The chilet, more commonly known as a call, is an indispensable accessory for game bird hunters. But do you know how it is made? Do you know how to use it? We explain it all to you in this article.
Since prehistoric times, humans have sought to improve their hunting techniques in pursuit of food. Luring birds to be captured has long been one of our priorities. To this end, imitating the birds' song was a solution that was very quickly implemented using natural calls made from grass, leaves, or shells. Over the centuries, some people began to work with various materials to create the first bird calls. It was in the region of Carpentras, in Provence, that Théodore Raymond created the first industrial bird calls. He was a young man from the region who developed a whole series of instruments enabling him to "dialogue" with birds. Local hunters were his very first clients. They understood the importance of these calls in the hunting of game birds in particular.
A call, by its name, is an instrument used for calling. In Provence, a region where game bird hunting is extremely popular, the term "chilet" is used. The call is, in turn, the instrument used to call other birds. To make a clear distinction between the two, the term chilet is used to refer to instruments used to imitate bird song. Today, in our article, we will thus use the term chilet to designate the calls used for hunting game birds.
Only a handful of companies in the world make chilets. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The first chilets were made from natural elements. Very quickly, for reasons of fragility and resistance to humidity, brass was used to manufacture these devices. Improvements in machine tools made it possible to manufacture many different models. Today, hundreds of chilets are offered on the world market.
Nowadays, you can find chilets made of brass, plastic, and wood on the market. Brass is used for mouth chilets because it provides a wide range of vibrations. Wood, especially boxwood, is also used in the manufacture of mouth calls. It is a particularly good conductor of sound. Other species such as beech and hornbeam are used to make friction calls.
Chiler is an art whereby you can make a game bird want to come and see who is playing it a sweet melody. Choosing the right chilet, making it play the right note, is not an easy task. At the start of the season, almost anyone can arouse the curiosity of the first female game birds, however, as the season progresses, matters become more complicated. In principle, it becomes more and more difficult to outwit birds that have been hunted for weeks. Only the very good chilers manage to get away with it and continue to bewitch the game birds.
Chiling is considered a gift by some people and a learning process by others. To learn, there are two solutions: either know someone who masters it or go to a training school. In Provence, certain associations seek to pass on the tradition. In the 2000s, the first Chiler school was created in the Bouches-du-Rhône. Today, several schools in other counties (départements) have the same goal. They enable people to learn the art of chilling, not to be confused with another word in the world, "chiller". A specific method has even been developed. It is the Caffo method, named after Claude Caffo, its inventor. A method that uses sheet music, along with notions of pitch and intonation. A true art for true artists.
Chilets, the calls game birds respond to
Depending on the game bird, there are a range of different chilets. We will not be able to detail them all here, but we can point out a few concepts:
For the music thrush:
The bellows call or the screw call are used for the usual call. They enable you to imitate the "tsic-tsic" or "tchic-tchic" when the birds are in the woods in the morning. For the bellows call, simply tap on the back of the call. For the screw call, just turn the metal screw with a sharp twist. The mouth chilet is used for the mating call. The love call of the male is reproduced by aspiration.
For the wolf thrush:
Mouth chilets are used for the call song and the mating call. These are smaller than those used for the music thrush. This is also done by aspiration.
For the litorne thrush:
The number of chilets is reduced. The mouth chilet is used primarily to imitate the famous "cha-cha".
For the drake thrush:
Its "trrrrré" sound is difficult to recreate. Some people use a blackbird mouth chilet to try to get as close as possible to the song of this thrush.
As we can see, there is a wide range of chilets. The better chilers generally use between 3 and 4 of them. Some people, who have perfectly mastered "the music", use a single chilet and manage to imitate all imaginable songs. And you, is this your experience?
The first championships took place in the Var region at the beginning of the 20th century. Even to this day, competitions are organised during numerous events in the South-East of France to designate regional champions. 4 categories are represented: the music thrush, the wolf thrush, the blackbird, and the miscellaneous bird category. A European championship was created in 1998. Representatives from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal compete to designate the best imitators of the music thrush, the wolf thrush, and the blackbird. France boasts an impressive number of victories, including the latest in 2019.
As we have just seen in this short presentation, the bird call, or rather the chilet, is a necessary instrument for hunting game birds. It comes in a variety of shapes and materials - it is an object you need to learn to use. Once the technique is learned and worked on, it enables you to "communicate" with game birds. How about you? Are you able to use the chilets well when you go game bird hunting?