As Hunting Leases and hunters gear up for Spring Turkey season, choosing the right setup is the most important factor in successfully calling up a bird. Here are some pointers that can help you on your way to a successful hunt.
You’ve found a place to hunt. Now it’s time to think about potential turkey hunting setups. Choose a spot as close as possible to the gobbler you want to kill, but without spooking the bird. It should be along a fairly predictable travel route. Calling in a turkey is much easier when you’re sitting where he wants to go.
Before you sit down, look around first to make sure you have open shooting lanes for when the gobbler comes in. If possible, use the terrain to find a location where, as soon as the turkey steps into view, he’s also in range. This might be the edge of a ridge top or pasture corner trail. If possible, sit with your back against a broad-trunked tree facing this spot. Put your seat cushion there. Get ready, placing calls nearby. A decoy or two might help them come to your calls. If you’ve patterned field birds and found strut zones, make your setup there. Portable blinds also work well in such situations.
Turkey hunting setups will change as spring gobblers (and the hens they follow) move through the hunting day. You can sit, call and passively wait on birds to come to you. You can also go to the turkeys and close the distance with your next setup. Many turkey hunters do a little of both.
Eventually you’ll find yourself sitting at your setup with the gobbler hunting down your position. That’s when you’ll know you’ve picked the right spot at the right time. There’s no thrill like it.
Turkey Calling Sounds
While roughly 30 turkey calling sounds can be heard in the wild, fewer than half of those are usually used while hunting. Many spring gobbler hunters make just two basic calls: the plain cluck and hen yelp. Those two calls kill plenty of turkeys. But other good sounds to learn include roost clucks and tree yelps (a.k.a. “tree calling”); fly-down cackles; cutting (loud and fast clucks); lost yelps; purrs; gobbles and even the kee-kee sounds of young birds.
A cluck is the single-note sound made frequently throughout the day by both gobblers and hens. Clucks are often spaced out, with two or three seconds between notes. And sometimes the bird might just cluck once.
The plain hen yelp is usually three to eight notes long, and it’s the calling option most often employed by spring turkey hunters to lure gobblers to setups. Hen yelping is higher-pitched than the deeper, coarser yelping of gobblers. Tom turkeys yelp with a slower cadence as well, and yelps are generally fewer in number — often three notes: yawp, yawp, yawp. In the spring, a jake will often yelp, rather than gobble, on the approach, so it’s an important sound to recognize.
Learn how to use a box call and make most of the wild turkey’s vocabulary, including the gobble. Most box calls are made of wood. When you scrape the paddle bottom against a side panel’s lip (many have two; some just one) the hollow chamber inside the narrow, rectangular box makes a sound — ideally one a wild turkey would like to hear. Tune your box call with chalk, rubbing it along the paddle’s bottom. Avoid oil-based options. Carpenter’s chalk works best. Be sure to keep the call dry in your vest. Waterproof box calls are also available.
Veteran turkey hunters like to say they want a box call with a flock of turkeys in it. Try several to find one you like best. It may become your versatile, go-to favorite during in the woods.
Slate calls vary by style, but they have the same basic design. A striking surface — slate, glass or aluminum — is attached to a hollow pot that often has drilled holes underneath to create sound resonance with the inner chamber. The peg, usually called a striker, is the other half of this two-piece, hand-held turkey caller. Pegs are made of wood, carbon, plastic, glass and even turkey wing bone. Friction is needed to create sounds, so “dress” (rough up) a slate call’s surface lightly with a scour pad. Use fine grit sandpaper on glass or aluminum.
Hold the pot, striking surface up, with your thumb in the nine o’clock position and middle finger at three o’clock. Grip the peg like a pencil, thumb in the striker’s center. You can make a variety of turkey calls by varying the stroke pattern. All vocalizations require keeping the peg tip on the surface.
Learning how to use a slate call takes time, but they can create some of the most realistic sounds of any type of turkey call.
Mouth or Diaphragm Call
Why choose a turkey mouth call? They’re inexpensive. They make realistic turkey sounds. A diaphragm, as they’re often called, offers hands-free operation, too. Turkey diaphragms are made by stretching latex rubber — often called the reed — across a horseshoe-shaped frame centered inside a plastic skirt. You blow air across the latex reed (or reeds) to make turkey sounds.
The best word depends on the caller. ‘Chick,’ ‘chirp,’ ‘chop’ and ‘chalk’ are popular.” To call, use your tongue to fit the diaphragm against the roof of your mouth. Face the straight edge forward. Try for a tight air seal. Now put your tongue lightly against the reeds. To yelp, push air between the top of your tongue and the reed. Saying words as you do this can help. Whichever word you choose for this, make your yelps with snapping, beaklike lips, just as a turkey would.
Running your mouth diaphragm call with the right number, rhythm, length, volume, spacing and pitch of notes will improve your turkey calling game. Listen to real birds. Learn from your mistakes as you practice. Soon you’ll be able to make the many turkey sounds and fool a wild bird into range.
In the spring, gobblers are often so amped up that they’ll gobble out of reflex at a loud sound. That’s a convenient thing for turkey hunters. Most of us call it “shock gobbling.” Turkey locator calls are used to make those loud sounds in hopes of locating a gobbler. Traditional locator calls include the crow or barred owl. Duck, goose, coyote and even hawk calls work too, among others. Turkey calls are used to locate gobblers as well. Excited yelps and cutting often shock a tom into gobbling.
Gobblers often sound off on the roost as day breaks. If you haven’t heard one that morning, try owl hooting. If this doesn’t work, crow call if the timing seems right. Crow calls also work during the day as you run-and-gun, prospecting for turkeys. One school of thought is using non-turkey locator calls when birds are still on the roost. After fly-down, switch to turkey calls. Remember the idea is to fix a gobbler’s position so you can pick a setup spot and try to call the bird in. Gobblers will shock gobble at loud turkey calls, but you need to be prepared for birds to begin coming your way if you use them.
Locator calls should be used sparingly. If a gobbler is hearing so many crow calls and owl hoots that they no longer surprise him, he’ll stop shock gobbling at the sounds. Use them to locate your bird, but making him gobble at them repeatedly only hurts you in the long run.
With practice and planning, these calls can put you well on your way to a successful Turkey Hunt.
If you are considering purchasing a hunting lease, contact Jim Pendley to help you find the perfect land.