In my turkey hunting vest I carry seven mouth calls, each with a different purpose. Call number 1 is a bit raspy and  number 2 even more so, sounding like a hen with a sore throat. Call  number 3 is my “good morning, sweetheart” call, used for early morning tree yelps, soft clucks and purrs. Number 4 is for high volume calling on windy days. Call number 5 is for cutting and cackling, and call number 6 is my desperation diaphragm, used when nothing else in my vest will work (and honestly, it’s never worked). Mouth call number 7 is my favorite and my go-to diaphragm, used about 95 percent of the time.

I’m the first to admit that I’ll never be a calling champion, but I’m good enough to hold my own in the woods and I can fool the wariest toms when they get hot enough. In the end, that’s all that matters. Recently, I noticed that all of my calls sounded alike, and I couldn’t perform a solid key key run on any of my seven diaphragms. I’m not sure if mouth calls have expiration dates, but I started to question if this was the year I’d have to break down and buy a new set. Now, I’ve been known to alter an aging product or piece of equipment until it becomes unrecognizable–and after that finding a new use for it in an effort to save money. So, sensing that my calls were reaching their demise, I tried different techniques to prolong their life spans. Unfortunately none led to success.

After hearing my complaints a fellow turkey hunter and friend, Rick Taylor from Mossy Oak Properties, advised me to soak a cosmetic sponge in Listerine mouthwash and place it in a Sucrets Sore Throat Lozenge metal box. He told me by storing the calls on top of the cosmetic sponge during the season, my problem would be solved.

An example of the box “in action.”

I attempted Rick’s method and am pleased to state that the Listerine has loosened the reeds and brought my calls back to life. First, I cut two round latex-free cosmetic sponges with scissors to fill the metal case for a larger Listerine-soaked surface. I’m not sure if other types of sponges work but beware that cotton pads will leave fuzzy lint on your calls. The storage box can be made of any type of hard plastic or metal. While I do not advocate the use of smokeless tobacco, I can attest that dip and snuff cans work, as does an empty Altoids tin. The key, however, is the Listerine and you may need to add more if the sponge dries out. And as an added bonus, each time you stick that diaphragm in your mouth, you’ll be fighting plaque and gingivitis.

Ok, I can’t guarantee fewer cavities and a clean bill of health from the dentist, but your buddy won’t be cringing from your coffee breath next time you are whispering orders as that boss gobbler is closing in.

Each of my calls sounds fantastic and can once again hit the high notes as if they were brand new. I’m sure there are mouth calls that are beyond salvageable, and some may need to be thrown away for health reasons (the black mold growing on it does not give it character), but this tip worked for all seven of mine.

Images by David Dellucci

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4 thoughts on “Better Breath and Better Turkey Calling

  1. While I love sounding off with my glass pot call I always have a mouth call tucked away somewhere between my tonsils and gums. Having hunted weary Toms for 24 years I preferred certain mouth calls over others just like yourself. At the end of year season I washed all my call down in warm water , rinsed them off and then returned each one too its plastic case. I then promptly froze them all in a plastic bag deep in my freezer until next season. While I may have lost one or two over the years ( no I didn’t swallow them) the rest seem perfectly fine to use each season. I will rinse them off in mouth wash now before returning them to the freezer, just as soon as I bag another TOM. Good luck with your birds!

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