Even though it's the middle of March, it is never too early to start talking turkey. As the 1st of May fast approaches — just blink your eyes, and I promise our northern zone wild-turkey season will be upon us — every turkey hunter of all skill levels should begin practicing their turkey-calling techniques.
I first began to learn how to use a turkey call, many years ago, when I purchased an instructional cassette from Knight & Hale Game Calls. I recall driving around in my pickup truck all throughout the winter months trying to learn how to use a diaphragm call. I was totally obsessed with learning how to yelp, cluck, put and purr with the call and, although it took me many weeks of practice, one day everything clicked.
If you are a newcomer to the sport, now is the time to purchase a call and instructional tape.
Calls for novices
Due to the simple action used to take to make different sounds of a turkey, push-button, slate and box calls are the preferred calls for beginner turkey hunters. All of these calls produce accurate turkey sounds by striking one surface against another. The push- button call is the easiest to master. In fact, each time I go hunting, I use my push-button call for a number of reasons. First, it takes minimal movement to use it, and it also mimics the yelping hen or her more staccato, cutting tones. For the absolute beginner, the push-button call is very simple to operate out of the box and the only practice required is learning the various cadences for different hen calls.
The slate call is extremely versatile and, once mastered, this call can and will coax in the most savvy gobbler. Using small, sweeping motions with a striker, the friction created on its various types of surfaces will create realistic yelps, cuts, purrs, kee kees, cackles, puts or clucks. The pot types are constructed of Plexiglas, glass/crystal, aluminum or slate, while strikers are made from wood, carbon, aluminum or crystal. Compared to push-button calls, the slate call takes a bit more practice and finesse. Make certain if you plan on using this type of call, allocate additional practice time for learning the specified techniques.
Calls designed for experts
Box calls: Requiring two-handed operation, like slate calls, the box call can be found in probably 95 percent of all turkey hunters' turkey vests. This call takes considerable practice to be used in the field with positive results. Box calls are constructed with a variety of woods each creating its own unique tones. Woods like cherry, walnut, poplar and mahogany are used to create beautiful works of art. With all-wood calls, care must be taken to maintain them in proper working order. Once mastered, box calls can be a tremendous asset in the turkey hunters' arsenal.
Diaphragm calls: A favorite call of turkey-hunting experts, the small diaphragm call is a device constructed of thin, lightweight aluminum with a white latex covering stretched over it and taped around the edges. The call fits in the roof of the mouth, and sound is generated by airflow that pushes air through, or over, the reeds of the diaphragm. For most turkey hunters, this call is the most difficult to master and is favored because no movement is necessitated once it is placed in your mouth. There is a mind-boggling array of diaphragm calls on the market. Hunters have a choice of single, double or split reeds, double cuts, cutters, triple reeds, raspy hens, double and triple v's and many more. If you are just starting out trying to learn how to use this call, it is best to begin with a single or double reed. Look for a call that can be fitted to the roof of your mouth. Some can be purchased in different sizes, while others can simply be trimmed to properly fit your mouth. Make certain you give yourself plenty of practice time if you want to learn how to properly use a diaphragm call. When you begin, this call can be extremely intimidating, but once you get the hang of blowing a diaphragm call, you will seldom use any other call.
Practice makes perfect
A good turkey hunter will spend hours upon hours honing their calling skills. I started with an instructional cassette, but these days hunters can utilize several types of instructional CDs, videos or DVDs on turkey calling. Quaker Boy Game Calls has produced a few DVDs for the beginner turkey caller. "Beginner's Friction Calling" and "Beginner's Mouth Calling" are two DVDs worth buying. H.S. Strut offers three instructional DVDs titled, "Box Calling 101," "Friction Calling 101" and "Mouth Calling 101." New this year, Hunter's Specialties has introduced "Real Strut Talk" DVD/CD combination pack. One can watch the DVD on TV, then listen along with the CD while practicing the suggested techniques of making a turkey's sounds correctly.