Turkey Hunting Tactics with Beau Martonik | Understanding Turkey Calls
By: Beau Martonik
Spring turkey hunting season is always one of my favorite times of the year. The best part about it for me is the vocalization. I love hunting vocal animals because it tends to make it more fun. When you’re turkey calling, you know when you’re in the game if they’re talking back. In the spring, you can use calls to try and entice gobblers to come into your set. It's important to understand different vocalizations before considering what call(s) work best for you. Below are a few turkey-hunting tips to make choosing a turkey call easier.
The gobble is the most recognizable call that people seem to associate with turkeys. The toms will gobble in the spring to attract hens while showing dominance over other males. Mature toms have a typical gobble, whereas jakes are still learning to gobble correctly and have more of a “squawk” to their gobble. Everyone loves to hear a gobble in the spring. In addition, gobblers will spit and drum, which is difficult to explain. It is a two-note tone that comes from deep in the gobbler’s chest. If you hear a tom spitting and drumming, he’s typically close!
Turkeys use yelping sounds to locate other turkeys. Yelps are a rhythmic call. A tree yelp is a softer version of a yelp that turkeys use while still sitting on a limb in their roost tree in the mornings. Clucking references turkeys using soft, short sounds to communicate with other birds. A lost and lonely hen will cutt by making clucking sounds quickly and aggressively when she's panicking to find other turkeys. Cackling sounds come from hens flying either up/down from roost trees or across valleys. Cackles are a short series of clucks and yelps as they are cruising through the air. Finally, purrs have a fluttering sound used when a turkey is feeding and content in doing so.
Types of Calls to Use
Turkey hunters have their preference for which calls they carry in their hunting vest, and some like to take them all. Jake Stanisch, the host of Apex Fireside Radio, is an avid turkey hunter in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I interviewed Jake on the East Meets West Hunt podcast, and when asked about the types of turkey calls he carries, he stated, “I like to carry all different types of calls when I hunt. You never know what the gobbler has heard before, so there’s no one size fits all turkey call.”
With that being said, let’s dive into some of the popular types of turkey calls. The first and most famous call is the box call. The box call is straightforward to use, but you can get as creative as you want to, depending on your skill level. Box calls use friction to create yelps, purrs, cackles, clucks and more. They’re usually made out of wood and require two hands to operate. The downfall of this call is that most people use them, so in a high-pressure area, it might be tough to get an old tom to respond.
The slate call is the next call to consider keeping in your arsenal. Slate calls are also known as pot calls which are made up of a round slate, glass or ceramic top that will create friction with a striker. These can be a bit harder to learn than box calls, but with a bit of practice figuring out the different speeds and angles, you can master the slate call.
Diaphragm calls, also known as mouth calls, are latex reeds that use vibration in the roof of your mouth to create a sound. They are the toughest to learn, but you can use them without movement. This is very important, considering how good a turkey’s eyesight is. Again, different cuts will give you a different sound. The main cuts are double-cuts, bat-wing, w-cut, split-v, cutter and ghost cut.
Push-button calls are the easiest to use and are typically thought of as a beginner’s turkey call. They use friction between two pieces of wood rubbing against each other to make yelps, purrs, clucks, etc. I like to use push-button calls because you can operate them with little movement and less focus than any other call.
Owl hooter and crow calls are known as locator calls. These calls are pretty self-explanatory in what they sound like, but their purpose is to get the toms to “shock gobble” without giving up your location. Owl hooter calls are most effective when turkeys are still in their roost trees in the early mornings and late evenings. Crow calls are used throughout the day. Some hunters can make these sounds without using a call, but if you’re not so lucky, it’s a good idea to have one of each in your turkey vest.
Shop Turkey Calls
Using the Calls That Work For You
All turkey calls can work in a specific situation. If you’re new to turkey hunting, don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t need to be a world-champion turkey caller to kill a turkey, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing either. If you have a vest full of calls that you don’t know how to use, they’re just unnecessary weight.
Start by choosing only three calls to learn and learn well. Then, think of the different scenarios you might encounter and pick those calls from there. For example, if you’re hunting big swaths of public land with a lot of topography, maybe you should look at a louder call, such as a box call, to get that sound to travel and locate gobblers. To keep yourself concealed while calling with softer tones, consider using a push-button or diaphragm call when you’re up close and personal with a tom. Lastly, I never leave home without a locator call. Having either a crow call or owl hooter can be highly beneficial for getting even the most pressured birds to answer without giving away your location. These are just some examples of choosing three calls for different scenarios, but understanding what all of these calls are capable of in relation to your geographic location will help you select the turkey calls that’ll work best for you.