There are so many options out there for turkey hunters to add to their arsenal these days. Each can serve a purpose, and knowing when to use them can help you call that gobbler into range this spring. Some can be picked up at your local sporting goods store and used without practice. Others might need to be custom ordered through the many call makers throughout the country and can take some getting used to before you head to the woods. Whatever you are going to use this spring, be sure to familiarize yourself before heading out on your first hunt.
When I think of ease-of-use types of calls, the first two that come to mind are Push Button style calls and Box Calls. When faced with covering long distance calling situations, box calls shine. After you have grabbed their attention and they just need a little quiet coaxing, grab the push button. Box calls are also an excellent option for high wind days.
The very first year that my dad and I went hunting in the spring, the only calls we had were a box call and a push button call. We made two different setups and were able to call gobblers both times but were unable to get any shots off. In the third set up, we were lucky enough to have a mature longbeard read the script. I was able to get his attention with my box call when he was well over 200 yards away, and once he was within 75 yards, my dad took over the calling with some soft yelps and purrs. This combination of calls is what was able to help make a memory I will never forget. It started my passion for pursuing Wild Turkey.
With many different surfaces and tone board combinations, friction calls can cover a wide range of tones, volumes, and weather conditions. Some of the more popular materials include slate, glass, ceramic, copper, and aluminum. Often called Pot Calls, these calls, with a little practice, can produce a wide variety of hen vocalizations. I would say that friction call(s) are a must in any turkey hunter’s vest as these calls can be a pivotal component to having success in all weather conditions.
Friction calls are great for locating birds; however, I tend to use other “locator calls” because a hen sound can get a bird to commit to you before you are in a good set up. If you do want to try and locate a bird with a friction call, I would suggest two things. One, with the first calling sequence start quieter and then build up the volume. Two, look around and pick a set up to go to if you get an answer close by.
When it comes to versatility, mouth calls top the list. If I had the choice of only one type of call, it would hands down be mouth calls. They are offered in many different reeds, cuts, and sizes to fit your preferences. There’s just so much you can do with them, and the biggest benefit over other calls is they require the least amount of movement. This is very important when they close the distance, and you can’t afford to be caught making unnecessary movements. You can get really loud with some yelps and cuts, or drop it down and make soft purrs and clucks.
Locator calls, which can mimic the sounds of crows and owls among others, are among the variety of calls available from companies to help hunters locate a turkey's position during a hunt. Don’t be afraid to use both calls at any time of the day. Some hunters believe that owl hoots are only for the morning and evening when roosting birds which is not the case. Locator calls will help you gain knowledge of a bird’s location without sounding like a hen and get them to advance on your position before being ready for them. Other sounds often used are coyote howls which can be done on predator calls, or I have even seen some folks do it with diaphragm calls. This can take a little more practice, so be sure to do so prior to opening day.
Now that we have gone over some of the more mass-produced calls, let's dip our feet into some more custom-made calls. I feel like these calls are overlooked and can help you this spring. Two underutilized calls that create a sound that others can’t replicate are the Wing bone and the Trumpet. I know what you are thinking…a Trumpet??? Both of these calls are used with suction and not blowing into them like other calls. I have read that the sounds these calls make have a tone that carries further than some box or friction calls. They are also great for making quiet yelps and clucks for those close-range encounters. These calls are truly works of art.
The last call is completely free and can be more effective than all of the ones we have previously mentioned. In fact it isn’t even a call at all but rather a replication of a hen searching for food. Scratching in the leaves! I learned this technique from watching a lot of YouTube and used this strategy first in 2021. I had a bird responding but he just would not commit to my set up. So, to draw him up out of the bottom he was gobbling in I quit calling and started scratching in the leaves beside me trying to replicate a hen searching for food below the leaf cover. He broke from his spot and came right up the ridge for the perfect shot.
There are countless options out there for turkey hunters today, and you will need to create your own style and techniques. Try different calls for the same bird. Sometimes they will like one call over the others, and that could be the difference between a filled tag and heartache. Through trial and error, you will learn to read a bird’s body language, which will help you to know when to put the calls down or get more aggressive. Get out to the woods this spring and take it all in. There are times when I will just sit next to a big oak and just feel so grateful that I am able to pursue the wild turkey.