Use these eight calling techniques to become a turkey assassin.
It takes different calls to consistently close the coffin on longbeards. Have several calls and know how to use them.
Mastering a mouth call is critical for those last few crucial moments when you can't have any movement and your hands need to be free.
The author has found success by creating the illusion of a moving bird by using directional calling techniques.
While I dedicate a lot of time to chasing whitetails and other antlered monsters, spring turkey hunting is still one of my favorite pursuits. It's a great time to be in the woods, you don't have to freeze your butt off, and best of all, I can do most of it right near my home in Georgia.
I grew up hunting ol' Booger Bottom right behind where my daddy still lives today, and I look forward to taking time off from my hectic traveling schedule every year to return there and hunt. But whether I'm hunting familiar woods I've hunted all my life or am chasing Rios or Merriam's in front of a camera in some place I've never even seen before, I use the same key skills to be successful. The most important skill I rely on is my ability to call. Calling is not only one of the things that makes turkey hunting so much fun, it's also the most important skill every turkey hunter needs to have in order to bring that big gobbler into gun range so he can ride home in the back of your truck. Here are a few tricks I've learned over the years. Maybe some of them will help you.
1 Mix It UpA lot of turkey hunters, especially beginners, learn to use one call pretty good, but never become proficient on other types. Or they may be able to use other calls, but they rely on that one they like almost exclusively. Bad mistake. Every call has its own pitch and sound and not every one is going to appeal to a particular longbeard. While one turkey may gobble his head off at your box call on Friday, that same turkey or even a different one, may ignore it on Saturday.
Different calls may fire a tom up at different times. That's why it's important to learn to use several different calls and be able to run each of them as proficiently as the next. If turkeys aren't responding to your box call, switch to a mouth call or a slate. Even a tube call can work wonders in areas where gobblers have heard everything else thrown at them. If you prefer a box or a pot-and-peg type call, and are really good at that type, then buy several different ones and learn to use each of them as well as the other. Then you can keep inside your comfort zone, though I still recommend becoming versatile with different types of calls.
2 Master the Mouth CallMy favorite call to use, without a doubt, is a mouth call. To me, it's one of the most versatile. With a mouth call or diaphragm, you can make virtually every sound a turkey makes, varying rhythm, pitch and volume all with how you hold your mouth and huff air across the reeds. Best of all, it keeps your hands free so you can keep them on your shotgun when a gobbler is in close, but you need to work him just a little closer with a few light yelps or purrs.
3 Cadence is Key As varied as a hen's yelping and many other calls are, they nearly all follow a basic rhythm. In fact, I would say, when calling to a turkey at a distance at least, it is more important to have the right cadence than to even have the right sound. Listening to real turkeys in the woods or watching videos and TV shows of turkey hunts is one of the best ways to observe this cadence and learn to mimic it perfectly.
Yelping, the hen's most basic call and the most important one for you to master, is delivered with evenly paced beats. Whether it is a casual yelp or one that is more excited and delivered with a little more speed, those yelps will always be spaced evenly apart. Cutting, which is really just a very excited, short burst of one-note clucks, will be more unevenly delivered, but still have a certain general rhythm to them.
4 Add Motion I bet you're scratching your head right now. "Add motion, he must be talking about decoys now," you're probably thinking. That can be helpful, too, but what I'm talking about here is adding some motion to your calling. How many guys, walk in the woods, plop down at the first gobble they make and just start calling from that same spot? If a gobbler is hopped up and ready for action, that will be enough. But when he is feeling more cautious and would rather the hen show herself, you're going to have to change positions.
If a longbeard is far enough away, or even if the gobbles have gone silent on a particular morning, I will stand up and walk around, cutting and yelping and turning my head and body in different directions to make it sound like the hen is coming toward the tom and then moving away from him. I've walked 20 or 30 yards toward a gobbling tom that kept strutting back and forth out of sight to make him think I was a real hen. In these situations, try walking toward the turkey and then away while calling. Then shut up and move back to where you were closest to him and set up. The longbeard might think the hen is leaving him and finally show himself. When calling on the move like that, it is not only important that you do it when you are far enough away from a tom that he can't see you, but also that there is no chance of other hunters being around for obvious safety reasons.
5 Directional Calling Just like moving around while calling, it is important to be able to cast your sound in different directions as a gobbler approaches. With a mouth call, I cup a hand to the side of my mouth and use it to throw the sound of my calls in a particular direction. With a slate call, cup your hand beneath the sound board of the call and do basically the same thing. With a box, turn the sound chamber in a different direction, though I've found it's easier to throw a call's sound with a mouth call--one of the reason I prefer them.
6 Back It OffWhen trying to get a tom to offer up that first gobble or calling to one far off in the distance, it's perfectly fine to call as loud as you can. It's not okay to do that as that longbeard closes to within a 100 yards or less. Be sure to tone down the volume as the turkey gets closer. I've hunted with guys who had a gobbler hung-up 50 or 60 yards in front of them and then suddenly started calling as loud as if they turkey was in the next county. Loud calling will merely blow the turkey out, spooking him and sending him the other direction.
7 Clucks and PurrsThe yelp is the turkey's primary call, while cutting really works to get a longbeard fired up, but sometimes you need to go easy. That's where a single-note cluck and soft purrs can really come into play, particularly when working birds in close. Purrs are made when turkeys are content and can make a nervous tom relax as he works within range.
8 Keep It CleanWhen using friction calls such as a pot-and-peg or a box call, be careful not to touch the calling surfaces with your fingers. You also want to keep the surfaces free of dirt and free of moisture (unless the call is made to run wet.) Over time, oils in your skin can clog the pores in wood and slate, while it can make a striker slip and squeak on glass or metal. Likewise, don't touch the end of your strikers or stick them down in the dirt. Proper care will keep friction calls working a lifetime--at least yours.