Advanced Turkey Calling Tips

These 10 tricks will carry your turkey calling to a higher level and help you become a more successful turkey hunter.

  1. One fine spring day I threw the kitchen sink at a Mississippi gobbler. He roared at all my calls, but just stood out there and strutted. “OK old boy, I’ll give you something a little radical,” I whispered. Pinning a diaphragm to the roof of my mouth, I squealed, uttering sort of a chopped-off kee-kee. I pulled out a box call, pressed the lid hard against the sounding lip and stroked a couple of long whines amid a series of yelps. The turkey broke strut and body-rocked in! The 30-yard shot was a piece of cake.  Listen closely and you’ll notice that many hens mix squeals, squeaks and whines into their clucking and yelping routines. These idiosyncrasies drive some toms wild. Tweaking your diaphragm and friction calling can have the same effect. Those “bad” notes you hit on purpose might bring a stubborn gobbler running.
  2. Place a new diaphragm call halfway between your front teeth and the back of your mouth. If it feels too big and flat, bend the aluminum frame slightly downward. The call should feel more comfortable against your palate. Better yet, you’ll have a better air seal, which will sweeten the sounds of your clucks and yelps.
  3. Get versatile on a slate, glass or aluminum call. Hold a striker loosely and stroke the middle of a call for raspy yelps, clucks and cutts. Squeeze a peg tighter and run it near the edges of a pot for higher-pitched calls. Switching between wooden and carbon strikers as you work all over the surface of a pot further diversifies your calling.
  4. For obvious reasons, it’s generally best to mimic a love-starved hen in the spring. But sometimes gobbler clucking and yelping can be effective. You sound a vagabond tom in the social hierarchy. A subordinate longbeard looking for a buddy may come to check you out. Or a dominant gobbler may strut over to see who dares invade his breeding turf. It’s easy to gobbler yelp on a multi-reed diaphragm. You can also run a raspy box, or stroke a striker in the low-pitched middle of a slate, glass or aluminum call. Whichever device you use, slow down the length and rhythm of your calls. Deep-throated gobbler yelps are slower than hen yelps. Toss in low-pitched clucks for realism.
  5. After sneaking as close as you dare to a roosted turkey, set up and listen. If the tom booms love tunes and you hear no hensclucking and yelping, don’t call too early. Wait until the sky glimmers pink, then float a tree yelp and a few soft clucks to let the bird know you’re there. If the turkey rips a gobble, shut up! He thinks you’re a hen, and he knows where you are. If the bird fails to talk, however, cluck and yelp a little louder to focus his attention your way. If still no action, don’t sweat it. Sit quietly and listen for thumping wings. Immediately hit the grounded bird with a spirited cackle, flapping a turkey wing or cap to create the illusion of a hen flying down nearby. If the tom gobbles and walks your way, you might not have to call again.
  6. When you run across a tom strutting with hens, listen to the dominant girl and mock her. If she yelps, you yelp back, loudly and aggressively. If she clucks, you cluck spiritedly. Rile a boss hen and she may come to check out the sassy new girl in town, towing a gobbler along for a look. Your mocking calls might even lure a satellite tom traveling the fringes of a breeding flock. The turkey won’t be the dominant strutter, but he might have a 9-inch beard and 1¼-inch hooks. You’ll be more than happy to take him.
  7. Cutting on a diaphragm or friction call is a great way to locate gobblers strutting around during the midmorning hours. But don’t get carried away and string together too many loud, aggressive, irregular clucks that can drown out a turkey’s shock gobble. Cutt in sharp, 3-second bursts, then listen closely for a tom to roar.
  8. When running a box or pot-and-peg call, hold it well away from your body and point it toward a ridge, hollow or creek bottom where you think a tom might be roosted or strutting. This enhances the volume of your yelps and cutts, and helps to funnel them toward a turkey.
  9. Let’s say a tom gobbles in a spot where he cannot see you (i.e. behind a little rise or hidden in foliage 75 yards away). Cup a camouflaged hand to your mouth and turn your head slowly while running a diaphragm. Work a friction call to either side of your body, then move it into your lap and stroke some clucks, yelps and cutts out front. Varying not only the line but also the volume of your calls further enhances their ventriloquistic effects. This keeps a tom on the move and wondering just where the heck is that hen. Pretty soon he’s apt to drift into shotgun range.
  10. Now for the final convincer. When a gobbler is close and coming, it’s best not to call at all. Let him play the game and strut on in! But if a bird hangs up 45 to 55 steps away, you might need to coax him with discreet calling. Cluck, yelp or purr softly when a tom gobbles or drums, or stirs leaves and snaps sticks with his feet. When a turkey makes noise, his hearing is less acute, and it’s tough for him to nail the precise location your calls. The bird will have to inch 10 to 20 yards closer in search of that sweet-talking hen. When you spot his red-and-white brain stem and swinging beard, go ahead and shoot.

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