True hunters know the joy and excitement of hunting Turkey. Venturing into the woods, stalking your prey, and facing your quarry as you aim down the sights of your gun. However, while turkeys aren’t known for being particularly dangerous, their keen instincts, superior senses, and good speeds allow them to avoid predators with ease. For that reason, it’s best to make them come to you by using a turkey call?
Turkeys are social creatures, and for the most part, they can’t resist teaming up with members of their flock. But, knowing how to call them properly requires skill, practice, and lots of patience. Now, prepare for the hunt because this season is your time to shine in the battle for the biggest turkey in the woods using our basic tips for turkey calling!
1. Using a Turkey Call 101
Knowing is half the battle and the first tip any professional hunter will give you is to read up on the basics in order gain some rudimentary knowledge of calls.
A turkey call consists of three different parts: the frame, the reed latex, and tape. You’ll first place the tape into your mouth first and ensure that the reed faces out. Creating a seal requires that you press the call towards the roof of your mouth by resting it on your tongue. Finally, the call produces sounds as you push air through the reeds, these vibrations simulate sounds turkeys make in the wild.
Altering the airflow and pressure by using your tongue allows you to change the tone of the call. New hunters should practice these techniques often. Especially, when it comes to increasing the amount of time you can hold the tone as it will help you sound more natural. Afterwards, focus on training your cadence, as the rhythm is key when using a turkey call.
Keep in mind, that you shouldn’t be biting down on your call, this will prevent you from using your diaphragm effectively. Blowing air from your lungs and mouth does not make convincing turkey sounds. Instead, focus on simulating the beak opening motions that they use to make sounds. This will give you an edge over the competition.
Remember, when you use a call, you’re basically trying to convince a tom that you’re a hen looking for attention. For that reason, using the different vocalizations in lower, soften tones will help you attract more prey. Having the knowledge of the different sounds will ultimately help you get more kills.
2. Know the Calls and Sounds
Turkeys have quite a few vocalizations while out in the wild; these sounds can include, but are not limited to the following (you’ll find the common ones in bold):
- Cutt: Fast erratic notes, made by turkeys who are looking for companions, and has quite the range.
- Clucks: Staccato notes that comprise of one or more sounds. These are usually done in bouts of two or three clucks. Turkeys normally use these to bring attention to themselves, hence their good for bringing in the prey to yourself.
- Gobbles: If you hear this sound, you know there is an excited male in the area. Hearing this is a great sign and using calls effectively at this point can bag you an easy kill.
- Purrs: Similar to cats, happy turkeys tend to purr (usually when they’re feeding). A soft call by nature, it’s often perfect for reassuring turkeys that are approaching you that the area is safe.
- Putts: While putts sound similar to clucks, they have a different meaning. Turkey’s that are fleeing will use these to warn their flock of impending danger. It sounds like an short excited cluck.
- Yelps: Turkeys use these for multiple reasons, but they’re usually single note vocalizations.
- Cackles: Used by turkeys who leave the roost and head down to the ground, it’s a series of quick clucks and cuts and you can hear them flapping their wings as they land.
- Kee-Kees: Young turkeys make these calls, and hunters mostly use it during the spring and fall. Adult turkeys have their version of it.
Recognizing all of these will make turkey season that much easier for any hunter. However, additional factors play into the call you’ll want to use. Ultimately, whatever works will depend on the season, time, and even the individual animal.
Keep in mind, it’s hard to predict which call will work at any given time, seasoned hunters know that by heart. For that reason, it is important that newer hunters familiarize themselves quickly with each call and not only common ones.
3. Choose the Right Call and Move On to the Next
Below you’ll find a list of each of the different calls used by hunters, manufacturers are constantly improving these products:
- Turkey Box: Made using the sound of a lid sliding across a box’s surface. These produce the loudest noise out of all of the calls, and are extremely convenient.
- Push-Pull: Using a pushing/pulling system to force a peg across a surface, creating realistic turkey sounds through fiction.
- Diaphragm: You insert the call into your mouth (fully inside) and use your diaphragm to make the call, requiring a healthy dose of practice in order to master due to its nature.
- Turkey locator: Using the sound of other birds such as crows, hawks, owls, and even ambient sounds like a rock hitting a surface, these calls will force turkey’s to react in shock and give away their location.
- Wingbone calls: This call uses suction to make hollow yelp. They used to be made from wingbones in the past, and you might be able to find some that are still made with them to this day.
- Tube turkey call: Probably the most popular call, it’s used to make almost every single noise that a turkey can make, normally made in the form of a hollow barrel and an elastic band that affixes latex to the upper portion.
- Turkey Friction: A common call used for its ability to simulate turkey noises with ease, even for beginners. They use a round surface (made from aluminum, slate, glass or other materials) to create sounds with the draw of a “striker” across the surface.
At first, you’ll want to find one that you’re comfortable with, and start practicing with it. However, once you’ve gotten a feel for that, move on to the next one. This is because each call works differently, and as we mentioned earlier, turkeys can make quite a variety of sounds. Knowing how to use each one effectively will make you a deadly and versatile hunter.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve gotten a hang of using the call, you’ll want to improve the enunciation of your sounds. Slurring your sounds will actually make it harder to hunt. For that reason, you’ll want to enunciate the sounds as clearly as possible.
If you ever observe wild turkeys in their environment, you’ll notice that hen’s open their beaks every time they make a sound, you’ll want to copy this behavior to make your notes come out as naturally as possible. Separate the sounds, and avoid slurring as much as possible.
This will be hard at first, but after some practice, you’ll become quite adept at using your calls.
5. Ask a Pro for Help and Guidance
Seasoned hunters are probably the biggest asset you’ll have when it comes to gaining some second-hand experience for using turkey calls. Chances are if you’re into hunting, you already know one or two people who have experience hunting turkeys, and you should totally make plans to take a trip with them once or twice.
Additionally, there are some tactical advantages to having someone that can use a call from a distance away, keeping your prey unaware of your location and allowing you to ambush them with ease.
As such, not only can you learn to use turkey calls faster, but also you can potentially score more kills at the end of the day.
6. Vary your Arsenal
Turkey calls are effective, however, if you abuse the same ones repeatedly, the turkeys will catch on to your tricks. Fleeing anytime, they start hearing it. Varying your calls will effectively keep turkeys guessing, and unaware of your presence.
Calls vary by product; using different calls (even if they’re the same type just with different materials) can make a huge difference for you at the end of the day. Because as we mentioned earlier the designs can and will affect the tone and sounds that result from using it.
Seasoned hunters will carry a few varieties of each call at hand in other to hunt effectively, and while you might feel over encumbered, the results will inevitably be worth it. Variety is, after all, the key to any hunter’s arsenal.
7. Patience is a Virtue
Inexperienced hunters tend to lean towards impatient behaviors that draw off turkeys. For whatever reason, newbies tend to be under the impression that continuously calling the turkeys will draw them in. When in fact, the opposite is true.
Patience is the key to hunting, keeping your calls to 15 minutes interval will avoid suspicion and helps you draw turkeys in slowly over time.
Why is that? Well, if you ever stop to think about it, turkeys don’t continuously make sounds in the wild (this draws unnecessary attention to them from predators such as yourself), and they’ll interpret the constant noise as a threat in the area.
8. Enough is enough
Once you’ve spotted a turkey, it means he’s within range of your shot, at this point you need to stop calling. There are quite a few reasons for this, but the most important one is that if you screw up your call, they might start fleeing.
Also if he’s well within range and just turns around, don’t panic, assess the situation, see if you can make the shot, if not consider whether it’s a good time to call again. Just remember, that there is a 50% chance that it might not work.
9. Understanding your Prey
Wild turkeys are smart, and knowing how they operate will help you in the end. Turkeys tend to relax during the afternoon, and yelping loudly is an easy way to get them actively worked up.
However because turkey calls work by tricking males into thinking you’re a hen looking for company, you’ll want discern when a soft purr will be the most useful tactic.
On the contrary, a loud call can be more effective on days where it is windy or where you can’t find traces of turkey’s nearby. These will help you reduce the distance or at least locate some nearby.
Once you have spotted some, it’s time to switch to softer sounds such as clucking and purring, these will draw them into your range. This is also the case in areas you haven’t explored yet, as you don’t know if there is prey nearby. Using your call too loudly in those situations might just alert them to your presence and send them flying (metaphorically speaking).
Another aspect to consider is the fact that different breeds of turkey will have a slight variation to their sounds. Before going out to hunt, research the breed you’re going to be dealing with in your area and find the types of call that work most effectively for them.
Mastering the techniques of turkey calling will require some effort, but with time and patience, you can completely dominate it. Just remember that bringing an experienced friend can help you understand the basics faster, and ensure you’re fully licensed for the sport before going out there. Minimizing the distance between you and the prey can help you draw him in closer with your call, but around 300 feet should be enough (any closer and you might scare him off). Use the environment to maximize your advantage, and hide your movements (thus reducing the chances of being spotted), and use your call to draw it in. Once that’s done, it’s all a matter of aiming down sight pulling the trigger! With some luck, you’ll score a headshot and leave feeling victorious.