Turkey Calls

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Locator Calls

During the frenzied mating season, toms strut around full of sexual frustration and pent-up energy. They let off steam by “shock gobbling” at an owl’s hoots, a crow’s caws, a coyote’s howls or other calls of the wild. You play off this by using locator calls in the spring to yank gobbles from roosted or strutting birds. Once a tom shock gobbles and reveals his location, you then move in, set up and work him with hen calls.

Mimicking the 1- to 8-note hoots of a barred owl is the most popular way to make turkeys gobble. Learn to owl hoot with your voice or buy a reed-style hooter (most every turkey call company sells a model). Owl hooting is most effective when gobblers are still roosted at dawn.

The best locator call going is a crow call. Simply blow it hard and loud to make turkeys shock gobble anytime of day (series of 3 or 4 caws work great). Other good locator calls include a coyote howler, a hawk whistle, a woodpecker call and even a peacock screamer.

Pack at least 3 locating devices in your vest. Sometimes a tom won’t gobble at hoots, but he’ll roar like a banshee at caws, howls or other sounds.

Box Calls

Most long, rectangular boxes are built from maple, cherry, walnut, poplar and other woods. Boxes and their handles are held together with a tuning screw on one end. You chalk the handle and scrape it over the call’s sounding lip or board to talk turkey.

Box Call Pros and Cons

Pros: Box calls are easy to use right out of the package. They make highly realistic clucks and yelps and are great for sharp, loud cutting.

Cons: Boxes are big and bulky to carry, though many vests have zippered box-call pockets that minimize this problem. A box will call on its own as you walk unless you wrap it with a stout rubber band. When you work a box there’s some movement, so be careful when a gobbler is close. Wooden boxes won’t work in the rain.

Box Calling Tips

* Lay a box lightly in your palm, and keep your fingers off the call’s sideboards. Hold the handle in your fingertips and scrape it lightly over the sounding board. Gradually increase handle pressure for louder calls.

* Try the vertical hold (my favorite). Place a call in your palm, turn your hand sideways and work the handle up and down.

* To yelp move a handle an inch off one side of a box and work it gently. Don’t lift the handle off the sounding lip, just scrape it along.

* To cluck, lift the handle slightly and pop it on the sounding board. String fast, irregular clucks together to cutt.

* Box calls are hand-tuned by manufacturers, but you can get higher or lower pitches by adjusting the handle screw.

* Use dry, wax-free chalk on a box (many call companies sell green, brown or blue chalk for the job). Chalk a box periodically during a day of hunting.

Pot Calls

These friction calls have slate, glass, aluminum or ceramic surfaces glued into wooden, plastic or graphite pots. To talk turkey you run a wooden, glass or graphite peg across the striking surface.

Pot calls date back to the late 1800s, and they are more popular than ever today. I believe every hunter should carry at least 2 of them: an aluminum or glass pot for loud, high-pitched calls, and a natural slate for softer clucks and purrs. You should also carry a nice mix of wooden and synthetic pegs. Switching pegs on various striking surfaces allows you to make different turkey tones and rasp.

Pot Call Pros and Cons

Pros: Pot calls are easy to use. You can pick a slate or glass call off a store shelf one afternoon, practice a little with it that night and use it to call up a big tom the next morning. Many hunters, myself included, feel that pot and pegs produce the most realistic hen talk of all the calls.

Cons: There’s hand movement when working a peg on a pot, so be careful when calling a gobbler in close. Slate surfaces and wooden pegs are definitely affected by moisture, so go with a ceramic, glass or aluminum call with a glass or carbon peg on rainy days.

Pot Calling Tips

* Cradle a pot lightly in your palm and up on your fingertips, where notes can resonate out of the holes in the bottom of a call. Hold a peg like you would a pencil and angle it slightly on a surface to call.

* To yelp make dime-size circles or little straight lines without lifting a peg from a pot. Work near a call’s outer edges for high-pitched notes and in the middle for softer, raspier yelps.

* To cluck pull a peg inward on a pot in short pops. To cutt do the same thing, but bear down harder on a peg and string together 8 to 10 clucks.

* To purr pull a peg lightly across a surface in small lines or semicircles. Master purring on a pot and you’ll close the sale with a bunch of longbeards.

* To maximize friction between a peg and striking surface, roughen a slate call frequently with fine-grade sandpaper or an abrasive pad. Use heavier sandpaper or a sanding stone (sold by some call companies) on aluminum, glass and ceramic pots. Also, occasionally sand the tip of a wooden peg.

Push-Peg Calls

This type of friction call is comprised of a little wooden or plastic box with an internal spring-loaded peg that contacts a sounding surface. You push or pull a rod connected to the peg to reproduce turkey vocalizations.

Push-Peg Pros and Cons

Pros: This type of call is easy to run-just push or pull a rod! Push-pegs are typically high-pitched and great for close-range clucking and yelping.

Cons: Push-pegs don’t produce a lot of volume, so they’re not really tools for long-range yelping or cutting to locate gobblers. With thin wooden sides and springs, they are not very durable; find a safe spot in your vest for one.

Push-Peg Calling Tips

* For one-handed yelps, hold a box in your palm and push the rod with your forefinger. Or you can hold a box and pull the peg with the fingers of your other hand to produce louder yelps. * To cluck hold a box and tap the peg with the palm of your other hand. Speed up series of clucks to cutt.

Mouth Diaphgrams

Diaphragms have thin latex or prophylactic reeds crimped into small aluminum frames. Most calls have a single frame, but some models feature 2- or even 3-stacked frames. A tape skirt covers the frame(s) and acts as an air seal when you call.

Hundreds of diaphragms are available from all the turkey call manufacturers. They typically feature 1 to 4 rubber reeds. Many diaphragms have cut, split or notched reeds. A diaphragm with fewer reeds has a higher pitch and lower volume.Calls with 3 or 4 notched reeds are generally best for loud, raspy yelping and cutting.

Diaphragm Pros and Cons

Pros: With practice, you can mimic all the basic hen calls on a diaphragm. Your hands are free to ease a gun or bow into shooting position as you call. Mouth calls are the best choices for rainy or misty mornings when many friction calls won’t ring true.

Cons: Diaphragms take time to master-you’ll need to practice with the calls a lot before the season. A few people with gag reflex cannot use mouth calls.

Diaphragm Calling Tips ·


* Slip a diaphragm into your mouth with the frame’s open end pointing outward. Put the short reed of a multi-reed call down against your tongue. Place a call halfway between your front teeth and the back of your mouth.

* If a diaphragm feels too big or bulky, you can trim its tape skirt with scissors. But be careful! Too much trimming can destroy a call’s air seal. You can also bend an alumi


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