For the beginner just getting into predator calling one of the biggest questions is what calls do I use. Well outside of the electronic calls where there is myriad amount of sounds out there for them these days. And for the beginner it’s an easy thing to use and get started calling, but for some it’s quite an expense and sometimes hard to justify. So hand calls are the answer. For me, I prefer hand calls, there easy to carry and I’m not so worried that they’ll be damaged and they always work, no dead batteries or broken switches etc. Things happen, I’m not knocking E-callers, I just prefer hand calls just like someone prefers a 22-250 vs. the .223 etc.
So, I’m going to concentrate on hand calls here. Basically there are two types, the open-reed and the closed-reed. So which call is right for you? Well for beginners the closed reed is the easiest to learn and generally generic in sound, but very effective, especially in the early fall when the young and dumb are out and about.
First the closed reeds. Closed reeds are a call with an enclosed metal reed inside the mouth piece of the call. Depending on the reed, some are loud long range or intermediate and some are real quiet high pitched used generally in squeakers for close range calling. The way to blow a closed reed is simply blow into it, at first a steady blow sounds like a New Years party horn. By breaking up and shortening the amount of air you blow through the call intermittently you create a cadence that imitates an animal in distress. It’ll sound similar to a baby wailing. The shorter each wah wah the more realistic you’ll sound just for the fact a rabbit doesn’t have as much air in it’s lungs like us, if you go a little longer and raspy you’ll mimic a fawn. Cupping your hand over the barrel of the call and moving your hand you can vary the pitch, sounding muffled with your head being buried in the snow and louder more clear when you come up for air. It’s all about sounding like you’re a critter having the stuffing ripped out of you. The closed reed is probably the easiest calls to learn. You can find places on the web that have sounds you can listen to and all you do is practice till you sound somewhat like your hearing. It’s really that simple. The squeakers are basically a closed reed call that just squeak like those found in dog toys, and those work too. Squeakers are for close up work, say you have a coyote coming and he hangs up at say 200 yds or behind some brush.. All you do is just squeeze the squeaker a couple times and usually it’ll get that coyote to move and sometimes more than just move but come flying in. What kind of call to buy. My favorites are ones by EJ Sceery, or Circe made by Lohman I believe, there dependable and work well as do the ones by Johnny Stewart. There are many call makers out there commercially and custom call makers and most, but not all, get their reeds from the same manufacturer. I know this because I have taken many apart and all that I’ve found had the same name stamped on the metal reeds them self. Type of material used in making the call, like wood , arcrylics, rubber etc. is what helps each call have it’s distinguished sound and how the barrel channel is belled out.
Now we have the open-reed calls and on my list of calls my favorite. Open reed calls basically have an external reed you manipulate with your lips, teeth, tongue while you blow through the call. You can vary the pitch, the sound and even switch from distress to a howl without pulling the call from your mouth. On the open reeds the reed is held into place with things like cork, rubber or plastic and/or a heavy rubber band. The band is actually a castrating band you would use on calves or pigs and can find extra bands at farm supply stores and there relatively cheap by the 100. When you blow an open reed you basically bite or press with your lip down on the reed blowing at the same time. The closer to the barrel you bite the deeper and raspier it will sound, the closer to the end of the reed the higher the pitch. With these calls you can make animal distress sounds, puppy whines, howls, barks, kiyi’s (sounds like a dog that got hit by a car) and even squeaks. It takes more practice to learn these calls but it doesn’t take long. It does take more air to blow these calls especially when making howls. A simple howl on this type of call is you basically get a good lung full of air and put slight pressure on the reed close to the barrel with your lips or teeth and blow hard and once you start you basically slide the call slowly out of your mouth while keeping pressure on the reed to make a high pitched end to the howl. The faster you pull the call out the shorter the howl. With a little practice on an open reed you’ll be able to do a wide range of sounds with just one call, thus making the open reed a more versatile call. Some of my favorite open reed calls are Thompson’s Red Desert howler mouthpiece, the Tally=Ho, Critter Call and Johnny Stewart open reed call. One of the little tips on using either the open reed or closed reed is practice, practice, practice. Once you got it down and using it in the field the other tid-bit is once you have a coyote coming in good, stop calling. That way you don’t give away your position. If the coyote stops out of range, just make a few more sounds that you got him to come in on, but make it short, you just want his attention to get him moving toward you again. If he’s coming in and he’s close enough to shoot, you want to make sure he is stopped before you shoot. You don’t want to get this far and miss. If he isn’t stopped and you want to shoot, just bark at him in your own voice, it’ll make him stop long enough to get a shot off. Hopefully this will help you decide which calls you want to try and give you an idea on how there used. Below is a pic of the two types of calls.