Turkey calling is easy to do, but for even the most experienced hunters, it can be hard to do well. Whether this is your first season or you’ve been hunting turkeys for ages, it’s never too late to brush up on your technique.
In this guide, we’ll help you sort through some of the most effective calls and how and when they work best. We’ll also give you helpful turkey calling tips to hone your technique and develop your strategy for the season.
Types of turkey calls
One of the essential parts of creating an effective turkey call is selecting the right one for your skill level. Here’s a short breakdown of the three most common types and who should use them.
Friction turkey call
This blanket category encompasses any type of call that uses friction to generate sound. This includes:
- Box calls
- Glass calls
- Pot calls
- Push and pull calls
- Slate calls
These are an excellent option for novice turkey hunters or those at an intermediate level who haven’t yet honed their calling skills. Friction calls are straightforward to use, and can also be very useful in the right circumstances.
Locator turkey call
Although locator calls won’t lure turkeys to your location, they are a favorite supplemental call of some of the best hunters. When used correctly, a call from a different bird species like a hawk, owl, crow, or pileated woodpecker can help you find a tom who may be in his root or hidden in a field or holler. When you use a locator call, the tom will start gobbling and give away his location.
Mouth turkey call
Also called diaphragm calls, this category includes any turkey calling that you do with your mouth. These small, inexpensive models are prevalent but requires a bit of skill and a lot of practice to master.
They’re capable of making incredibly realistic sounds, and with practice, you can use them hands-free, which is an advantage when you’re hunting. If you do it right, you can precisely mimic the sound of another turkey and properly provoke a nearby Tom into giving away his location.
Effective turkey calling tips
There are many different things you can practice when it comes to a turkey calling technique. Here we’ll highlight a few of the most important that can help you hone your skills so that you sound realistic and enticing to nearby birds.
Master your rhythm
It’s not just your pitch and tone that can make your turkey sounds seem realistic. Your cadence has an impact too. In fact, the rhythm of your call might matter even more than the sound itself, which means it’s vital to get it right.
To do it, spend time listening to recordings of live birds and try to match the tempo of their sounds. Then, work to imitate what they’re doing. You can lightly tap a finger or toe to keep a beat that you can call too, or practice enough that it’s as natural as singing along to your favorite song.
Carry options with different tones
Live hens make many different types of noises, which is why there are so many different friction call options to choose from. To sound as realistic as possible, you need to be able to mimic both high-pitched and deep ones as well as nuances like rasps, yelps, and other natural hen noises.Try carrying a few different friction calls with different strikers to mix up the tone, or mastering several different mouth call techniques to change it up while you’re on the hunt.
Observe live turkeys, then mimic them
One of the biggest mistakes many new turkey hunters make is spending all of their time studying the calling techniques of other hunters, not real turkeys.
Yes, there are many valuable things you can learn from some of the best callers in the world. Mastering a realistic yelp and cluck are two fundamentals that will take you far while you’re hunting, but those aren’t the only noises you should have in your arsenal.
Wild turkeys make all sorts of sounds in different combinations when they’re communicating with each other. Hearing this conversation first-hand can give you a leg up during the hunting season.Find recordings online of groups of turkeys, or observe how a large group interacts next time you’re out in the wild. Try to mimic their noises, even if they don’t sound like the textbook definition of a good turkey call.
Remember, you’re trying to impress turkeys, not your fellow hunters with your calling skills. Sometimes, less polished is better.
Learn to speak turkey
At a basic level, it’s relatively easy to determine if a turkey likes the sounds you’re making. He’ll either respond by gobbling back at you, or he won’t issue a verbal response. But just because he responds doesn’t always mean that you’re saying something that will result in action.
While you’ll never know precisely what a turkey is saying, pay attention to both its verbal responses in combination with its actions to determine if he’s getting the message. For example, if a gobbler is consistently answering your call but hasn’t made a move in your direction, likely, what you’re saying isn’t something that they think requires action.
It isn’t always easy to tweak your message to get results, but it’s what will give you a leg up over other hunters. For example, if you’re calling a turkey who is gobbling at you from a limb and returning your call over and over but not moving from their perch, they might think you’re saying you’re coming to him. Change your cadence and tone to see if it produces a different response.
Even if you don’t understand the exact words that are being said, you can gauge if you’re communicating effectively by a change in action and results. When it turns in your favor, that’s when you know you’re speaking turkey.
Related: Check out our picks for the best hunting blinds
Practice to master the season
They say practice makes perfect for a reason, and turkey calling is no exception. Invest time into learning a diverse series of calls, mastering your cadence, and studying the effect the calls have on turkeys, and you’ll improve your technique this season.