Calling predators isn’t complicated. Colicky babies can do it. But babies are inconvenient in the field. Mouth-blown predator calls are handy but not very versatile. And blowing them with intensity can leave you gasping for breath. Recorded sounds on portable digital media players operated via remote control, on the other hand, offer several advantages.
A great electronic predator call should be durable yet light and compact, with a minimum of parts to lose. The best predator calls can be programmed with dozens of wildlife sounds. Some units use two or even four speakers. Most let you add additional speakers, which could further improve sound output. Some even have auxiliary jacks for adding motion decoys or video cameras.
There’s a lot to consider when shopping for an electronic predator call. That’s why we rounded up four of the latest offerings from top manufacturers or electronic predator callers and tested them over the course of a week last October in the high desert of southwestern Idaho. Here’s what we found.
★ ★ ★ ★ – Excellent
★ ★ ★ – Very Good
★ ★ – Good
★ – Fair
OL’s Protocal Explained
We began by reading each manual and following basic directions for charging and setting up the predator calls. We operated each of them with an eye to quality of construction, an ear to sound quality and volume, and a feel for ergonomics and ease of use. Controls and sounds were tested at 50, 100, 150, and 200 yards. Two testers relied on more than 40 years of calling experience in making subjective judgements on volume and sound quality.
Keep in mind that predators seem much less discriminating of sound than people are. Darn near any kind of squeak, whine, or cry can lure predators of various species. A library of hundreds of authentic wildlife sounds may or may not be a huge advantage.
<em>Pros:</em> Transmitter controls are easy to see and in easy reach of your thumb. Legible readouts, illuminated in orange, white, or red, show barometric pressure, moon phase, temperature, elapsed time, and battery and volume levels. Four hot buttons activate pre-programmed sounds at preset volumes. Proprietary technology includes Fox Bang, which switches to a preset call at the report of a gunshot, and Fox Data, which records each calling session's duration, sounds used, temperature, and similar data. Four speakers fold out 180 degrees and are powered by two 25-watt amplifiers to produce superb sound and volume on a variety of recordings (it comes with 100, but there's space for 1,000). Other features include two extra speaker jacks, an auxiliary outlet for a decoy (sold separately), and a tripod screw base. <em>Cons:</em> Multi-button operation can be complicated and requires concentrated study to set up and learn to the unit's full potential. <strong>Test Result</strong><br />
OVERALL: ★ ★ ★ ★<br />
VOLUME: A+<br />
SOUND QUALITY: A+<br />
EASE OF USE: C+<br />
DURABILITY: A<br />
PRICE/VALUE: B+<br />
PRICE: <a href="http://www.gofoxpro.com/site/">$600</a><br />
CONTROL RANGE: 200 yards<br />
DECOY: No <strong>Final Word:</strong> The Shockwave maintains Foxpro's position at the top of the predator e-caller heap, but all that proprietary technology doesn't come cheap.
Primos Alpha Dogg
<em>Pros:</em> The ergonomic transmitter displays in white/green (day) or red/green (night) with adjustable brightness. A total of 75 sounds are arranged by species and two hot buttons play ki-yi and rodent squeak sounds (the decoy button can be a third hot button). Pre-recorded Expert Hunt call sets feature six performances by pros. Two gigabytes of memory store up to 1,000 sounds. Dual 25-watt amplifiers crank three speakers, two of which rotate 180 degrees. The speaker covers fold down neatly to become legs. Additional features include a decoy outlet (decoy sold separately) and a tripod screw base. <em>Cons:</em> The speakers can only be controlled by the transmitter. Home-work is required to fully understand all the controls and features. <strong>Test Result</strong><br />
OVERALL: ★ ★ ★ ★<br />
VOLUME: A+<br />
SOUND QUALITY: A-<br />
EASE OF USE: B-<br />
DURABILITY: A-<br />
PRICE/VALUE: A<br />
PRICE: <a href="http://www.primos.com/">$320</a><br />
CONTROL RANGE: 200 yards<br />
DECOY: No <strong>Final Word:</strong> Nearly half the price of the Shockwave, but hardly half the call. The Alpha Dogg promises to deliver a huge return on your investment.
Mojo Outdoors Double Trouble
<em>Pros</em>: The transmitter's red backlight prevents night blindness and the display shows battery and volume levels, mute, elapsed time, signal strength, and hot buttons. The motion decoy is simple, quiet, and easily controlled from the transmitter, so it can be used sparingly at just the right moment. Four hot buttons play user-programmed sounds at preset volumes, and a recall button lets you switch between two pre-selected calls at preset volumes. Features include an extra speaker jack, a battery charger port, a USB port for uploading new sounds, and a tripod base. <em>Cons</em>: The durability of the retractable legs is suspect. The integrated speaker is small, though an external speaker can be added. The transmitter shows just three sounds per screen, so scrolling through 50 takes a while. The diamond shape and spacing of the buttons on the transmitter makes one-thumb control clumsy. Non-illuminated buttons can't be seen in the dark. The transmitter activates sound from 50 yards max (decoy from 70). <strong>Test Result</strong><br />
OVERALL: ★ ★ ★<br />
VOLUME: B-<br />
SOUND QUALITY: B-<br />
EASE OF USE: B<br />
DURABILITY: B<br />
PRICE/VALUE: C<br />
PRICE: <a href="http://mojooutdoors.com/">$400 </a><br />
CONTROL RANGE: 50-70 yards<br />
DECOY: Yes <strong>Final Word:</strong> The Double Trouble has the potential to be a great call, but there's also plenty of room for improvement here.
Cass Creek Waggler
<em>Pros</em>: A red on light makes it easy to see if the speaker is working. The transmitter is relatively simple and easy to use with one hand, and a sound ends with a simple push of the same button that started it. Three mode buttons and five selection buttons produce a total of 15 commands for sounds, decoy motion, and scent dispersion (yes, scent dispersion). The unit is capable of playing two sounds simultaneously. The transmitter activates sound and decoy from 100 yards, decoy-only from 150 yards. Sleep mode conserves batteries after two hours of non-use. A storage compartment in the bottom of the unit stows the decoy and rod pieces, anchor stakes, and transmitter. A nylon carry strap is attached to the bottom. <em>Cons</em>: The decoy motor is noisy. There's just one speaker and no auxiliary jack. You're limited to the 10 sounds it comes loaded with. The scent dispenser fan is sort of gimmicky and a drain on the battery. Non-illuminated control buttons can't be seen in the dark. The tiny transmitter is difficult to use with gloved hands. <strong>Test Result</strong><br />
OVERALL: ★ ★ ½<br />
VOLUME: C+<br />
SOUND QUALITY: C<br />
EASE OF USE: B+<br />
DURABILITY: C+<br />
PRICE/VALUE: B<br />
PRICE: <a href="http://www.casscreek.com/">$140</a><br />
CONTROL RANGE: 100- 150 yards<br />
DECOY: Yes <strong>Final Word:</strong> The scent dispenser will likely be more effective at attracting prospective buyers than coyotes.
It's difficult to think of an outdoor pursuit about which "purists" don't chime in to criticize any technological advance that makes the sport either more accessible, more appealing, or more effective. However, predator hunting is one that the purists haven't yet denigrated. AR-style rifles, compound bows, crossbows, scent-control clothing, trail cameras, fish finders, and more have all incurred the wrath of those who feel that the products cheapen the experience their makers set out to improve. But you never hear anyone complain about the use of electronic callers to lure in coyotes and other predators. And thank goodness for that. It's heartening that the entire hunting community can get behind predator management by any (legal) means necessary. After all, even if coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and wolves aren't your preferred game species, we all hold some stake in the control of their populations, whether we enjoy hunting waterfowl, upland birds, or any of North America's big-game species. Now that most hunting seasons are closed, consider buying an e-caller and helping manage your local predator populations.