Sitting on the edge of a grass field, hunting and calling spring turkeys are one of my favorite hunts for my wife and me and millions of other Americans. When we are able to successfully call in a trophy gobbler to within bow range it is an accomplishment many Americans will never experience. Learning to properly call will not happen overnight. It will take practice and persistence to make it happen, but when it finally happens you will never forget it.
Recently I had a successful turkey hunt while hunting near Kentucky Lake in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. I used a variety of calls including the Wicked box call from Zink and the Show Stopper from Flextone. Without good calls, I would not have killed a turkey. A good call can make all the difference between success and going home empty handed.
Calling a mature tom to your set up with yelps, purrs, cutts and clucks is a feeling of success all turkey hunters strive for. Not knowing the proper techniques on how to use the different type of calls (box, friction and diaphragm mouth calls) might send a long beard to the next county. With practice a hunter can learn how to be the best caller that makes other turkey hunters jealous.
One of the best ways to learn how to call is to link up with an experienced caller. An experienced turkey caller can teach you the proper methods as well as explain what you are doing wrong with your own calling techniques.
New turkey hunters just beginning to call or inexperienced callers often yelp and cutt too slowly. Many experts believe that the rate or rhythm a hen calls is more important than the actual sound that is made. Cutting which is a series of quick clucks is fast, aggressive and exciting. When a hen yelps it is lively and faster than many new callers think it is.
When you team up with an experienced caller the goal is to learn the proper rhythm to call. Listen to the rhythm which he calls and do your best to copy it. Do not be concerned how your calling sounds. Even true wild hens sometimes sound terrible in the woods. Learning the correct rhythm is far more important than sounding perfect.
With all the hunting videos featuring turkey hunts that are for sale, callers have no excuse not to learn the rhythm that a turkey yelps, cutts, purrs and clucks. Many champion turkey callers have CDs featuring turkey calling techniques for sale. This is a great way to learn how to mimic the sounds of turkeys when you are trying to learn on your own.
The bottom line is if you want to be a good turkey caller you will need to practice every chance you get. Listen to your CD of turkey calling as you are driving to work. The more you hear what the sounds are suppose to be like the easier it will be for you to copy.
One of the easiest calls to learn to use is the box call. Even though a box call is easy to use it has probably resulted in more dead turkeys than any other call. The problem with the box call is that there is more movement involved with using than I care for.
Right handed hunters have to hold the bottom of the box horizontally in their left hand. Do not hold the sides of the call as this can ruin the sound. Hold the bottom of the call not the sides. To make a yelp, slide the paddle part of the call toward your hands over the top edge of the box.
There are some turkeys hunters that prefer to hold a box call vertically and work the paddle against the surface. They believe that this method gives the hunter more control with their hands while producing a better sound. If you wish you can even hold the paddle and move the box. Use what works best for you.
There are many designs of box calls available to the hunter that make wonderful yelps, cutts, purrs, clucks, cackles and gobbles. Whichever box call design you go with, always keep it chalked and dry so it sounds natural.
Friction calls or what many hunters call the slate call is a round call with a slate, glass, aluminum or other metal surface. Some slate calls have a combination of these materials like glass over slate.
For the right handed hunter hold the friction call in your left hand with your fingers and thumb cupped around the outside edge. Hold the call waist high with a semi firm hold. Hold the striker between your first two fingers and thumb at a slight angle with your right hand. Hold the striker to the calls surface about one-third of the way from the outside edge. To produce a yelp, apply pressure and put the striker in a counterclockwise motion, about the size of a nickel.
Added finger pressure is required on the striker for making cutts. Hold the striker firmly at an angle so the top is angled towards you when on the surface of the call. Quickly pull the striker towards your body with a good amount of pressure. Without raising the striker off the calls surface slide the striker to the starting point and repeat the process several times. This will make a loud cutting sound that will make a mature gobbler love sick.
Holding the striker so tight that is causes a squeaky, high-pitched sound is where most hunters have trouble when using a friction call. Hold the striker loose enough that it will allow a natural sounding yelp. With a little practice you will begin to get the feel of how tight to hold the striker.
Like the calls surface are not all made from the same materials, neither are the strikers. They can be made from wood, carbon, plastic and aluminum. Try different strikers until you find one that you are comfortable with.
Diaphragms or mouth calls are the toughest to master, but because no hand movement is involved they are on of the favorites among turkey hunters.
Beginners should start out with a one or two reed model. They are easier to learn to use than three or four reed calls. Talk to other hunters that are proficient with mouth calls. They can tell you which is best for a beginner.Find a diaphragm that fits snugly in your mouth. If it is too tight in your mouth, lightly trim the edges. Keep in mind that a little trimming can go along way.
The best advice that I can give you about mouth calls is to practice and then practice some more with a call that fits well and is easy to use. The call goes in your mouth with the horseshoe opening towards your lips. If you are using a call with more than one reed place the longest reed on top. Now press the back of your tongue on the calls frame near the edge. The call should be firm against the roof of your mouth. Blow a hissing sound of air along your tongues surface like you are saying “shh”. This will produce a squeal like sound. To make the two-note sound of the yelp make the squeal sound then drop your jaw to lower your tongue pressure as you are blowing. It should sound like you are saying “shh-awk”. After you have mastered that, speed up the two-note call to make a yelp. Now put the calls into rhythm to make a series of yelps. Practice makes perfect.
Do not get stuck on just one type of call. Carry an assortment with you to the woods. If a gobbler will not respond to a friction call try using a mouth call. The change of calls might be all it takes to work a long beard in.
The most important thing is to practice till you are effective with the call. Being able to call correctly and bring a tom within range is as exciting as it gets.