This is the time of year I start getting excited about sitting in the woods on a chilly spring morning. Spring turkey season is less than 3 months away. That means it’s time to prepare my turkey hunting gear and get some calling practice in. Taking time to practice your calling technique during the last few weeks before opening morning can mean the difference between filling a tag or watching that tom bust you just out of range because of a botched call. Always take time to get to know your equipment and how to successfully use it.
I decided to put together a list of the types of turkey calls and a little bit on how and why to use each of them. While many are very simple to use, some can take some practice to master. The important thing is to have a variety of calls available on your hunt to ensure you are ready for whatever the hunt throws at you. The second most important thing is to PRACTICE with each call in your arsenal so you don’t end up in the woods sounding like a dying chicken.
Here is my list of 7 types of turkey calls for spring and a few pointers to go along with each.
Box calls are a top choice for turkey calls among hunting beginners. This is in part because their ease of use. The box call is typically made from woods like cedar, mahogany, and walnut, however some higher priced turkey calls may be made from exotic hardwoods. The type of wood the call is made from can have a large impact on the sounds produced from the call. This type of call uses friction between the paddle (thin top piece of wood) and the body (bottom box of wood) to create a variety of sounds. With practice a hunter can create yelps, clucks, cuts, purrs, cackles, and even gobbles with a box call.
Beginner Tips for Box Call
A box call is capable of producing soft subtle tones but in my opinion, its best quality is the ability to create loud raspy tones that can cut through the woods on a windy day, catch the attention of turkeys that are off in the distance, and potentially bring them your way. I will create an instructional video for the box call and link it here.
Pot Calls are also a friction style call. These calls are also know as slate calls but the striking surface can be made from a variety of materials such as slate, ceramic, glass, and even copper or aluminum. The pot call is a round turkey call with the friction surface on as a top. The bottom of the pot will have holes in it to help create the depth and tone of the call. A striker stick which is made of materials such as wood, carbon or aluminum, is pushed or pulled across the striking surface to produce different sounds. This is an extremely versatile call that is capable of the full range of hen turkey vocals. This is achieved by using a variety of strikers made from various materials. One single pot call and two or three different strikers can give you a multitude of pitches and tones to mix together while calling.
Beginner Tips for Pot Calls
Choose a few strikers made from different materials and a pot call with a slate striking face to begin with. In my area a slate call seems to produce the sounds that work best for me. Once you have mastered the slate type, you can easily move into glass or ceramic tops and add that bit of flair to your calling technique. The possibilities are endless with pot style calls. Combing a pot call for longer range calling with a diaphragm call to close the deal is my usual go to for spring turkey hunting. I will upload and instructional video and link here.
Note* Friction calls can be a little unpredictable in wet weather. Keeping the friction surfaces dry on your turkey call is critical to quality sound production.
Push Button Calls
Push-button turkey calls are by far one of the easiest turkey calls to master. These types of calls take me back to my childhood days. Hunting turkeys in the mountains of Virginia, my father primarily used a push button call and was very successful when doing so. This is the type of call I learned to turkey hunt with and remains an option in my spring turkey set up. Push button calls will sometimes even prove themselves effective when all other calls fail. Depending on the hunting pressure in your area, a push button call make out perform other calls simply because it is the least mimicked sound in the woods. While everyone else is hitting long yelps on box calls, the subtle clucks and putts from a push button may bring that wary tom within range.
Beginner Tips for Push Button Calls
A push button turkey call is also a friction call, the upside to these is their ability to remain operational in wetter climate. They are easier to keep dry because the friction pieces are inside of the box. Sounds can be manipulated by the speed of pushing the dowel. The range or depth of the can can also be changed based on the amount of pressure put onto the box itself. I will upload an instructional video and link here.
Diaphragm calls are also called mouth calls. These calls are small, horseshoe-shaped calls that utilize latex or rubber reed that vibrates between a metal frame to create sound. Air is passed over the call which is situated in the roof of the mouth. The air creates a vibration in the reeds which produces the desired sound. Lots of practice is crucial for successfully using a diaphragm call. A major benefit of diaphragm turkey calls is the ability to operate the call hands free which allows the hunter to continue calling without movement when a turkey is within range. There are a few downsides to diaphragm calls. They can potentially cause new users to gag until used to holding the call correctly. Diaphragm calls also can not produce really loud calls without becoming distorted. This is why it should be used along side a louder call such as a box call or pot turkey call. Use a louder call to determine a turkey’s location and gain their attention and then switch over to a diaphragm call to close the deal.
Beginner Tips for Diaphragm Calls
If you are new to using a diaphragm call, make sure you take plenty of time to practice. As mentioned above, getting used to holding the call in your mouth is extremely important to produce quality sounds. While there are a wide variety of diaphragm calls available that produce multiple sounds, I would recommend a single reed turkey call for beginners to learn with because the learning curve is more forgiving and getting the feel for it will be a little easier. You can also buy a multi pack that includes a single reed call and move to the more advanced calls once comfortable.
Another consideration to using a diaphragm call is the potential need to resize the tape that creates the body of the turkey call. Doing this is fairly easy and usually only needs a pair of scissors to slightly trim the call until it feels comfortable. I will upload an instructional video here.
Gobble calls come in a variety of styles with the most popular and easy to use being the shaker style. They are also available in a blow style and diaphragm style. While most other turkey calls mimic the sounds of a hen, the gobble call is meant to imitate a male turkey. Most are able to produce sounds of a Jake as well as a mature tom. These types of turkey calls can be helpful early morning or last light to help locate birds. They can also come in handy for a stubborn turkey who refuses to come into range. Used in conjunction with decoys always helps. I have one and keep it in my turkey bag but mainly use it to annoy my kids at the house. Toss one in your bag and use on days when the action is low. You may draw in a bird that otherwise would have moved in a different direction. These can also be used along with another hen call to imitate a flock of turkeys grouped up together.
Beginner Tips for Gobble Calls
They are simple enough to use. You just shake it to produce the sound of a male turkey gobbling. The downside to these is the amount of movement required to operate them. For that reason alone, I tend to only use it as a last resort. They are fun to play with though.
There are a variety of locator calls available. Each one will work very well during the spring season. During this time a male turkeys tend to gobble at almost any loud noise. This is called a shock gobble. They will do this more often when still on the roost, so in my opinion the best time to use a locator call is just before daylight or just before dark when they are still on their roosted. The few types of locator calls are a crow call, an owl call, or other various birds. I have also heard them shock gobble at car horns, trains, and thunder. Pretty much any sudden loud noise will instigate a shock gobble from a turkey in the spring.
Beginner Tips for Locator Calls
Using a locator call is fairly straight forward. The best tip I can give a beginner is to go out the evening before a hunt and scout around for turkeys. Just before dusk, use the locator call to find the area the birds are roosting in. I like to call this “putting them to bed.” Once you know where they are roosted, back out of the area easily and study a map of the area to decide where to set up the next morning. Get in there early and be ready for those same birds to fly down out of the roost and into shooting range.
Wing Bone Calls
Rounding out this list is a call that has been used since man first started turkey hunting. The wing bone turkey call is called such because it is made from the wing bone of a turkey. You can buy plastic made ones now days. If you are a beginner and just starting out, I would advise against using a wing bone call. They are simple turkey calls to make once you bag your first turkey and a home made one will be even more rewarding to use on your next hunt. I will upload a video of making and using a wing bone turkey call here.
Selecting the Right Calls
With each category listed above containing several variations of calls, it can be a little overwhelming deciding which calls to start out with. While there are many available calls on the market, there is no correct answer to the question “What kind of call should I get.” The best answer I can give you is to take the information in this post as well as the opinions of other hunters and decide which calls you believe will work best for you and your area. Just remember to not settle for only one type of call.
Having options when you are out hunting is the best advice I can give. What works one day may not work the next day and if you limit yourself to only one type of call then you greatly decrease your chances for success. If you are a beginner you may want to start with something like a push-button call or a box call. As you master those and gain experience using them, move into more advanced calls like a pot call or a diaphragm call. You may even decide to pick up a beginner starter pack that includes a few different types of calls. These are a great for beginners and very affordable.
Whichever calls you decide to use on your next turkey hunt, make sure you take time to practice calling with them. This is the single most important thing in using a call for turkeys. As with everything else in life, with practice comes success. Turkey hunting is no different. You are in the turkeys home attempting to sound like one of them. Do your best to be as accurate as possible and the rest will fall into place this spring. For more info on beginner turkey hunting check out my other posts here.
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