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How to Use a Slate Call


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In attending our local NWTF banquet this weekend, and in getting messages from friends just beginning to turkey hunt, a common question is, "Just exactly how do I use a slate call?" They're advertised as easy to use, and once you get the hang of it, they are, but you need to know how to hold it and try and get sound out of the thing first.

That said, there are a number of different ways to hold/use the call, and still get great turkey sounds out of it. I'll just mention the way I use it, describe why, and you can decide for yourself how you want to go about it. Forgive the lack of pictures!

  • How To grip the slate/base - If you're right handed, grip the slate by making a "C" with your thumb and middle/ring finger(s). Put the slate base into the "C" making sure not to touch the call surface with any part of your hand. For a lefty, reverse hands. Some people use just their fingertips surrounding the outside of the call with their palm facing upward, but I'm less consistent that way. To each their own.
  • How to grip the striker - Like a pen, but again, be careful not to rest the heel of your hand, or any other portion of your fingers on the slate surface. That's why I'll take my pinky of my right hand, and press it firmly against the middle finger/ring finger of my left hand along the call's edge. With my other fingers, I grip the striker like a pen. "Locking" my pinky against my other fingers along the call's edge allows me a few things, namely consistency in how I strike the surface, along with being able to steady the call more readily.

  • How to condition the call - Depending on the surface, I'll use some sandpaper on a 1st pass, and scotch-brite on a 2nd pass. The idea is to continually condition the call in the same direction, creating minature striations for which to drag the striker across. Try to align your conditioning marks to the grain of the wood, or lettering on the call itself. This will make it easier to remember how you should condition the call from year to year. Before using your call, always condition.

  • How to make sounds - Once you've conditioned your call, and have a good idea how to grip it, hold the striker at a slight angle and try to make "mini-footballs" the size of a pea or so on the surface of the slate. I make mine counter-clockwise. Once you get the hi/low sound on the downstroke, you've just made a yelp. String a few of those together and you're off and running. A cluck is made with a short, straight, downstroke. Cutts, more and sharper. Purrs, grip the striker a little higher, and a little more straight up and down, and pull evenly across the surface. Always remember to pull your striker across the surface, perpendicular to the direction you conditioned your calls!

Again, this isn't the only way to make a sound on slate, but I've found it works quite well.

Condition your call, lock it into the "C" with your pinky finger, and pull that striker across the grain of your conditioning, and you should be well on your way to being far more consistent on slate, glass, aluminum or other surfaced friction calls.


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