MY BUTTERNUT-AND-WALNUT BOX from Dad’s Calls has always been one of my sweetest-sounding calls, but this off-season it came out of storage sounding a little flat. Afraid that I was going to ruin its tone if I messed with it, I called Jerry White, the “Dad” in Dad’s Calls. According to White, I had good reason to worry. It’s easy to ruin a call through overzealous tuning. The secret is to go easy. Here’s his advice on getting your favorite call ready for the season.

Step 1 CLEAN

“The biggest mistake you can make is to get out the sandpaper and start rubbing away on the lips and paddle,” says White. “That’ll change the contours of the call and wreck it.” Instead, White suggests using Scotch-Brite or another brand of plastic-coated sponge usually used to scrub pots without scratching them. “Remember, your goal is to remove hand grease, dirt, and old chalk–not wood.”

Step 2 CHALK

“After you remove all the old gunk, rub a layer of chalk on the underside of the paddle.” White prefers railroad chalk, the type used to mark the sides of boxcars, but many brands are sold specifically for turkey calls. “What you don’t want,” he says, “is blackboard chalk or any other type that has oil in it.”

Step 3 CALL

“At this point, you’re probably done.” Play the call, listening for the desired tone. Shiny spots on the lid’s underside indicate that oil or dirt is still present. “Put the sponge to it again and then chalk some more until you get the right sound.”


“If the call still isn’t sounding right, you may need to adjust the tension screw on the lid, but always save this for last,” White advises. “On most calls it’s set exactly where it should be. You don’t want to mess with it much.” Your goal is just to get the screw back into its original position if it has worked loose. Start by tightening it a quarter turn, and then test the call. “Keep adjusting by quarter turns and calling. You should be able to feel it when you tighten the screw past the point where it was set.” If you reach this point, back off.


• Scotch-Brite pads

• Chalk

• Screwdriver