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Calls for Airgunners: A quick primer

Posted by on June 8, 2013

A lot of the techniques used for firearms hunting are directly applicable to airguns as well, and one of my favorite crossover techniques is the use of calls to bring my quarry into range. Several years ago I started carrying mouth blown predator (typically distress) calls in my pack, regardless of what I was after. When a rabbit or squirrel hunt was slow or I had early success, these would come in handy for filling out my trip with an impromptu predator calling session. I like the nuanced sounds you can get out of a mouth call, but there is some motion around using them and I’ve blown a couple shots because of this. But these calls, especially the closed reed types, are very easy to use, they are cheap, and they are compact.

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The Alpha Dogg is the Transformer of the e-call world. with fold down legs and fold out speakers.

I’ll often grab my lanyards that has a jack rabbit, cottontail, rodent squeaker, and crow call hanging off it on leaders; and I’ve brought in fox, coyote, bobcats, raccoons, ringtails, and crows in large numbers.

But in the open spaces out west I like the volume out of the e calls, but even when hunting the smaller properties in the Midwest and out east, the electronic callers offer some advantages: namely getting the call ( and predators attention) away from the gun. This is especially the case for Airgun hunting in that you want the quarry to get in as close as possible. A decoy can help with this as well.

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Brian Beck pulls in the dogs with his FoxPro Prairie Blaster!

But as I started hunting more seriously for coyote, fox, bobcat, and raccoons in Texas, Nevada, California where I needed a lot more volume, I quickly learned the advantage of using electronic calls. And in places like Texas where we hunt at night making a stand every 20-30 minutes, a mouth blown call will wear you out by 4:00! It can also be very useful to have the large library of sounds that come with most e calls, animals such as coyotes, can become educated quickly when they come in to a call and live to get away from the hunter. And with the low cost and ease of use with the mouth blown rabbit distress being used by just about anyone that thinks it would be cool to shoot a coyote, theres a good chance the dogs in pressured areas have heard it all before. That’s when a change up can be effective, dial up something they haven’t heard before.

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An e-call is the most effective means to call in crows.

It’s possible to get open and closed reed mouth blown calls that you can get predator vocalizations out of, to be honest I have to say I’ve never been able to make a coyote believe I was a lonely female or a scared pup, though some can. But with my e calls I’ve had a lot of success with vocalizations, though you still have to know when and what call to use. Even with an e call vocalizations take a lot more skill to use effectively.

Does this mean I’ve tossed the collection of mouth calls accumulated over the years? No way, I’ll often start with a low volume call before switching on the caller. The mouth call can suplement the ecall as well, adding a bit more depth to the set. Also when an animal is spotted coming in, it often works better to mute the caller and “squeak” the animal in closer for the shot.

I’ve got several electronic calls that I use, and have hunted with guides and other hunters across the country that use just about everything on the market. The three that I am using the most these days are the Foxpro Firestorm, the Primos Alpha Dogg and the Predator Quest with Les Johnson sound libraries. These calls share some common features, they allow remote selection of sounds, volume, and the ability to mute. The Predator Quest uses preprogramed sound cards that can be swapped out, and the Firestorm has 50 sounds stored in onboard memory and can upload a variety of new sounds (my own or from the Foxpro website). The Alpha Dogg has legs that fold out to elevate it and swing out speakers that get the sounds out there!

All three of these calls seems equally effective in getting predators in very close with distress calls, I believe the Firestorm does a bit better with the coyote vocalizations ….. though this is hard to say definitively. I do believe that the Foxpro has the best library of crow sounds available both in quality and quantity. I think a variety of calls is important for calling crows when Airgun hunting, because while it’s fairly easy to get them to fly in with a mob call and shoot them on the wing with a shotgun, getting them to land for an Airgun shot takes some finesse.

Using an ecall has increased my success on crow by an order of magnitude, and is about the only way I hunt them these days. Crows seem to have a finer “ear” for the reality of the sound, and while I’ve had a lot of success on predators with mouth calls, not so much with the mouth blown crow calls. These wary birds seem to be able to suss if the sound is natural or not. With an e call you can get the sound of many birds at once, and I’ll often start with a mob call to bring them in, then switch to a dying crow or a fight to get them to land in a tree so that I can get a shot. This is one of my favorite airgun hunting activities, and though you’ll never get the number that a shotgun will produce with birds on the wing, 5-6 sniped out of staging trees with a quiet pcp is very satisfying!

If you want to try an ecall and dont have a couple hundred bucks to spend are you locked out?The short answer is no, I’ve also used the inexpensive Cass Mountain calls which have never given me great results, though they have worked. They just don’t have much volume, but the bigger problem is that the remote speaker is wired to the call which makes it less convenient to deploy and new sounds can’t be added. A step up from this is the Predator Quest entry level model, the Mini Phantom. It has many of the features of the more expensive callers such as remote control, replaceable sound cards, and directional speaker. The sounds are not quite as rich, they don’t generation the same amplitude, and not as upgradable, but still a good entry into the game.

It’s true that you can be very successful with mouth blown calls, especially if you practice to get the vocalizations down, but I’d say that 80% of the predators I shoot these days come in to ecalls, and 90% of crows. I go out and call without a gun, just to see what happens, and it allows me to work for a while just about every day. I feel comfortable saying that combining an electronic caller with a low volume mouth blown call will get more animals in to Airgun ranges than any other method, but no matter which technique you use, calls will improve the success for airgun hunters after predators and crows!

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