Long before I started bowhunting whitetails, I was a die hard turkey hunter. I would look forward to May 1st each year and get excited when opening day finally arrived anticipating that first gobble.
Dad and I would wake up at 3:00 a.m. get ready and make the hour long drive upstate to the turkey woods each morning. By the time we got to the woods, geared up and made it to the turkey tree the woods were just beginning to come alive with the sounds of turkeys. Dad would go one way and I’d head off in another direction in hopes we’d both score on a longbeard.
Heading out on my own at a young age forced me to learn how to call turkeys quick – after all, if I didn’t do it on my own it wasn’t getting done!
Learning how to call can be intimidating, but there’s a few things you can do to make the learning process go smoothly. Before you can ever call a turkey in you need to understand how a turkey talks and what a turkey means when they call a certain way – it’s almost like learning a second language.
To start I recommend visiting the National Wild Turkey Federation website and listening to the various recordings they have of live turkeys. They have everything from clucks and purrs to gobbles and fly down cackles: http://www.nwtf.org/all_about_turkeys/calling_tips.html.
The second part of that, understanding what a turkey means when they call a certain way, comes from experience in the turkey woods. When starting out, the best thing you can do if you hear another hen is mimic her – you might even get her mad enough to come in looking for a fight and bringing the longbeard along with her!
Once you understand how the turkeys talk it’s time to pick up a call and start making some sounds. One of the easiest calls to start off with is the push button call. The push button call allows you to make putts, yelps, clucks and purrs all with the push of a finger. This is the easiest way to make some of the most basic turkey sounds and a great way to call in your first bird.
The downside to the push button call it’s not hands free so you’ll only have one hand on your gun or bow while you’re calling. However, less is more in the turkey woods and over calling can hurt you. In most cases you’ll use the call to make a few yelps and purrs and then set the call down to let the gobbler work its way in and search for the hen. Remember, in the turkey woods the hens seek out the gobblers, not the other way around. So if you call too much the gobbler is likely to stay put and wait for you, the hen, to come to him.
Another great call to start on is the box call. It’s a loud call that’s great for locating birds and it’s very easy to make yelps and cut on. On double sided box calls you can even make gobbles. Personally, I prefer a single sided box call and find them great to use as a locater call after my first set up on a morning hunt.
One thing to note with box calls and push button calls is that not all calls are waterproof. Unless they have a special coating on them these calls will not work if they get wet during a rainy day hunt.
Friction calls and diaphragm calls are both a little harder to use, but in my opinion produce the most realistic turkey sounds and allow you to get creative with your calling. I actually use these calls together at the same time to sound like two hens. This helps get a gobbler excited and makes him want to come running in to find the ladies! For tips on using friction calls and diaphragm calls check out World Champion turkey caller Preston Pittman’s website: http://www.pittmangamecalls.com/tips/.
Turkey hunting is incredibly challenging, but being able to speak to the birds and convince them you’re just another turkey is one of the coolest experiences you can have as a hunter. You’re heart starts racing, the adrenaline gets flowing and the woods come alive with the sounds of turkeys.