When God created the wild turkey, I bet he never knew how much stress He would cause us turkey hunters. Mastering a variety of available hen sounds to bring in a lovesick gobbler within gun or bow range is the object of the game. But doing so requires lots of practice and experience. To pull off the task of coming home packing 20 pounds heavier, turkey hunters have an ever-growing stash of calls to get the job done. Included in these calls are box calls, slate calls, mouth diaphragm calls, wing-bone calls, gobble calls, owl calls, crow calls, and woodpecker calls just to name a few.
The owl call, crow call, and woodpecker call are the three most common calls to locate a Tom (mature gobbler) without using turkey calls. Using a turkey call too early can cause the gobbler to fully commit to you before you are set up to make a shot.
Owl Call: Using an owl hoot early in the morning and late in the afternoon is a great way to pinpoint gobblers. I like to use an owl call roughly 30 minutes prior to sunrise and in the afternoon before they go to roost as a last minute locator. I lay off the owl call once the crows begin to caw in the morning.
Crow call: I have had multiple successes using a crow call late in the morning and throughout the day. Keep the crow call short so you can listen carefully for a gobbler’s gobble and not drown him out.
Woodpecker Call: Just like the crow call, you can use this call during the day to make a gobbler give away his whereabouts.
Types of Turkey Calls
The most common of the turkey calls are a box call, slate call, and mouth diaphragm calls. You can perform all kinds of pitches, yelps, purrs, clucks, and cutts using each one of the above types of calls. As with any call, practice makes perfection. Pay attention and listen to the hens while you are turkey hunting and pick up on the sounds they make as well as their mannerisms. When it comes to turkey calling, mix it up, use a variation of rhythms /cadences, and stick to what makes him gobble. Calling in gobblers is a lot like sales. Your calls are the sale pitch and once he commits, be quiet and let him close the deal.
Box Calls: This is one of the simplest types of friction calls to master. Make sure you keep your playing surfaces of the box call chalked to ensure a consistent sound. The only disadvantage of these types of calls is that you cannot use them in the rain and it also requires the use of both hands and movement.
Slate Calls: These types of friction calls require a slate and a striker. The slate can be made out of different types of hardwoods as well as glass, aluminum, and ceramic surfaces which produce different pitches. Keep the surfaces of your slates sanded in the same direction and clean of fingerprints and debris to ensure consistent amplifying sounds. Apply the striker in a downward and circular rotation to make the sound you are looking for. As with the box call, a slate call also requires both hands and cannot be used in wet conditions. The angle and how you hold the striker and how you cup the slate along with the pressure applied determines the sound created.
Mouth Diaphragms: These calls consist of latex rubber as reeds and are horse-shoe shaped. They can come with multiple reeds in different types of shapes that produce different sounds. Place the diaphragm in your mouth with rounded side to the back and pressed to the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Keep the reed that is the longest on top. To generate sound from your diaphragm, blow air across the reed which causes the reed to vibrate and make a sound. This is one of the most difficult calls to master. It takes a lot of practice. To avoid driving my family and friends crazy, I usually practice this call while in the truck driving by myself. The advantages of a mouth diaphragm are it requires no visual movement and can be used in any type of weather condition. I almost always start my calling using a slate or box call and as the gobbler closes the distance, I stick to my mouth diaphragm call to remain unseen with no movement. Using your hand cupped around your mouth to change the direction of where the call came from is beneficial as well.
Sounds of Turkeys
Fly-down or Fly-up Cackle: A cackle is a short and loud series of cuts increasing in pitch towards the end. This call is used to notify a gobbler that a hen has headed to the ground from the roost.
Cutt: Loud sharp clucks usually mixed in with yelping. This resembles a sound of an excited hen. I have more success getting gobblers to respond gobbling to this call than any other. It is my go-to call.
Yelp: The most basic turkey sound. If you can master this sound, you can harvest a wild turkey. It’s a basic turkey sound delivered in a series of single notes. I like to change the cadence of this call from fast to slow to mimic the excitement of a hen.
Purr: A soft rolling sound demonstrating a turkeys’ contentment. I often use this sound mixed in with some soft clucks to bring in a gobbler that may be hung up and out of range. This works well when used in conjunction of a Jake (young male turkey), or strutting decoy, along with hen decoys.
Gobbles: This is music to a turkey hunter’s ear. It’s the gurgling sound of a male turkey notifying other turkeys of his presence and dominance. I like to use this call to draw a dominate Tom to you looking for a fight.
Putt: A turkey hunters’ worst sound. It’s an alarming sound of single or several sharp notes. However, you can use this call to your advantage. As you ready for the shot on a gobbler, simply make a putt sound, and the gobbler usually will break his strut and raise his head for a clean quick kill.
Every turkey hunter has their call of preference. I am by no means a championship turkey caller, but I have had some success leaving the woods with a gobbler over my shoulder. Mastering types of calls comes with turkey hunting wisdom. Every spring, I enter the turkey woods a little wiser than the previous spring. Learning and understanding not only the sounds turkeys make, but also the mannerisms is important. I enjoy hunting turkeys with other hunters who I would consider to be much better turkey callers than myself. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! The more you practice, the better you get, just like anything in life. Of all things in turkey hunting, what harvests more turkeys than anything else is patience and persistence. Some hunts may last only five minutes while others can take all day. But, at the end of it all, that ten second adrenaline rush through your body is what turkey hunting is all about. Hunt Strong!