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Turkey Calling Tips & Strategy | Call Tom (2021)

Turkey Calling Tips & Strategy | Call Tom (2021)
February 24, 2021

Tony Caggiano has killed over 300 turkeys and has guided 378 successful turkey hunts in his hunting career. He knows a thing or two about speaking a turkey’s language. Tony shares if turkey calls vary per species, what different turkey calls mean, how to overlay realistic sounds with your mouth calls, whether you can over call or not, how weather impacts calling, the best call for beginners, how to make a stuck turkey move, how to call turkeys in the evening, and the one call that he couldn’t live without.

The Turkey Calls Tony Uses

Hunter's Specialties H.S. Strut Super Strut Combo Turkey Call Kit
Hunter's Specialties Super Strut Combo Turkey Call Kit


Zink Calls Power Hen Thunder Ridge Series Slate Friction Turkey Call

PRIMOS Deadly Double Turkey Call

Woodhaven Top 3 ProPack Turkey Calls


QuakerBoy Waterproof Box Call


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Calling is Everything Class with Ray Eye - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unf4fHnknZg

For more information about Tony Caggiano, his podcast and recipes, visit his #WildGameBased website!



Brad: Today's guest has been chasing turkey since kurt cobain released smells like teen spirit that's 1991 for all you youngins who think nirvana is classic rock tony caggiano has guided hunters to 378 turkeys he's taken more than 300 himself he is without a doubt one of the biggest threats to gobblers that has ever walked the woods but he wasn't always that way tony's first 27 days of hunting left him high and dry but he kept at it today the beard buster from the bronx is teaching you how to avoid getting skunked too topics covered are how much does turkey calling vary per species what are turkeys actually saying when they call how to overlay realistic sounds with your mouth calls can you overcall this one might surprise you how does weather impact calling best calls for beginners how to pull a stuck bird calling in the evening fall turkey hunting the one call tony can't live without and tony's favorite nirvana song okay I made that last one up but as a master turkey caller I have to imagine it's come as you are this is gearbox talk with tony caggiano

So tony caggiano I think you've shot more turkeys and guided to more turkeys than anybody I've talked to definitely more than anybody I've had on the show so far welcome to gearbox talk man

Tony: thanks man I'm glad to be here I'm glad for a while so it's cool to get up here

Brad: yeah we have been talking about for a while and actually you and I are going to get to go on a little turkey hunt here soon so this is going to get me pumped up and and edumacated here for this upcoming turkey season alright man

Tony: I'll do what I can

Brad: yeah yeah it's going to be fun we'll be making some good content around that so make sure you follow the channel to see what else comes out of that but let's dive into it and first you you've covered a wide range of the species I want to talk a little bit about how varying or how much does calling vary per species you know they are they are different but in behavior from what I understand I've only hunted the easterns but I'm curious on on your take on that

Tony: so I think that with the five north well there's six turkey species but the five what I'll call north american species the the common turkeys common wild turkeys the easterns the osceolas rios myriams and goulds I think that and I upset some guys when I say this but I think turkeys are turkeys right those species they have the same kind of calls the same vocabulary I found that when I'm traveling especially if I'm with other guides I've always been I've met a lot of osceola guys when I when I was starting out they were telling me oh they don't like calling don't call or don't do this don't do that but I think that you know turkeys or turkeys I've I use the same techniques across the board 99 of the time that other one percent I may switch it up a little bit depending on where I'm at and what the birds are responding to but as far as the calling goes the I find that the some of the species like higher pitches than others but aside from that it's all the same same kind of calling

Brad: So do you do you think some of that comes from like are the are the turkeys out west getting as much pressure as like an eastern turkey for example like is it less about the species and more about hunting pressure would that have something to do with it I'm just kind of curious on you

Tony: yeah I think so because I know guys who would tell me oh miriam's are a layup you know oh they're great you call them and they come running in but I hunted miriam's in the the black hills the first time and we're on public ground I literally shot my first bird a mile from mount rushmore so there's public ground and we had guys coming in on us guys box calling from the roads those were not the easiest turkeys I've ever hunted yeah in the same token I go to I go to florida and everybody talks about these osceolas are impossible to kill but I hiked back into a swamp and I called they flew down and I shot the bird and I was in and out of there in 15 minutes so as far as species go I think that like I said I'm going to keep saying it turkeys or turkeys but yeah I think pressure plays a huge part in how I hunt and the difference in how the birds react no doubt

Tony: dude I I've often wondered about that because you talk to these western guys and they will tell you they're like oh dude turkeys aren't hard like like you said it's a layup and yeah you know not exactly my experience with them here I don't I still don't have the opinion that turkeys are all that smart I think they're highly perceptive and they're they're you know between their vision and hearing they it's just very hard to trick one right because I mean literally everything that a turkey runs into all day long wants to kill it it's like basically you know their entire existence is running away from it

Tony: people say yeah well that's it people say turkeys aren't smart they're not going to do math problems they're not going to take the sats but they're good at what they do they're good at surviving yeah they're good at like assessing what they see they say you know I've read a lot about drinks but they say that turkeys assess what they see 10 times faster than a human does oh really so like when you see something react to it they react 10 times faster and that split section could make all the difference but yeah they're super in tune with their sight their hearing's incredible I've called birds from a mile away where I've called and they gobbled and I shut down and they'll come right into me so they know when they're coming in like they can pinpoint the sound that's ugly amazing yeah no kidding man i'd never get one but nobody would get one if they could smell you yeah

Brad: That's what amazes me about a turkey though is through through brush and you know hillsides and you know wind they will come right to where you are because they can pinpoint exactly where it is I mean it really is incredible alright man so this shows I always like to have a little bit of beginner content in here and we'll talk about a little bit more advanced stuff here in a second but you know turkeys have their own language and and I wanted to give some insights because there's a lot of ways you can call a turkey and there's a lot of different things that that that you're saying back and forth between them you know you're having a conversation right can you give a little bit of insight into into what the the primary calls there's a you know there's literally probably dozens of different combinations and things because you are it is a language but can you give some insights into like maybe four or five things that are common and useful for a new turkey hunter to to learn and to understand of what they're saying to the other bird

Tony: yeah I mean the basic calls that all turkey all the turkeys are doing with the exception of the oscillator which is a completely a whole different whole different ball game is the most common call everyone knows is the yelp right so when a turkey's yelping it's just a basic call they're communicating with each other locating one another a lot of what you're going to be doing when you're out there especially if you're blind calling you're going to just do series of yelps and a little maybe a mix in other calls but that's that's your that's the meat and potatoes call for most guys then you have a tree yelp which is a softer version of that call you're gonna hear when the birds are on roost and that is also you know birds are just checking in with each other starting their day their turkeys are they're they communicate a lot when they're in the flock when you hear them around they may not be gobbling but when you get close to especially a fall flock you hear them putting and clucking do only all these little calls but yeah the yelp is the main call then you'll have calls like a cluck which is once again it's just contact interacting mix it I mix those in with the yelps to kind of bring birds in and birds keeping in touch do that with each other you'll hear them in a group a group of hens clucking softly back and forth to each other that sort of thing a per which is another very soft call that's usually like a content call if it's very soft if it's hard which we can get into later you'll have fighting purrs which when birds are fighting each other getting aggressive or showing each usually when two birds are facing off they'll get into this hard raspy sharp purring and that's a fighting call an aggressive call which I use a lot in the fall in the spring you know you're trying to imitate a female looking to breed but that season only lasts three weeks to a month depending on where you are where the gobblers doing that the rest of the year the gobblers want to fight so if you can imitate those gobblers you know the fighting purr and then you'll have a lot of action there also another call would be the yelps also for gobbler yelps are a little slower more drawn out once again I use those a lot in the fall and that's we'll come back to that call later that's another one I love to use during the spring that I think a lot of people don't even know about and then you have other other calls like the cackle which is fun to do in the morning to get birds it's what they do when they fly down very excited that's a lot of fun to do it makes birds I'll i'll imitate a cackle because I'm like some guys I talk to birds when in trees the old the old guys just say don't make a sound or in the trees and I think that's a lot of nonsense I love getting birds fired up but you got to react to them and kind of see what they're doing but yeah you have the fly down cackle and then cutting which is just excited breeding time calling if hens are excited about something or they're fighting or arguing with other hens I've brought in hens that had a gobbler dragon behind me with that so those are really the basic calls and it's kind of the same across across all five of the turkey species where we're hunting here

Brad: Yeah how much are you over like that cackle is a great great one for this I know a lot of guys will like flap a hat and try to make you know more realistic sounds how much are you working in yeah stuff like that so yeah I always yeah

Tony: so I work that in I usually do it in the morning I like to especially when I'm guiding it's funny it gets it's fun for me too but when I'm we're out with somebody new and when I'm guiding it's fun to get the birds fired up I have had birds where I've done it in the morning and I've cackled and then that sound of them flying down yeah and that'll set that'll set the roost off because the gobblers think the hens flew down or another gobbler's down and sometimes you'll get you'll get excited gobbling other cutting and cackling and the birds flying in I really like it it's it's one of those calls where you don't use it a lot right to fly down the fly down cackle is a one-shot deal I've used it during the day where I've cackled as part of a cut to get birds excited that are hanging out but yeah I like to do it every morning I love I love talking to birds on the roost and and I catch a lot of flack for that

Brad: Yeah I've always kind of I hunt this one spot where that they go one or two ways in the morning I've hunted over there enough and it's every year it's the same freaking scenario they're right on a creek and once they get going up to the neighbors property I have a really hard time getting them back because of a distance but they also have to cross a fence there's a creek and there's a lot a lot between us but I've always I will talk to them before they come down with the mindset if I can get them coming this way in the morning they're more likely to stay in motion up up that hillside I'm i'm kind of curious I and I don't know the answer to this this isn't a leading question I'm more of just something I was thinking of here I have heard a lot of guys say that if if you call too much that gobbler knows where you are and he doesn't get curious and and that's the reason you want to call infrequently what's you I know there's a lot of scenarios this could happen but what's your general opinion on on call frequency in that scenario in which you know there's one yeah and when there's one there

Tony: Yeah so I'm going to gauge it on what the birds doing it's always I can't tell you how to go out and hunt any given bird but if you're out there if the birds reacting I'll call more and I like I do like hunting without decoys I prefer hunting in the woods I like when the birds like you're saying the birds have to come look for me that's my favorite kind of hunting but it's not always possible a lot of places you hunt you have fields open areas and the birds are roosted on those fields but I love to be in the woods with no decoys and have the birds come looking for me as far as how much I call I really gauge it on the hunt right so if a bird is super into it I'll get on him and I'll keep going on him keep him gobbling if I feel like he's hanging up I might shut down on him for a little bit yeah one other thing that I that I say that really upsets guys and I I've had these arguments a bunch and I'm good friends with a guy ray eye he's like you know been turkey hunting since before time he and I when we first started hunting together I said something and it was something that he always said in his books but I've never heard before it's like I don't believe in call shy birds I don't believe in caulshy geese I don't believe in call shy turkeys it's nonsense turkeys geese ducks they all talk to each other all the time they're always making sounds if you watch geese in a field or turkeys whatever bird it is they're going off they're honking and if you're calling and birds are going the other way you don't sound enough like the bird you're trying to imitate and I've done it in the past I've spooked birds but nobody's going to make me believe that you know a turkey and you're going to catch flight you're going to hear about it I guarantee it you know because you there are guys who are hunting public rounds like that's a bunch of nonsense and I've seen call shy birds you've seen birds that are pressured you've seen birds that are bumped by people that have seen people that have heard bad calling but as far as over calling I don't believe in it if just if you're if you're calling and the birds aren't respond responsive these are musical instruments right it's the same thing you're not gonna you're not gonna go and get invited to play with an orchestra if you if you pick up your oboe once a week yeah do you know what I mean yeah so that's how I look at it and I'm a calling fool you know I have a ray eye again because he's a mentor to me and a great friend he wrote he wrote a book and did videos calling his everything is what he says and I agree with that that's how I've turkey hunted from day one that's what for me that's what it's all about

Brad: So you're very much of the run and gun approach I would imagine

Tony: I love it yeah yeah I mean but there are times now there are times where I i drive people crazy because if I feel like the if I know what my birds are doing like you're saying you know these birds go two directions I'm all about research I love roosting birds I love sitting out there I used to start in early april glassing birds all morning with a cup of coffee and a couple of donuts I didn't need the donuts but I ate them but I would sit there and watch birds to see what they do and I would I keep little notes i'd write down so I knew like half the time these birds are coming down this field so if I'm gonna hunt those birds I have that knowledge and I would get in front of them and I think that's all part of it too do you know what I mean like that's part of the game I love that research I love getting in front of them I love knowing as much as I can about the birds where they are yeah where they're roosted and all that stuff

Brad: yeah totally I've definitely done historically done better when I know the area know where they're at what what other variables you know effect calling you know you I see this on GoWild a lot of people are like it's gonna be windy tonight and raining in the morning how does that affect turkey calling you know there's weather there's season timing there's time of day between those how does that impact calling for the season or for the birds

Tony: yeah that's that's a big weather is a big one the two biggest factors that I find well the biggest factor I find is wind I've been out on drizzly days you're on one of those days where it's it's raining yeah the wind isn't blowing isn't isn't blowing but it's just kind of drizzly I've killed birds and I've I find that they're not they're not as different from their normal routines it's the wind so when you just we were talking about birds can't smell now if you're in the woods and it's late season there's branches all of those branches the rain and the wind are hitting them birds are looking for that movement so that's gonna make a bird spookier tougher to call tougher to hunt because it's coming in super tweaked what I like to do on those days we'll get to the calling but I like to if you have a bird that has woods and fields a lot of times you'll see those birds just want to be out in the field because nothing's moving nothing's spooking them they could see what's happening and I've seen gobblers and hens just spend a whole day right in the middle of a cut corn field because of the rain in the wind as far as the calling goes I have I like all different kinds of calls right I use box calls I use mouth calls but on a windy day I tend to go with more like a high pitch high frequency call so this is this call is I don't know we could we can call up the drearies and find out but this is a super titanium I want to say this call is 25 years old okay this call has been around the world of me this is one of my favorite calls I can make somebody's ears bleed with this call

Brad: zoom's muffling it yeah I heard I you can disable that I should turn it off before we started to where it'll do that but but I heard the first few

Tony: but that's one thing about like whenever you're over a microphone and people hear we did a turkey calling contest and I know a couple of guys that I was listening to and call and I'm like that their muff their their their microphone ruined it for them because it's a different sound right yeah a pure sound is very different but this is metal it's very high frequency so on a windy day I want to be louder with higher frequencies to cut through that sound on a rainy day you got to be more careful because you can't use a call like this as soon as a drop of water hits that or this I mean we all know for turkey hunters it's ruined so then I kind of go to more mouth calls or a lot what I've been using a lot lately are these waterproof box calls which are really cool so I've been using that let me see do I have one here yeah I have one right here so these are so they have instead of having chalk they have it's like a dry paint and you see it's on if you look on here you can see I don't want to touch it but you can see it has like this slate it's almost like a do you ever see that slate paint like chalkboard paint you can paint and use so it's similar to that but you could wet this it'll still work yeah so on a rainy day and these these tend to be a little higher pitch so it's like a win-win for me you can use this in the drizzle in a rain pouring rain it starts to get a little a little

Brad: who makes that one

Tony: this this one here is this one's a quaker boy so okay this is a call this is probably only five or six years old it's their elevation series a quaker boy odyssey I also have hs strut makes a smoking gun this one's a little bit banged out if you look it's been the paint is really worn off but you can hear it it's yeah it's hurting but I keep it just because I've killed a lot of birds with it and as you look through my gear you'll find out I'm really attached to old beat up stuff

Brad: unless you have another one you're going to pull out I'm going to ask you a different question here

Tony: no I think that that's it for the wind and stuff like you said and the wind and the rain the wind and the rain are the two biggest calling scenarios where it makes a difference for me that's always kind of high pitched and stay dry yeah those always

Brad: that's when I see the most calling questions is in that scenario on GoWild

Tony: yeah and that's where that's where a lot of guys just give up I can't tell you how many guys I know who I was gonna go hunting they're like oh it's gonna rain I'm not gonna go and I've had clients try to cancel and I'm like listen that's up to you it's your hunt yeah if you want to cancel then you don't want to go out in the ring but I'm the type of guy I'm lucky in that my clients were it was a club so I was good friends with my clients same guys year after year usually had my whole turkey season booked up the year in advance but when I went out when they didn't come out if they chickened out on the rain I would usually send them a picture of a bird I killed that morning I would I was like focused to go kill a bird and they didn't chicken out next year so yeah right that's that's kind of like my mo if there's a way to bust somebody's stones I'm all about it

Brad: I like it I like it yeah you know going back to the beginner mindset a little bit what what's the best type of call for a beginner to pick up there are a lot of different little push button and handheld calls which I I'm not a fan of them I just don't think they make a very turkey sound

Brad: I don't either I haven't found one of those that I thought sounded very authentic yeah

Tony: because you can't generally they're simple when you press a button so you can't adjust any kind of pressure on them you can't put any inflection into the call I think that when you're starting out I think the best call one of two but I think a box call is a great call for someone starting out you know they're very easy you just kind of yeah the secret is it's like I said it's a musical instrument if you buy this on april 30th and want to hunt the new york opener on may 1st like don't call me up and say it didn't work and it was hard of course it's gonna be hard but I think that these calls if you look it's really easy I don't know how much that's muffling it but I can hear that one but you can learn and you could do simple yelps that's it I'm just one two three four it's about practicing the cadence and rhythm of turkeys and just letting this call do the work it's a very easy call the next call I will go to is probably a slate which takes more practice but it's it's it's immensely more easy than a mouth called the diaphragm mouth calls obviously would take the most practice but it's um you can just any call you get I have a new one here most of them come with like these are great calls I think that zinc makes really nice calls I'm happy with them I think this calls like 20 bucks you don't have to go crazy getting this fancy stuff but one thing zinc is

Brad: 20 bucks

Tony: no 25 20 bucks whatever it is

Brad: some of those things get crazy

Tony: oh yeah I mean I have calls custom-made calls that are you know worth hundreds of dollars and yeah it's it's just like anything else I can go out and kill a pile of ducks with my 870 but you know I doesn't mean I don't enjoy shooting a parrazzi once in a while like it's you know it's a it's a tool but but stuff like this these are great I think zinc does a great job with it and there are other companies too but they always have there since the beginning when freddie was doing himself he puts dvds and cds in there which that's the way to go like pick up a call find one with the cd in it because that's that's the call they're the companies making the calls are designing those for for new hunters and I think that's a great call the slate once you get going and making small circles then but you can get it's this is a call that starts easy a new hunter can do it but you can really learn to play it and yeah and really have fun with it like that's a beginner to advanced call which I think is really cool

Brad: right right what what's your preference on a diaphragm what brand and this is going to vary just to throw it out there people should definitely experiment because diaphragms I've found one person's recommendation may not fit your mouth at all so yeah we should preface with that and I know you probably were going to

Tony: and there's and even once you even if you get a diaphragm you know a diaphragm that fits there are different different reeds yeah this one has I have one this is a two read I have other calls that have five reads in them the more reads you get the more difficult it is to play this is another cool call it's a primos I use this in the fall if you look it's a double it has two frames and double reads but it allows I can get very deep with it for jake claus so if I played at hunters who are tuning out they'll say oh that sounds like crap that doesn't sound like a hen you're right it doesn't sound like a hand I'm trying to sound like jakes and gobblers to bring those in in the fall and jakes and gobblers yelp just like the hens do not as excited usually it's usually just three or four notes they tend to sound the call sounds lazy and deep but I think that's a great call for that but a lot of what I do is yeah I have a sticker on it that's like my plug I've always have a sticker this is these are my calls these are the calls I make so you can there are a couple of companies and you can you can buy different reads you'll see there's thicknesses on these different colors when I get different re like thicknesses I get different colors so I could tell them apart and then you get the frames and you just I can I build my own calls and this was much like when I duck on pretty obsessive about duck hunting too so at one point I was only hunting over decoys I carved and I had a rigger like 200 different decoys oh my gosh I also got tired of carrying 150 pounds of decoys all over the place so I sold most of them and moved on from there but yeah I think that there are great calls I love the primos calls because they use super thin latex they were one of the first companies like really using that prophylactic latex the thin stuff and not like industrial stuff you'd find on your mom's dish washing gloves and zinc calls I love zinc calls I just think they make a great product josh josh over there at zinc he's he's killing it with everything he does he's an incredible caller but you know he's overseeing their call production or at least he was and he does a really good job man I think that what they're putting out is as good as it gets

Brad: I used the three or four of the woodhaven calls last year and I i really like those again it's all personal preference and what those those fit me really well though I didn't have to customize them and I found them to be easier you know I can I'm like probably an intermediary level caller I'm nothing like you and jeremiah I'm better than a beginner I can get birds going there's certain the thing I think where a lot of my experience gap is is there becomes a point in the conversation in which I am not sure what to do that which is just an experience thing I think I've killed three or four turkeys funded turkeys for past five seasons so but for me I i liked the fit of those I know scott ellis who designed several of the woodhaven calls and works with them he's he's a good guy and he actually hand stretched some for me last season to try and so I'm just giving giving a yes scott's good dude yeah so just giving people another option to look into but there's a ton of them

Tony: like I said this is just what I use like I i have for sure I'm looking across it here I have calls from from quaker boy I have some the zinc I have mad calls I have

Brad: I like the mad calls

Tony: this one's a great this is this is a boat paddle call that paul butzke gave me this is his call his calls maestro game calls and my favorite thing about this call that he sent me is if you guys this is called the morning wood and this is you know it's a big long boat paddle call I use it mostly for striking birds up in the distance this is also a good windy day call not for rain but it's. i don't know if that's picking it up

Brad: I got the first half of it it's very sharp is you know

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