LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015
If you’re like me, you’re a man of many gadgets. We love to research the latest and greatest hunting items out there, but if you take a walk down the turkey call isle in your local sporting goods store you can be over whelmed by the selection available. There is diaphragm calls, one reed, two reeds, two and a half reeds, split reeds, and more reed options than you can even think of. That’s just diaphragm calls, not to mention pot calls… do you use slate, glass, or aluminum? Then there is box calls, push button calls, owl calls, crow calls, gobble shakers, well I think you get the point.
With so many calls out on the market where do you start? If you’re a beginner to the sport of turkey hunting or even a seasoned veteran, figuring out what type of turkey calls you need, can make any one’s head spin. After staring at all the different options you soon start to look like an owl on a branch, big eyed and your head turning all the way around just trying to make a decision on what to buy.
In this article we will cover majority of the calls on the market today and what each call brings to the table for your turkey calling arsenal. We will also cover the sure fire turkey calls that you won’t want to leave home without.
When heading to the turkey woods you want a wide variety of calls at your disposal. Just like people, every turkey has their own sounding voice. One day a big old long beard my like the sounds of an old raspy hen, or the next day he may like a higher pitch sounding hen. Day to day the preference of a long beard may change, by having a good selection of calls allows you to try and match you’re calling to his preference. Weather can also determine what calls to use. If it’s raining cats and dogs, you may want to leave your “non- water proof” calls in your turkey vest. Basically the more of a variety of calls you have means the better the odds are that you can match your calling to the long beards preference and to the weather conditions.
Having several diffrent call options increase your odds at giving that long beard the sound he likes.
Diaphragm calls may be one of the hardest calls to learn how to use, however are the most versatile, cheapest, water proof, and leave you absolutely hands free when calling. These calls are small, and light weight taking up very little room in your turkey vest. When looking at how many reeds or what reed style to get depends on personal preference. To start with your single reed and double reed diaphragms are higher pitched and are much clearer sounding calls. The more reeds you get the raspier the call. If you are first starting out learning how to use a diaphragm call I recommend that you try a double reed call. They seem to be easier to get noise out of and are the easiest to get the tone to break. The tone break is that sound of “yeeee-yuuup” of the yelp. Going from that high first note and breaking to the second note is easiest with a double reed call.
We love to use the diaphragm call to “cut” with. Cutting is a form of aggressive hen calls that work great at getting that long beard all fired up. For a good cutting call we prefer a two and a half reed or more call. Also multiple reeds with a half reed combination give you a good raspy sounding call. By utilizing a diaphragm call allows you a hands free operation, which is crucial when that turkey is with in eye sight of you and you need to make those last light calls to seal the deal. Also when it’s raining out you never have to worry about your mouth call not working.
Pot calls are a for sure call that you never want to leave home without. They are very versatile and easy to use. These calls are the bread and butter of my turkey calling arsenal. I love to seal the deal with an old long beard by purring on my pot call. My favorite pot call is has a slate surface. When I know that long beard is thinking about coming my way, I let out some soft subtle purrs and clucks on my slate call and just set it down. Those last subtle calls followed by silence are often more than he can take and soon he is on his way in. I prefer slate over aluminum because slate seems to provide much more friction on the surface giving that call a good tone, but that is just my personal preference. I also prefer glass over aluminum. My primary pot call I use first is a slate and the one I use second if I’m not getting the response I am looking for from slate is glass.
The negative to pot calls much like most friction calls are that they are not water proof and under rainy days they may not work, which is also why you want to carry more than one turkey call with you. However the pot call’s pluses outweigh the negatives. They are a great close in soft subtle call when you need to tone it down, and they also can be loud and aggressive when you want to crank it up. Another reason you want a pot call in your vest is that you can take one call and change the tone by using different strikers. It’s much cheaper to buy several strikers than it is to buy several pot calls, making your calling arsenal much more rounded.
Box calls are another friction call that you want in your turkey vest. These calls are a great long distance call. What I mean by this is that they are piercing and loud, they work great under windy conditions. When the wind is blowing it can often drown out most other calls, but the box call’s loud piercing yelps and cutting pierces its way through the wind. They can also be a good close in call. With a soft drag of the box’s lid you can make soft purrs and just of soft tap of the lid can make beautiful clucks.
When choosing a box call you get what you pay for. There are some box calls out on the market that are sweet sounding however they can run as high as one hundred dollars. Now I’m not saying buy something cheap, nor am I saying you need to break the bank. The key is to try them like any other call, before you buy one. There are also water proof or water resistance box calls now out on the market, allowing you use when most other friction calls fail.
Box calls can be loud and reach out to that old long beard in strong winds
Push button calls are a great call for the beginner and seasoned veteran. I bought one last year that my five year old uses. She can make perfect yelps and cutting on it, so yes it is so easy a child can use it. Another reason you will like push button calls are that there is little movement when calling on them, just a slight movement of the finger is all that is needed. You can also get a special mount to locate the call on the end of your gun or even attach it to the handle of your bow. This call is also a great close in call much like the pot call.
I always carry several locator calls with me at all times. A standard must have locator calls are the crow and an owl call. Just like with hen calls, turkeys may prefer one pitch or tone over another. The same is true with locator calls. One turkey may gobble his head off at a crow call and another turkey may gobble at a palliated wood pecker call. The key is to have a variety, so if one doesn’t work try another to try and spark a response. A thing that is common with locator calls is that they are loud. They need to reach out and hit that long beards ear drum. For this reason when it comes to an owl call I prefer a reed call that utilizes back pressure to make your hoots. The reed calls seem to produce more volume and are also able to be toned down for when you’re working your way in on him.
Another great locator call is a coyote howler. These calls are very loud and very piercing. The only time you may want to use a coyote howler is at night when you are trying to “put birds to bed”. You don’t want a turkey thinking there is a coyote walking around by his tree in the morning. However don’t let this shy you away from utilizing this call in the evening. I locate more birds with the coyote howler than I do with my owl call. The key to locating birds is variety and don’t limit your ability with just one call. At a minimum you will want a crow and an owl call; however I strongly suggest several others also such as a palliated wood pecker call and a coyote howler.
Reed owl calls produce much louder hoots to spark a shock gobble.
Specialty calls can be anything from a wing bone call to a tube call. These are calls that you may want to also add to your vest. If you are hunting public land or birds that are called to a lot, these calls may be the secret that you have been looking for. If all spring long birds keep hearing everything from fiction calls to mouth calls you may want to try a wing bone call. It is a call that has its own unique sound that they may not have heard before.
Here is a typical scenario of a day’s hunt showing you the importance of having a variety of calls. It’s the evening before the next morning hunt. Todd Fletcher and I find ourselves standing at a high location off of a ridge. I reach for my owl call to start off with to locate a roosted tom. After several attempts on the owl call we had no such luck. I then reach into my vest and pull out a coyote howler. With on loud howl on the call I wait for a reply. Soon the sweet sound of gobble sounds back. With a sweet “Yes” We take off in the direction of the old limb hanger. As we close the distance I let out an owl hoot to keep him gobbling as we pin point his exact location. Once we pinpoint his location, I then back out and formulate a plan for tomorrow morning’s hunt.
As the morning sun begins to rise and the song birds begin to sing, I pullout my owl call. With several soft hoots, the old tom gobbles back. I then continue to close the distance getting even closer than I did the night before. Once set up I pull out my slate call and make some soft tree yelps and purrs. As soon as he answers me I set my calls down, the ball is in his court and I won’t make any more calls until he flies down from the roost. It isn’t long and soon he flies down, but my dreams suddenly fade as I learn he has several hens with him. As they yelp back and forth, I pull out my diaphragm call and start “letting them have it!” with aggressive yelps and cuts I agitate the old boss hen, hopping to bring her in to my set up with the old long beard in tow. As I’m cutting on the diaphragm call, I’m also purring and cutting on my push button call, hoping to sound like several hens fighting. As the morning goes on the hens begin to quiet down and the gobbling stops. With no turkeys around, we stand up and stretch our already cramping legs.
As the morning continues we begin cutting and running. As the wind begins to pick up we switch over to a box call, yelping and cutting aggressively. With no response we move on until we hit a hot gobbler. It isn’t long and we strike a gobble. We take off for the nearest cover quickly setting up. I then let out a yelp on my diaphragm call. With no response I wait a minute then purr on my slate call, the old long beard answers right back seventy five yards closer than when we first heard him gobble.
Soon we see him strutting about seventy yards out. I then let out a soft purr and cluck with my diaphragm call being sure not to make any movement. With just a little reassurance calling the old long beard struts on in. I added this scenario to give you a better understanding in the use of calls and why it is important to have a variety at your disposal throughout the day in the turkey woods.
When it comes to calling turkeys the key is variety. You don’t want to limit yourself, you want to have options. If one call is not working you want to be able to switch it up and try another. Another reason to have a variety is that with a mouth call, and a friction call allows you to sound like several hens, making that old long beard think that he has more than one hen to call his if he comes in.
Another point I cannot stress enough is to try it before you buy it. You don’t go and buy a car until you test drive it. The same is with turkey calls. Of course you don’t want to be sharing diaphragm calls, but most retail stores have friction calls out of the package for you to try out and see if you like how they sound. Here is a list of calls that I carry in my turkey vest. One thing to remember is that calls are like vehicles, one guy might like trucks and one may like cars. These calls are my personal preference as to what I like to use, but it is a good starting point for you to start your own turkey calling arsenal.
Diaphragm calls: H.S. Strut Cutter 2.5, Primos Piggy Back Deadly Double and True Double.
Pot Calls: H.S. Strut Lil’ Deuce Slate, H.S. Strut Triple Glass.
Box Calls: Primos Heart Breaker, Primos Lil’ Heart Breaker.
Push Button Calls: Quaker Boy Inc. Cyclone Push-Pin Yelper.
Locator calls: Primos Power Crow Call, H.S. Strut Palmer Hoot Tube (owl), H.S. Strut coyote howler, Knight & Hale pileated wood pecker call.
Again this is my personal turkey calling arsenal, you don’t need all these calls, but the key is to have a variety at your disposal.