Turkey Hunting | Calling Strategies You Should Practice Right Now
How fluent are you in turkey talk? Can you effortlessly speak the language and entice lonely birds to stroll into your set? Or do you sound more like a psychotic chicken squawking away in the woods? No judgment here. But if the latter is true, the offseason is your friend. You’ll have months of down time, often with no other hunting seasons to distract you, to practice your cackles, yelps, and purrs. And if those terms sound foreign to you, you’re definitely the psychotic chicken clucking away in the woods and not seeing turkeys. Do yourself a favor and change that before next spring arrives.
Let’s start with some basic turkey vocabulary, so we’re all on the same page. Turkeys make an incredible number of vocalizations, far beyond what most people know about. They each have their own place, and it’s to your enormous benefit to know when to make each one.
Gobble – This is the most commonly associated turkey hunting call. Males gobble to attract hens and challenge other tom turkeys. You can easily produce a gobble using a hand-held call.
Cluck – This call is used in short bursts by both males and females. It is a basic “come-here” call that can be done with a slate, glass, or box call such as the Dual Threat Glass and Slate Turkey Pot Call and Switchblade 3-in-1 Turkey Box Call.
Yelp – Turkeys use yelp vocalizations for a variety of reasons. They’ll use them when they’re lonely to find other turkeys, to assemble after the flock has disbanded, and to simply comfort each other. Turkey hunters can use a slate call to make yelps, as well, which are slightly longer than clucks.
Cackle – You’re probably familiar with this call, but turkeys use it when flying down from a tree roost. It is a series of 10 to 15 short bursts that starts and ends slowly. You can use a box or slate call for a cackle.
Purr – Turkeys make purring calls to simply stay in contact as they travel in their flock. It is a short purring noise that is best done with a diaphragm mouth call.
Kee kee – Used as an alarm call, this high-pitched whistling noise consists of 3 to 4 short bursts. It is best done on a slate call to get the right W or M motion with the striker.
Alright, so now you have a basic understanding of the type of turkey calls, what emotions they’re meant to communicate, and the best type of physical call to make them with. But how do you move forward to put this knowledge into practical use while out turkey hunting next fall?
First, know that the internet is absolutely overflowing with tips and tricks on how to make each one of the turkey calls you see listed above. You can watch endless turkey calling videos detailing exactly how to move the striker on the slate to achieve the right tone, or listen to countless real turkeys making the vocalizations to cement the sound in your brain. Though diaphragm calls are a little more difficult to physically see how to do, you can still find helpful videos using them as well. Utilize these resources as much as you can.
Second, try to seek out some expert advice. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a National Wild Turkey Federation event or simply with your turkey hunting neighbor down the road – you need to get some feedback on your turkey calling from someone who knows. Being there in person to watch how they use the calls is really helpful when you’re learning new ones. But it’s probably more helpful to get someone else’s constructive criticism on your own turkey calling.
Last, you need to invest some time actually practicing your turkey calling techniques. This may irritate the heck out of your family during the long winter months, unless they’re also turkey hunting fanatics like you. But practice makes perfect. A good hack you can do is to record your calls so you can then replay them and compare to real turkey calls. You’ll quickly notice what stands out as unnatural-sounding, so you can change your calling tone, cadence, or rhythm before it gets too cemented into your habits.
Using these tips, you’ll have a productive offseason that will prepare you for an awesome turkey hunting season this spring. As they say, you’ll never regret learning a new language, and that’s certainly true with turkey talking too. When you are successful, print the campaign banner below (click banner to enlarge, right click on banner and click “save image as” to print). Get creative, and use the campaign banner in your turkey hunting pictures and get ready to submit on our Facebook Page to win some CSTF2016 prizes!