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Mastering the Scratch Box Call

Scratch box call - C Hudson

Perhaps just after the use of the wingbone in the annuals of turkey hunting, the next ‘man made’ call to be used is what is referred to as the scratch box. Personally I am not sure why it is called a scratch box, but who am I to argue with the name of a turkey call. I still do not understand how we name planets, and then remove planets only to replace them a few years later.

A scratch box call is a very simple device that uses friction to produce the sound of the wild turkey. This device can vary in appearance very much. Different makers ply their own spin on the shape, design, and even the sounds it produces. But to explain it in simple terms, a rectangle shaped ‘box’ that is mostly hollow with an extruding edge is held in the hand while another piece of wood, carbon or other material is ‘scratched’ across the long lip creating vibration causing the vibration to mimic the sound of the turkey.

Sounds are controlled by the length of the stroke, the amount of pressure placed on the box, and the material of which the box and striker are made from. Mahogany and cedar seem to dominate the materials the box is made from, many have matching strikers, while others have a variety of strikers available to mix and match for different sounds.

The scratch box is a subtle call. Rarely able to call loudly, it is a mid-range to close-range call. Best used when the birds are within hearing range, the scratch box is a great tool for the hunter that prefers to whisper to his birds instead of screaming at them.

Scratch box calls are seldom seen in the vest of the modern hunter. I have heard from some who say, ‘it’s a good call, but everything it can do, I can do better with a slate or box call.” It reminds me of the demise of the 16 gauge shotgun. For many it is the perfect merger between the twelve and the twenty. To others, everything the 16 can do the 12 can do better. But the joy of shooting the 16 is missed in the recoil of the 12. The same can be said of the scratch box. In the right hands, the scratch box can lure in the wary old gobbler unlike any other call. It is so subtle, and so true sounding, it will convince the wariest of Tom’s that the sound he is hearing is that of his first girlfriend coming home from college and wanting to reconnect.

Hunters who dismiss the scratch box as ‘old school’ are missing one of the best tools in the industry. It is capable of producing sounds unlike any other and can bring a nostalgia to the sport unlike any other call.