Box Call Tips - Scratch Boxes
Travel for a moment, in your mind, to the outer reaches of
rural America; a cypress swamp in Northern Florida, a dark and foggy Ozark
hollow, or a steep and rugged Virginia mountainside. Here local crafters
make use of materials at hand, and simple designs emerge as the most
creative, functional and beautiful products. The scratch box turkey call
is one such product. Wood and a little glue is all it takes, plus a handed
-down design or hours of experimentation to develop a new pattern. Wood
and glue—not even a spring and screw needed to connect the friction.
Scratch box, striker call, scraper call; each of these names
refers to the small, two piece wooden turkey calls with design variations
on a constant theme- hollow wood chamber with striker lip and a solid,
wood striker piece. Box shapes vary from the long, narrow, rectangular
coffin style to a flatter, nearly square, cigarette carton shaped box. As
in standard boxes, woods used deliver different pitches. Cedar, the most
commonly used wood, and cherry give a higher pitched (sweet) young hen
tone. Walnut yields a deeper, courser tone like a gobbler or raspy hen,
and poplar delivers its characteristic, low 'yawping' yelp. Clucks on a
scratch box, are some of the most genuine, rivaling the cluck on a slate
call. These striker call clucks have that sharp, hollow, 'popping'
resonance that is hard to distinguish from the real thing. Sometimes a
good cluck is all it takes to seal the deal.
The two most common methods of using a scratch box are as
follows. These descriptions are based on right hand usage. For left hand
use reverse the process.
1. Hold the box with right hand, striker
lip down and on outside of box away from caller. Thumb is on the inside of
box at lower end, with back of thumb facing caller. Index finger extends
straight outward along the bottom of the box or bent and wrapped around
same side as forefinger. Forefinger is bent at knuckle and positioned on
the outside of box. Thumb is on front of box and bent forefinger is
directly beneath thumb on outside of box. For best results, grip the box
gently Striker is held in left hand between tip of thumb and tip of
forefinger out from palm. Rounded edge of striker faces away from left
palm. While holding striker stationary, place the middle of the striker
lip of box perpendicular to striker, slightly outward from center. Chalk
the striker surface occasionally. To make the yelp, draw the striker lip
of box along striker surface. As you draw, twist the box lip upward with
wrist action. This motion will deliver the breaking double note of the
yelp. Best results occur by executing this motion gently with the
slightest downward pressure. Striker lips are tuned thin for good sound.
This makes them delicate and subject to cracking or breaking if too much
pressure is applied. To insure the preservation of your scratch box, apply
a slow and easy hand.
The cluck is made by holding the box
perpendicular to the middle of the striker, applying firm but not hard
downward pressure, then quickly moving the box about 1/8 inch. The louder,
cutts can be made by applying a little more downward pressure. To purr,
drag the striker lip slowly across the striker.
2. To use the second method for using the scratch box, hold
the call stationary in the left hand. Front of box faces the caller and is
held between tips of thumb (at lower end) and tip of index or forefinger
at top end. Striking lip is at bottom of call with sound chamber opening
visible to caller. Grasp the striker between thumb and forefinger of right
hand. Place rounded edge of striker perpendicular to and on top of
striking lip at center. To yelp, push the striker away and across lip,
turning the wrist slightly downward on each stroke. For the cluck, make
striker and lip contact, then with a quick, short snap; pop striker off of
lip. To purr drag striker across lip.
Each scratch box type has a
unique personality and sound. For a full range of turkey tones try several
boxes of different designs and made from different woods. For best
performance, chalk the striker occasionally, keep moisture away from the
call and unless you want a busted lip, don't bear down too hard on the
scratch box blade.