Wild Turkey Calling
by Naomi K. Shapiro
Less is better when it comes to calling turkeys. If you overdo, the turkeys will pinpoint you and be spooked, which means you'll be eating Spam for supper rather than succulent wild turkey. Once a turkey hears a call, they'll know "generally" where you're at -- or where the call is coming from, and that's OK. Typically, hunters will call until they get a response from either a hen or Tom, and then sit and wait for it come in. You can tell if a turkey's coming by its sound -- it will get louder and louder as it approaches. Hens will cluck and purr rather than gobble as Toms do.
There are several different types of calls.
*The mouth call is a type of diaphragm that you put in your mouth. It's simple and can be very effective if "toned properly." And that's not easy to learn or do.
*The box call is a wooden box with a rubber band that, with tension, drags a piece of wood across the bottom of the box, causing it to sound. The box call "vocalizes" the sound.
*The slate call is a piece of slate with a striker that you drag across the slate, and which imitates clucks and gobbles. Many hunters (including "moi") like the slate and striker call best, because it has a wider range of different sounds than the other calls.
Some savvy hunters use an owl call to locate roosting birds. Typically, hunters (usually those who may have been a tad "lazy" and haven't previously scouted prior to the opening of the season) will locate roosting birds the night before they want to hunt. Once the turkeys hear the ominous "hoot/hoot" sound of an owl, they will invariably start clucking or gobbling from fear and to alert everyone to the presence of the pre-eminent night stalker and hunter -- the owl -- particularly to protect the Jakes (the younger turkeys). Then, the next morning at daybreak, the hunter will set up his/her blind near where they heard the sounds from the roosting birds the night before, and start using regular calls -- and then wait for Thanksgiving dinner to come in.
Most successful turkey hunters know that it's best not to do more than two series of calls initially. They do a slow one and then faster, as to imitate a hen, who may, by her call, tell the Toms she's "lonely," and is seeking "male companionship." The hen calls are purrs and clucks as opposed to the gobbles of the Toms. Indeed, the hen calls will often awaken the Toms -- and they will awaken instantaneously upon hearing the "right" sound coming from a hen! Then the hunter will simply wait, as the turkeys are usually close enough to know "generally" where the calls are coming from, without pinpointing the hunter.
If, indeed, after the series of two calls are made, the Tom's start coming in, let them come, and keep your mouth shut, and be immobile (and maybe sweat a little in anticipation. No hunter worth his/her beans won't sweat a little and have an adrenalin rush as the quarry gets closer). If the turkeys don't come in within half an hour to 45 minutes after calling, the hunter can either do another series of two calls, or move to another spot. AND -- if the turkeys come in just part way, and then hang up, and you can see them, then do a series of LIGHT purrs and clucks -- nothing too loud or raucous or fast or continuous. All you want to do is get their attention -- nature in her wisdom will provide the rest of the impetus for these Toms to come in.
Bottom line: Patience and the willingness to keep your calls infrequent, quiet, and variable in their "pacing" are the keys to ultimate success in getting a fine bird.
(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article)
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