Turkey Calls - Choosing the Right Calls to Talk Turkey
Author: Mike Schoby and Wes Wiedmaier
If function and style separate turkey calls, the task of selecting the right tool for the job becomes much less complicated.
Spring is in the air. The new green growth covers the forest floor, and the woods are filled with sounds of turkeys in love. Putts, clucks, yelps, gobbles, and purrs echo through the valleys and resound off the ridge tops. Among bird species turkeys have a vocabulary that rivals a Rhodes Scholar and for the hunter to be successful, the ability to talk the talk is imperative. While it seems daunting at first, talking turkey is not all that difficult once the basics are mastered and the theories behind all the calls are understood.
If function and style separate turkey calls, the task of selecting the right tool for the job becomes much less complicated. Turkey calls can be segregated into two main varieties - hen/response calls and locator calls. Among the hen calls are many varieties and styles to choose from, but essentially four types rule the market - push button, box, slate and diaphragm. Each has their own set of advantages and specific uses unique to the specific situation, terrain and weather conditions.
Push Button Calls
The ease of use as well as the limited movement required to operate push button calls makes them a favorite for novices and experts alike. By far the easiest call to learn, push button calls make realistic yelps, clucks and purrs with a simple push of a button. For wary birds closing the final distance into the decoys, push button calls can be manipulated effectively with one concealed hand.
Box calls are the mainstay of the turkey hunter. They are versatile, great sounding and relatively easy to use. Even though they can be sensitive to moisture, they work well in dry conditions and are a top pick for a relatively long range, realistic sounding call. Putts, purrs, clucks and yelps come to life with these calls and can be mastered by anyone in a short amount of time.
Friction Calls (Slate)
These type of calls are generically referred to as "slate calls" but are produced with an array of materials including slate, aluminum, titanium, crystal (resin), plexiglass and copper. Friction calls are probably the most versatile calls available. While they take more effort to master than box or push button calls, many serious turkey hunters wouldn’t go into the woods without them. Friction calls are known for their realistic high-pitched sounds that carry well over distance as well as being impervious to wet conditions.
If you are trying to lighten up your vest and versatility in one call is desired, look for a slate call with multiple surfaces. For example, calls with three separate calling surfaces (slate, aluminum and plexi) can produce the high-frequency sounds of aluminum, the softer sounds of slate and the super-soft clucks, purrs and tree sounds of plexi.
If even more versatility is desired, simply changing the striker on any friction call creates a totally different frequency, sound and volume. Strikers are available in carbon, hickory, purple heart, plexiglass, wire, and aluminum. It is best to own several varieties of each.
Diaphragm calls are probably the most difficult of all types of turkey calls to master, but once mastered they fill a vital niche in any turkey hunter’s arsenal. Diaphragms are versatile - allowing hunters to produce soft clucks and purrs, and at the same time they can reach high frequencies and serve as great long-range calls. While versatility is a big advantage, the lack of movement and concealment is unmatched by any other call. For those super wary gobblers, or for those final few yards, no other call draws less attention to the caller than a diaphragm call.
Locator calls do what their name implies – they locate gobblers. In the spring, a gobbler’s mind turns to the task of reproduction. During this phase, he often throws caution to the wind and gobbles at anything including other gobblers, hens, coyotes, crows, passing trains and cars. In short, if a sound is aggravating to him, he will gobble. Once he reveals his location the hunter can move into a calling position and attempt to seduce the bird into range with one of the fore-mentioned calls.
Loud, high-pitched calls often work well for locating hot birds but don’t overlook mellow, natural-sounding calls. Sometimes it is this change from the norm (especially in heavily hunted areas) that can make the difference between success and failure.
Mimicking a gobble is an effective way to locate nearby toms. Shaker calls produce gobbles with just a one-handed shake. Coyote howling calls often work well to set off hot gobblers and carries well over extremely long ranges. Crow calls are always another great choice. Their raspy loud pitch will set off even the quietest gobbler.
Different calls also can produce results when standard locators will not. The sound of an owl hoot is always a good choice to make a bird gobble on the roost at dusk or before dawn.
The biggest key to successful turkey calling is call selection and what makes for good call selection is versatility. Most successful turkey hunters carry several varieties of each call to cover any situation. Nothing is worse than being in the woods with an active gobbler and not having the capability to entice him to come to you.