pittman said that learning good "woodsmanship" and using good calling skills were still the key to getting your bird. "The 'McDonald's hunter' who is just starting out will still fall for the gimmicks, but more knowledgeable turkey hunters will be looking to spend a little more to find the best sounding call around," Pittman concluded.

One of the best "old timer" calls is a box call produced by Albert Paul under the trade name "Paul's Calls." His exact copy of the Neil Cost box calls has made his product one of the best box calls around.

"It's very difficult to find a good mass produced box call," said Paul who only makes 600 to 800 calls a year. If you want one of his calls it's almost to late to buy it this year. He is about 3-4 months behind schedule right now in delivering new calls.

One of the hottest slate calls at the show was Ted Peters, owner of Peter's Calls. His glass slate type calls named "Shady Lady"  and "Sweet Lips" were selling out fast. "The key to producing a good sounding call
is in the pot material," said Peters. "You build a better pot and you will get a better sound. It's that simple," he said. Peter's builds his pots one at a time by hand, tuning each one separately as he makes them.

One of the keys to Peter's Calls is the striker. It has a wider tip making it very easy to use and get excellent purrs, cutts, and yelps. Peter's says Titanium surfaces have come and gone as have ceramic. But good slate and glass are the future of great sounding calls. His calls sell for $60 each and are worth every penny.

David Hale of Knight and Hale also agrees that hunters age going back to some of the old standbys. His "Old Yeller" call is still one of the sweetest sounding slate type calls at a reasonable price. But you have to have a good ear to pick out a good one. As with most mass produces calls there is a wide variety of sounds -- some good, some terrible. One of the better ways to test a call is to have someone use it outdoors and you stand 20 yards away and listen to it. If it's clear, crisp, and sounds like a turkey in the woods, buy it. If not, leave it
in the store. Knight and Hale also has a new striker this year called the "Power Point" which is nothing more than JB Weld put on the end of the striker. but it does produce a good sound in all kinds of weather
and most surfaces.

So, in wrapping up what's new in calls, the answer is not much. It's what's old that's new. Calls are getting more expensive as more and more are being handmade. But the sounds coming out of these sweet sounding boxes and slates are well worth the price. As diaphragms get more and more overused and turkeys hear more and more of those types of sounds, the older, sweet sounding box and slate calls are finding their place again
in the turkey hunting world.

One more new product that impressed me at the NWTF convention was the "Star-Dot" shotgun sight made by Highlander Sports, Inc. in Huntsville, AL.  The "Star-Dot" is a small magnetic mounted sight that fits on the
vent rib of your shotgun. It's a small red light that is the aiming point, replacing the front bead on your shotgun. The light goes on when it is placed on your shotgun rib. The intensity of the light varies depending on the amount of ambient light reaching the sight so that it dims as it is darker outside. that way the light is not so overpowering that you cannot see the target.

The sight runs on two hearing aid batteries and will light for 70 hours on one change of batteries. The retail price is $29.95 and comes in three sizes to fit just about any vent rib. The site is not legal in all states so check your game and fish regulations before you order one. Anywhere where a lighted aiming device cannot be used in the taking of game they are illegal.

The sight is a great aid in getting on target quickly and easily in all weather conditions. The Star-Dot can be ordered by calling Highlander Sports at 1-800-758-3346.

** For lots of excellent Wild Turkey Recipes check Cooking Turkey With SusieQ

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