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Blackhorn Powder
Rifle Magazine
September - October 2004
Volume 2, Number 5
ISSN: 0
Number 11
On the cover...
Cover photo by Donald M. Jones.
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Hunter’s Specialties’ Preymaster Digital Caller

I’m old-fashioned. I’ve been calling coyotes, foxes and bobcats all these years using mouth-blown calls – including an ancient wood-bodied Circe call I bought sometime around the end of the Jurassic Age. The calls usually worked just fine, although I’ve been caught with only a jackrabbit-in-distress call in my pocket when the local varmints were apparently sick and tired of jackrabbit gumbo. When they ignored my only song, I had no backup to go to.

Then again, I may have blown a few sour notes. Foxes and yodel dogs usually aren’t terribly discriminating in their taste in “come to dinner” music (bobcats are!), but after they’ve heard too many ersatz bunny shrieks and learned to associate them with rifle fire, they can become pretty picky.

Stamina can be a problem too. Done continuously or intermittently 20 minutes at a stretch, blowing a call becomes down­right tiresome. Pro­fessional saxophone or trumpet players may be immune to call fatigue, but as the day wears on, I’m certainly not. Some­times I’ve quit a stand too early simply because I was tired of calling.

Years ago, I briefly considered using a battery-powered caller. In those days, these calls were built around a cassette tape deck, required heavy 6-volt or a handful of D-cell batteries and were both bulky and heavy. If you wanted the voices of multiple animals on hand, that meant carrying a cassette tape for each of them. A half-dozen tapes made a pretty good bulge in your pocket. After checking out a couple of these early calls, I decided to stick with the collection of mouth-blown calls I already had.

Wandering through the Hunter’s Specialties web site a few months ago, I chanced upon a description of Johnny Stewart’s Preymaster Digital Caller. The unit is both light (mine weighs just 32 ounces, complete with four AA batteries) and compact. Best of all, there are no bulky (sometimes balky) tape cassettes to fuss with. The Prey­master is a totally digital unit that comes equipped with 12 different sounds designed to attract hungry critters. The sounds are contained in interchangeable digital chips roughly the size of a book of paper matches.

Switching chips takes only a second. There are four different sounds on each chip, and three chips are supplied with the unit. Additional chips can be purchased separately.

Available sounds include the Coyote (1), Desperate Cottontail (102G), Pleading Chicken (112 – this doesn’t really sound like a chicken pleading for its life; it sounds more like an incredibly tough barnyard fowl threatening another animal), Fawn Bleating (155), Coywolf Barks and Howls (168), Coyote (4), Baby Cottontail (102B), Distressed Rodent (105A), Kid Goat Distress (123) and Coyote/ Grey Fox (166). A General Predator No. 1 chip contains Juvenile Cotton- tail (102F), Gobbler Distress (114D), Flicker (116D) and House­cat in Distress (125A) sounds. And that’s just a sample – there’s a total of 72 different sounds to choose from. Another Preymaster unit is available for calling deer.

When I got the Preymaster, I discovered you could play two different sounds at the same time. The PDA-sized control is easy to use, and each sound is clearly marked. There’s an On/Off button, Volume Up and Volume Down buttons and a selector button for each sound – that’s it for controls.

In addition to the control unit (which sports a belt clip and removable lanyard) and a trio of digital sound chips, the Preymaster comes with a weatherproof speaker, a 10-foot speaker cord and a 50-foot extension cord that allows you to place the speaker in a remote location.

The first time I used the Prey­master, I was hunting for coyotes in high desert country 70 miles from home. I knew the local yodel dogs had been thoroughly educated on blown rabbit calls, so I tried the bleating fawn chip. There were plenty of deer in the area, including a number of fawns. I was betting a fawn in trouble would quickly get a predator’s attention.

No coyotes showed up, but five minutes after I started calling, a doe charged in, clearly riled and looking to stomp some toothy critter into guava jelly. The deer came within 10 feet, making me a little nervous. I’d placed the call at my feet, where it could be handily reached to change volume or switch to another sound. Moving slowly, I thumbed the call to the “Off” position. I thought I was pretty well camouflaged, but the deer stared right at me, then stamped her feet, whirled and left. I figured if the call fooled another deer, it should easily fox a coyote.

I tried several different locations, hunting hard from dawn to dusk.  In spite of the realistic calls the Preymaster produced, I saw no coyotes, tracks or other sign indicating any yodel dog presence. Even Coydog Barks and Howls brought no answering response. This area had been productive in the past, and I had a sneaking suspicion the local sheep men and cattle ranchers had been doing a little after-hours eradication work.

I have a few prairie dog hunts scheduled soon, and I’ll be taking the Prey­master along. When I’m not popping picket pins, I plan to do some serious varmint hunting. Where dog towns proliferate, coyotes are likely to be nearby. I expect the new digital call will get a lot of use. It retails for $170.

For more information about the Preymaster Dig­ital Caller, you can contact Hunter’s Specialties, Inc., Dept. SH, 6000 Huntington Court N.E., Cedar Rapids IA 52402-1268; or you can call toll free 1-800-728-0321; or go online and visit at: www.hunterspec.com.

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