Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Turkey Calling made easy

By far the most frequent question I get asked about turkey hunting is “What type of calls should I use?” which is usually followed by “What are the best calls to lure a tom to me?”

Lets start with the type of calls. In my personal opinion friction calls, such as the slate and the box call are by far the best calls to use for several reasons. A friction call is easy to learn. Any hunter, even a novice or a child, will be able to produce a decent turkey sound on a box call or slate call within minutes. Friction calls, and that is strictly my opinion, sound more natural than mouth diaphragm calls. Also, many hunters – myself included - just can’t handle a mouth diaphragm call. The moment I put one of these calls in my mouth I get terrible gag reflexes causing me to cough. Mouth diaphragm calls also have a very steep learning curve. There is no such thing as putting one of these latex pieces in your mouth and sounding right away like a turkey. Oh, no. You will have to learn how to blow the air through the call for weeks or even for months until you can produce a decent sound.

Having said all that against the mouth diaphragm call, there are significant advantages in using one. The biggest of these advantages is being able to operate a mouth call with no hand movements, which is necessary to avoid being detected by an eagle-eyed tom looking for that lovesick hen. Since I can’t use a mouth call for close-in work for reasons stated earlier, I use the next best thing to a mouth call, which is the push, and pull friction call. With my gun mounted I rest the barrel on the call and if I need for the tom to take one or two more steps I just push the peg on the call with my forefinger to produce a gentle purr. In 90% of the cases this simple purr will do the trick, while the movement of my finger is obstructed from the toms view by the shotgun barrel.

This brings me to the turkey calls that I think work best on toms. I am sure most of you have been to a turkey hunting seminar or a turkey calling contest or at least have seen a turkey hunting video. The calling produced in these venues is simply amazing and a good source to hear the different sounds turkeys make and what it should sound like when these calls are properly reproduced. But don’t be fooled that this is actually how you call to a tom in the real hunting scenario. In a turkey calling contest the caller does not try to impress a big old tom, he has to impress the contest judges and the audience. In other words the contestant puts on a show. Seminars and hunting videos are aimed at the hunters as potential customer. It’s a sales pitch. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I have observed turkeys for many years. In these observations I have found that turkeys keep their communication really simple. Most hens don’t talk much at all. Especially in places that see a lot of hunters and where turkeys have become smart over the years. What I use are yelps, clucks with the odd cackle mixed in but mostly I use soft purrs. Remember, a turkey hen tries to attract the attention of a tom telling him; “Here I am come to me I need some love”. She is not chattering to her neighbor across the fence and she is not in an aggressive mood. To begin my calling session I usually start with a short series of yelps at different pitches just to figure out what the resident toms like to hear. Once I get a response from him I keep the yelping at that pitch. To make it more interesting for the tom I add some clucks and when he comes closer I add lots of soft purrs.

It’s a good tactic to stop calling for a while as the tom comes closer. This gives him the impression that the hen perhaps has lost interest and this in turn makes him move faster toward the hen. Another good tactic, especially when the tom is in the company of hens is to duplicate the exact sound the hen makes. If the hen yelps then I yelp too in the exact pitch and duration, if she clucks so do I. What this does is to annoy the turkey hen. She will come to check out what other hen dares to mimic her. As she comes to you so does her companion the tom. Sometimes a tom hangs up and no amount of calling you do will bring him any closer. In this situation I keep quiet but the moment he wants to walk away I purr at him. This often does the trick to bring him closer. This tug of war can go on for some time until the tom can’t stand it anymore and curiosity gets the better of him.

If you only learn how to yelp, cluck and purr you have all the sounds that are needed to be a successful turkey caller. Above all make your calls sound natural. With that I mean try to put some emotion in your calling. Not so long ago I listened to a hunter producing a monotonous series of yelps. That is not how a real turkey sounds like. Turkeys move around, turning their heads from left to right as they look for an approaching tom. The sounds shift around fading in and out, which can be easily duplicated by moving the call to either side or behind you. At the same time gently shuffle the ground a bit with your feet to mimic a turkey scratching the leaves. Instead of the monotonous yelp – yelp try to change the cadence and pitch of the calling. In other words give your calling some live.

Observe wild turkeys on your pre-season scouting trips and watch how they behave and what vocalizations they use and how they sound. You will soon find out that turkey calling is not a science and you do not have to be a master-turkey-caller. Get out in the woods and have some fun hunting and calling big toms.

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Editor said...

thanks for a very well written article.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thanks editor. I am glad you like the article.

-Othmar Vohringer-

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