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Fowl Language Turkey Call Basics by Tammy Ballew

Have you ever gone out to buy a turkey call and became overwhelmed by the multitude and varieties of calls available?

Turkeys are extremely vocal. Their vocabulary consists of clucks, yelps, purrs, the gobble of mature males, and the kee kee whistle of the young birds. There are hundreds of calls on the market that are excellent in imitating these vocals.

When turkey hunting, one of the most important calls is the locator call. An exceptional locator call is an owl hooter. It’s a very user-friendly call, and does a great job mimicking the owls, which seem to take great pleasure in taunting the roosting gobblers. Simply blow into the call as if speaking the word “who.” After practicing this, fine-tune the call, putting more emphasis by blowing harder at the beginning of the call and then trailing off.

If there are toms in the area, this call will most usually aggravate them and cause them to gobble, revealing their whereabouts in the treetops. If they sound close by, very quietly and cautiously get set up for them. Remember, the wild turkeys’ eyesight is many times greater than the human, so minimal movement is essential. Some hunters prefer to hunt out of a blind, particularly for freedom of movement without being detected by the birds.

Others like a more spontaneous set up once the birds are located. Simply find a tree to sit in front of and lean back against it for comfort. It’s a good idea to have some brush around to help block movement and to keep from being spotted by the turkeys. It’s also important to make sure there are no limbs or brush to hinder the movement of the shotgun when getting ready for the shot.

When feeling confident with the set up, let things get quieted down for a few minutes before starting to call. A soft hen yelp, using a box call, is an ideal call for luring the gobblers to pinpoint your location. It’s not necessary to call much, just enough to spark their interest to the new gal on the block. Then wait for about 15 minutes before calling again.

The toms will generally start to gobble while still in the trees. After a few repetitions of the soft yelp on the box call, move on to a somewhat louder call using a slate call. The call should sound as if it’s saying caulk, caulk, caulk. The volume of the call can be regulated by a softer or harder stroke of the striker on the slate.  If the birds have been located and they are fairly close by, a quieter call would be more effective.

Sometimes the turkeys will fly down fairly early after the sun comes up, but other mornings they’ll hang up in the trees for what feels like hours. Patience at this point is essential. Chances are very good that the gobbler knows your location and will fly down in your direction, although they are equally as good that he will fly the other direction. Don’t overcall and just wait to see what happens when he flies down. Listen intently during this transition, because they don’t always fly down, they have been known to simply drop out of the tree and you won’t hear much in the way of their wings flapping.  The gobbling will also sound differently when the tom is on the ground. You will probably be able to tell which direction he’s moving at that point. If it sounds like his gobbling is coming closer, get your shotgun up and ready for him. This is the best time to use a mouth call if you are able to use one. It’ll free your hands up for handling your shotgun.

Mouth calls are more difficult for many people to use, but they’re also one of the most effective.  Most of the call companies have a smaller frame mouth call available for women. The calls generally have good directions on the backside of the package for learning to use them. It’s a good idea when you first purchase the call to simply place it in your mouth just to get used to having it there and the way it feels. You don’t even have to try calling with it at this point. It’s important that you get comfortable with the fit and feel of having the call in your mouth.

If you are unable to get down the technique of using a mouth call, try using a push box. These calls can be operated using one hand so that you can get ready for your shot. The main thing to remember is minimal movement is extremely important. If you do have to reposition your gun or your sitting position, do it very slowly so as not to alert the turkeys.

The best part about turkey hunting is all that goes on around you while sitting out in the woods listening to the gobblers. There’ll be the very early crooning of a distant whippoorwill into the break of dawn. Just before daylight, the cheer of the cardinals will welcome the new day. They are generally one of the first birds to awaken the morning woods.

As the sun comes up, the sunlight filtering through the trees is a beautiful array of color glistening on the dew or the raindrops of an early morning shower. It is gorgeous. It makes you glad you crawled out of your nice warm bed to experience the dawning of a new day.

The second best part of turkey hunting is when you have successfully called up a bird with your newly acquired calling skills. Practice your calls before going out to the woods. There are several Turkey Calling 101 DVDs available that are well worth the purchase, or watch any of the turkey hunting shows on the outdoor channels to get the sounds you are trying to achieve.

Get comfortable with your calling, and get out and enjoy the opportunity to talk turkey. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be using your own fowl language.

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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