Almost Custom

Hunters are always looking to get the best sound possible from their calls--checking out this one, asking a friend's opinion on that one. But is it possible to get the type of quality sound a custom-made call can produce without paying custom-call prices? Thankfully, the answer is yes, as the following calls will attest.

Cody 6.5 One Sider

After spending 25 years perfecting his slate and glass turkey calls, Cody Turkey Calls owner Bill Zearing apparently needed a new challenge. While he might not have invented the box call, Zearing's 5-year tinkering project has resulted in an innovative addition to that genre: the Cody 6.5 One Sider. The box features the company's Concaved Lid running across angled rails.

The design concentrates the friction equally across the surface each time for consistent calling. "This thing is so easy to run," Zearing says. "It's real whiny and high on the front end of it and sounds like a real turkey." ($60; codyturkeycalls.com)

Bud & Betty's Crystal Call

Russell Lynch, owner of Bud & Betty's Hunting Calls, is proud of his Crystal Call--and not just because his friction call took home championship honors at the 2006 National Wild Turkey Federation convention. "It's a screamer," Lynch says. "You can work turkeys with it, which I do, but it's also a heck of a locator call."

Constructed of hand-selected wood, the pot is grooved on the side to enhance grip and surrounds a metallic sounding board overlaid with crystal. The striker is made of purpleheart wood and topped with a square hardwood handle. ($50; budandbetty.com)

Woodhaven's Cherry Classic Crystal Call

How realistic is Mike Pentecost's Woodhaven Cherry Classic Crystal friction call? Realistic enough to have at least one East Coast game warden wondering if it was a live turkey or not.

"The warden checked the hunter because he wanted to know what it was that he was running," Pentecost says. "He said that in his twenty or thirty years in the woods, he had never heard anything like it."

The Cherry Classic is, of course, a crystal surface set inside a hand-selected cherry pot. Inside is a real wood sounding board. Each call is completely handcrafted and comes with two strikers of different woods. ($70; woodhavencustomcalls.com)

Hale's Advance Split V

Knight & Hale co-founder David Hale is bullish on the 3.5 Split V mouth diaphragm call that bears his name. "Chris Parrish, who would have to be rated as one of the top one or two callers in the world, hand-builds all of our calls," Hale says. "Parrish is definitely in the 'who's who' when it comes to mouth diaphragm calls." The call boasts lots of high-pitched rasp and is as durable as any mouth diaphragm on the market. ($10; knightandhale.com)

Primos Heart Breaker

According to Jimmy Primos, the Heart Breaker series of box calls comprises heirloom-quality calls made from mahogany and purpleheart wood that can help snuff out the lights on a big gobbler. "You can buy a Heart Breaker and get something that is very, very close to one that someone paid two hundred dollars for," Primos says. Run one of them yourself and you'll likely agree. ($65; primos.com)

Rut N Strut Crow Call

Tim Sandford, a champion friction-call maker, admits that a hunter can buy a less expensive crow call than his. But the owner of Rut N Strut Game Calls is certain there aren't too many out there that sound as realistic or look as pretty as his exotic laminatedwood calls. "It's better than a plastic call and it's something you can hang onto and then hand down to somebody else," Sandford says.

The wood hails from forms used to manufacture stocks for shotguns Remington supplied to Olympic shooters during the last games. After the stocks were cut, the scrap was collected and obtained by Sandford. The wood is laminated in red, blue and natural colors with a polymer resin baked into it to increase its density. Its density and Sandford's treatment of the reeds are what give this call its unique tone. ($20; rutnstrutgamecalls.com)

Preston's Sapphire

Preston Pittman, the mouth-calling contest legend from Mississippi, made a name for himself among hunters with his original Black Diamond ultra-thin four-reed call. Now there's another jewel in the Pittman diaphragm call line: the Sapphire, which features two ultra-thin reeds with a diamond cut. From the careful selection of the rubber to the use of a micrometer to gauge its thickness to the hand-stretching of the material onto the call frame, Pittman puts 35 years of call-making experience into each Sapphire that he sells. Despite all that effort, this little blue call is still as inexpensive as a standard discount store offering. ($6; pittmangamecalls.com)