Turkey Calling Basics

Turkey calling is both an art and a science, requiring skill, patience, and a deep understanding of turkey behavior. Whether you're a seasoned hunter or just starting out, mastering various calling techniques can significantly increase your chances of success in the field. However, you don't need to be a world champion caller to find success. If you talk to enough turkey hunters, you'll often hear them say the worst sounding call often comes from a living bird. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore advanced turkey calling strategies, providing detailed examples and tips to help you become a more effective turkey hunter.


Understanding Turkey Vocalizations

Before delving into specific calling strategies, it's essential to understand the various vocalizations of wild turkeys and their meanings. Here are some key vocalizations commonly used in turkey hunting:

1. **Yelps:** Used by both hens and gobblers, yelps are versatile calls that can convey different messages depending on their cadence and intensity. They can signify contentment, location, or excitement.

2. **Clucks and Purrs:** These soft, subtle calls are often used by contented hens and are effective for reassuring or calming nervous gobblers.

3. **Cuts:** Sharp, rapid series of clucks that convey urgency or excitement. Cuts are often used by hens to assert dominance or when excited.

4. **Cackles:** Loud, irregular calls that signify agitation or alarm. Gobblers may cackle in response to perceived threats or to assert their dominance.

5. **Gobbles:** The unmistakable call of a strutting gobbler, typically used to attract hens or challenge rival males.


 Turkey Calling Strategies:

1. **Strategic Use of Locator Calls:**
- Locator calls, such as crow calls, owl hoots, or coyote howls, can be highly effective for locating gobblers at dawn or throughout the day. Birds will shock gobble at just about any loud noise if they're in the mood. The trick here is to use something different if you're in a heavily pressured area. 
- Experiment with different locator calls and techniques to determine which sounds elicit the most consistent responses from nearby gobblers. This may changed day to day pending weather conditions, hunting pressure, or even the mood of the birds that day. When you find something that works that day, stick with it. 
- Once you've located a gobbler, make a plan, and refrain from calling until you're setup in a position to shoot. 

2. **Calling Softly to Educated Birds:**
- In areas with high hunting pressure, turkeys can become wary and call-shy. In such situations, it's essential to use subtle, soft calling techniques to avoid spooking birds. Also focus on using a different cadence, tone, and frequency than other hunters. 
- Employ gentle clucks, purrs, and soft yelps to mimic the sounds of contented hens. Focus on realism and avoid aggressive or overly loud calling. I know it's hard hunting birds that won't gobble but sometimes less is more. In the wild, more often than not hens go to the gobbler, which replicates the scenario of a bird hanging up at 80 or 100 yards...It's a normal occurrence as he's waiting for the hen to come to him. In this scenario, it pays to have some patiences and go quiet. There's good odds curiosity will bring that gobbler into range if you've painted the right picture. 

3. **Decoy and Calling Combinations:**
- Combining decoys with calling can create a more realistic and convincing setup, especially during the breeding season. Calling is only one part of the equation and if you're hunting open areas where birds have a visual advantage, you may struggle without a decoy to visually confirm what the gobbler is hearing.
- Use hen decoys to draw gobblers into range, while simultaneously using soft yelps and clucks to simulate the presence of a receptive hen. If you're using decoys your calling should match the visual picture you've laid out. 
- Experiment with different decoy setups, including single hen decoys, breeding pairs, or flocks of feeding turkeys, to determine which configurations are most effective in your hunting area. Unfortunately there is no "shoe box" strategy here and you are at the mercy of whatever mood the gobblers are in that day. The best advice is to start with less threatening decoy setup unless you know the long beard you're after is an overly dominant and aggressive bird. 

4. **Aggressive Calling for Dominance:**
- Aggressive calling techniques, such as loud yelps, cuts, and aggressive purrs, can be effective for challenging dominant gobblers and triggering a response.
- Use aggressive calling sparingly and strategically, particularly when targeting mature, dominant birds. Too much aggressive calling can intimidate gobblers and drive them away. If you have the ability to gobble, presenting a jake or less dominate long beard is a great way to work a dominate bird. 

5. **Calling During Inclement Weather:**
- Take advantage of these conditions by using louder, more aggressive calling techniques to cut through the elements and reach distant gobblers.
- Be patient and persistent, as gobblers may take longer to respond or approach in challenging weather conditions. Foul weather is going to change turkey behavior and in many scenarios move them into open areas where they can rely heavily on their vision. 

Mastering advanced turkey calling strategies requires practice, patience, and a deep understanding of turkey behavior. By incorporating a variety of calls and techniques into your hunting repertoire, you can increase your success rate and become a more skilled and effective turkey hunter. Remember to adapt your calling strategy based on the specific conditions and behavior of the turkeys in your hunting area, and always prioritize safety and ethical hunting practices in the field.

With dedication and perseverance, you'll soon find yourself outsmarting gobblers and enjoying memorable turkey hunting experiences for years to come.


Author: Chad Sylvester, Exodus Co-Founder/Owner