Speaking Fluent Turkey | Turkey Calling Tips & Strategy
By: Dylan Hayward
Growing up I always took a backseat to the calling side of turkey hunting. It seemed like it took a lot of practice, there was a lot of pressure on the person calling, and sometimes, you can make a good excuse why you should be the one taking the first shot since you aren’t the one focused on calling them in. However, I quickly realized that was a lazyass attitude and if I ever wanted to become a great turkey hunter, I needed to learn how to communicate with the birds. There are several calls out there that you can buy, some a bit more nonessential and gimmicky than others such as the shaker gobble or the push pin hen calls. But there are three tried and true turkey calls that every hunter should carry with him in his vest when hunting these spring birds.
The Box Call
The box call is a very simple call that doesn’t take much time to learn and can be a great starter call for those just getting into turkey hunting. It doesn’t offer much versatility with tone and pitch, but what it lacks in versatility it makes up for in volume and simplicity. The call uses friction with a wooden box and wooden lid to mimic the sound of a hen yelp. I’ve witnessed other hunters use a box call to make cuts, purrs and even gobbles, although in my opinion, the sound isn’t as accurate as a slate or mouth call.
Turkey Slate Call
Some call them slate calls, I’ve heard people from the south call them pot calls, whatever you call them, this is a great call to add some versatility to your calling while still being simple enough to pick up on quickly, and drive a Tom nuts in the woods. These calls come with a striker stick that when rubbed on the ceramic or glass of the disc, create a nice pitch that can be used for cuts, purrs, cackles and yelps. There really isn’t a call that can't be performed with the slate, although one of the cons is that you have to use both hands to operate it, which can be tricky when a Tom is in close range.
The Turkey Mouth Call or Diaphram Call
The “Mouth” or “Diaphram” call is the deadliest call you can use when chasing turkeys. It leaves your hands open to hold your gun in position when a mature Turkey is in close range, and with enough practice, you can call at any desired tone or pitch you want. Some people dismiss the mouth call because of it’s difficulty to use, but through trial and error of practicing, you should be able to pick it up before the spring opener. This call has a horseshoe shaped frame that is covered by a plastic wrap and a stretched latex rubber in the middle to create a reed. To use, push your tongue to fit this call to the roof of your mouth, creating an airtight seal, pushing air from your diaphragm to the top of your tongue and the reed. I always advise new hunters to watch videos and listen to sounds of turkeys calling to each other, to get a good idea on how to mimic that sound with your call.
Overcalling to Turkeys
I think this is one of the most important lessons that a new hunter or even a seasoned hunter can learn while turkey hunting. I’ve seen so many hunts go south because I or my hunting partner is calling too much when it just isn’t necessary. If a Tom seems interested and is walking to you, lay off the calling. If a Tom is held up in full strut and is gobbling a lot, it’s okay to keep firing off some calls. As hunters we get so excited when a Tom is in sight, that we just want to keep throwing calls out, but it can be a risky game. Also, when we can’t see a Tom, as hunters we want to keep calling until a Tom comes charging in, but that’s not how it works typically. Give it time, just because a Tom isn’t running to your decoy, doesn’t mean he won’t appear soon.
Make sure to call appropriately to the situation that you're in based on a Tom's body language, and be patient. Turkey hunting requires a lot of patience and consistency, but when you’re carrying a longbeard over your shoulders out of the woods, it will be more than worth it.