Turkey Calling Tips – TruWild Life


When I first started turkey hunting, I had a very hard time calling birds into range. If I look back at day one, it’s amazing to me that I am now talking about tips to become a better turkey hunter, like most things, if you consistently practice, you will get better, but staying consistent and persistent is the key. I have learned some from videos online, but absolutely nothing compares to the real judges, the birds themselves. Nothing beats trial and error with the birds in the field. Every time I set out to either scout or hunt, I pay close attention to the way birds act and communicate. This is critical, depending on the time of year. One thing to remember is that every day is different, the weather changes things, and, more importantly, no two turkeys are the same. It does certainly seem that certain techniques and tactics can pull through on many occasions.

I have compiled a list of important things to remember when in the field trying to fill your spring gobbler tag.

Successful spring turkey hunting harvest picture
Successful spring turkey hunting harvest picture ​​

Be Early and Stay Quiet

Whether I am scouting or hunting, I always like to be in the woods while it is still dark, the birds aren’t up yet.  But if you did your scouting homework, between visually seeing birds in the area, or going off of maps thinking there should be a bird in the area, getting there early it gives the woods a chance to calm down and make your presence not as known. As the birds wake up you will start to hear some light hen chatter and eventually that rattling gobble. Once you can pinpoint a roost tree, this gives you time to reposition if need be or if possible, at this point I do not make a single sound on a call, if you do, all you are doing is giving your position away. For this reason, I do not even think about calling until the birds have flown down from their roost tree, by not giving away your position gives you an advantage where if the birds happen to fly down a different direction than what you anticipated you can make a move and makes it easier for you to stay in the turkey chess match.

What Turkey Calls to Use

The simple answer is all of them! I always carry with me a handful of diaphragm calls all with different cuts, 2-3 slate calls, and you have your choice of slate, glass, crystal, and even ceramic and other materials, all of which have different tones and pitches. Like everyone, I have my favorites in each that I will always start with. But even that call that you practice with and say “man I just don’t like the way it sounds” don’t throw it away! because believe it or not, that call could be the one that gets the job done on that day. The last call I carry is a box call, it’s the one I rarely use except in specific situations, one being high wind days because box calls are very loud and cut through wind easiest, and the second situation being when I am on the move and trying to locate a bird mid-day, again because box calls are loud, and the sound travels greater than most slate and diaphragm calls.

Should I Use Locator Calls

Turkeys when fired up can gobble to crow calls, coyote calls, owl calls, and on some days a door slamming shut, I personally do not use locator calls very often, but it doesn’t mean they do not work. A lot of guys use them, and there gets to be a point where I believe that they get educated, and all you are doing is once again giving away your location. In the spring there are so many noises that if you are patient,  Mother Nature will make noises to where that longbeard will hammer and give his location away.

Call on the Move

When on the move, I like to stick with my turkey calls. I will typically give a couple of yelps and be quiet and listen for 15-20 seconds, then I will keep walking and stop every 50-100 yards and give another yelping sequence. If there is a lonely bird looking for love, he will gobble to let you know “I’m over here”, but by calling in this fashion what you will also be amazed by is the amount of birds that you walk past. An educated gobbler will hear your call and rather than gobble to give away his location he will instead just head that way to find you, but when you are calling this way, it gives the illusion to the Tom that you are a hen that is walking away from him, and eventually he will sound off telling you “stop! I’m over here.”

What He Gobbled Now

Once a bird gobbles back at your calling, he knows about where you are right off the bat. When I have a bird fired up I like to be relatively aggressive, yelping sequences, and if he gobbles in the middle of it I will throw in a few excited cuts, after a little back and forth. Once I can confirm that he is getting louder and is closing the distance I will “ghost him”. Turkeys are not much different than people in some ways, meaning that usually when a girl “ghosts” (stops talking) a guy he then starts talking more and tries to get her attention, and this is something I will do with a hung-up bird as well, you get him all worked up and the second he starts getting closer you shut up, it drives them nuts because at this point they know about where you are, so they are going to come looking number one, number two, as birds approach they tend to usually stop gobbling as well, by somewhat flipping the script, that bird as he approaches wants to make sure you (the hen) are still where he thought you were, so what does he do? He gobbles, and every time you don’t respond to him, he can’t pinpoint where you are, so he keeps going in where he thought you were, he closes the distance and gobbles again. This tactic gives you an upper hand in again not fully giving your position away and not giving him the ability to really sneak up and surprise you. They have an amazing ability of pinpointing sound, believe me, if he heard you, he already has an idea of where you are.

Turkey hunting harvest picture
Turkey hunting harvest picture​​
My successful turkey hunting.
My​​ successful turkey hunting.

Be Patient

This is something as hunters we all are terrible at, we all dream of going in, hearing a gobble on the roost, setting up, making one call, watching Mr. Longbeard come running in and having a tag filled and back eating breakfast before most are up for work. The reality is that those days are few and far between, what you must remember is, as a turkey, you wake up, eat, and try and survive the day, then go back up the tree, sleep, and do it all over again. There is no time crunch for a turkey because the wrong move is life or death, and they know that. The last calling scenario I explained sounds like an easy quick process, and again sometimes it can be, but often this is something that can take hours. If he beats you to the ghosting game and goes silent, just remember that if you don’t think he saw you, and he has no reason to have been spooked, he knows where you are, he’s just in no hurry to get there, now sometimes birds lose interest or maybe it’s their 6th sense kicking in, but when you feel it’s time to get up because you want to move, give it at least 15-30 minutes longer, you will be amazed at how slow-moving they can be.

What Sounds to Make And When

When it comes to turkey vocabulary there are many different sounds, the most important that you should master at first, are the yelp and a cut. These two notes will kill you a turkey. They are louder sounds so you can be heard, and hens are always chatting it up and bickering with each other. Another sound you should have down is a purr which now can be used aggressively to simulate fighting, or used subtly to show contentment. When hens are happy and comfortable, you will hear them purring. If you have a bird that is hung up or unsure of your position and he’s just outside shotgun distance, try giving just a few purrs. It’s a quiet subtle sound and again it resembles contentment which will make him feel better about his decision to keep coming for a closer look.

I hope some of these tips will help you this spring in filling your tag. The only way to get better and to have more of an understanding as to when to do what is to just get out there and do it. Just remember that because something worked last week or last season does not mean it will work your next time out. Nothing will teach you anything more than watching and listening to turkeys out there doing their thing. Most importantly, when you finally make a sound and initiate conversation, he right away then knows where you are. Be ready and be patient!


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March 14, 2023 — Dave Nelson


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