I stood amazed at the display. Walking the jam-packed turkey hunting gear aisle of a local big box store checking out the latest in turkey calls, I was simply blown away by all the options. I lost count twice before I finally headed up a mind calculation of 75 different calls spread across a huge variety of brand names, call types, materials and package deals including instructional tapes and DVDs.

Among the array were box calls mostly constructed of wood in several different sizes, some with waterproof friction edges. The number of friction calls like slates, glass, metal, synthetics with pots of plastic or wood counted into the dozens. Even striking sticks varied as well from wood to plastic and some with special gritty tips for extra sound production.

This entire turkey call sensory overload made me question if there was a practical need for all these options. I guess it would be un-American or anti-outdoor business to limit the number of products offered for sale.

Even so, I wondered if I could only pick two of those calls off the shelf, which combination might prove the most effective and enduring in the turkey woods. Now we're not talking brand names here mind you, so we'll leave some room for individual preferences there, but we're talking call types in this case. If you could only have two, which type would they be?


Personal picks

Specialists are particular about their tools. Take auto mechanics, artists, heart surgeons, plumbers or computer repair geeks. They all have special tools they use for special applications. They favor some over others.

Talented turkey hunters tend to fall into this classification, too. We all have our favorite calls that have proven themselves over the years.

For example, it's taken me more than 37 years of turkey hunting to narrow down a whole storage box full of turkey calls to just two that I now carry exclusively in my tote bag. I use the same two calls year after year, and they keep on working just fine.

One is a wooden box call that I use for the loud, long-range projection of hen calls. I typically use the box when the wind is blowing. I also use it in situations when I can get a call echo to bounce off a woods line, a hillside, ridge or other habitat sounding board.

The call edges on this box are coated, too, so it works in a mist or a rain.

The second call of choice is a 20-year-old genuine slate call. It is the real deal. I baby it like a lucky charm. It stays housed in a padded call case until needed. I use three different striker sticks with it. When the calling needs to be quiet, this is the one. If I need to crank it up after a comeback response, the old-fashioned slate is hard to beat. However, let rain drops drip on it, and you're out of business. There are compromises even in turkey calls I guess.


Champion choices

I may have my choices, but I am just an average turkey hunter. What would a real champion turkey caller and hunter pick if limited to just two calls? I posed that question to Preston Pittman of Canton.

Literally from the ground up, Pittman designed, created, built and tested turkey calls for years before selling them commercially. If there was a school of turkey hunting hard knocks, Pittman would be the Head Master.

Of course, now he has all the brass trophies, accolades and World Championships. He is well established in the turkey and deer call and accessory market. His reputation stands alone in the realm of turkey hunting. Still, if limited to only two calls, what would they be?

"Easy, first you absolutely must have a mouth diaphragm call that allows you to be hands-free when things get close and personal," he said. "My main mouth call is a three-reed call named the Vengeance. It does it all from loud to soft purrs. It's a killer call.

"Then my second choice is tougher, but I'd go with a pot call of slate on one side and an aluminum surface on the other. This gives you two options for changing up sounds. If you combine one of these with some mouth calling, the combination is strong medicine even for tough gobblers.

The best thing, of course, is that Pittman laughs and says it is a darn good thing he doesn't have to limit himself to two calls. He also advises adding some other woodland calls like his Flap and Scratch realism call or even a squirrel barker call. Maybe that is what makes him a champion turkey caller and an even better turkey hunter.