The 4 Spring Turkey Calls and How to Master Them
- 01 Feb, 2017
Before hitting the woods, take some time to become familiar with these 4 spring turkey calls to coax in a lovestruck longbeard.
Spring brings many things. It brings new tender shoots of green grass between still melting white snow. Geese, robins, meadowlarks, and a host of other birds reappear on the return leg of their annual odyssey. Warm temperatures also bring a sense of rejuvenation to the world. It’s like we actually get to see the rebirth of the world after a winter of lifelessness. Spring renewal also brings a renewed opportunity for outdoorsmen to enjoy their local haunts without having to brave subzero temperatures in the process. Although hunting opportunities during this time of year may not be diverse, any seasoned hunter can tell you they can still be exciting.
One of the most popular spring hunting endeavors is spring turkey hunting. I would guess several factors contribute to the popularity of this spring pastime. For starters, there simply aren’t that many other hunting possibilities. Besides for hog hunting in certain southern states, you just can’t get a license for many other hunts. Secondly, turkey hunting in the spring gets a body outdoors at the right time of year. March and April are when folks seem to be suffering from chronic cabin fever more than anything. After being cooped up all winter, it’s nice to just stretch the legs in search of birds, or to sit beneath an old favorite tree and watch the world go by. Another of the most appealing things about turkey hunting is the excitement the hunt can bring.
As with any species, turkeys are easiest to hunt when they are breeding. Depending on where you live, the breeding time period differs. It is believed that increased daylight is what triggers breeding in wild turkeys. Therefore, folks in the northern tier of the country will have to wait a few weeks, or even months, before hens and gobblers start hooking up. Where I live, we can expect the birds to start heating up in mid April. As I live right about the middle of the country, that may give you an idea of when to start looking for action. No matter where you are, this time of year is prime for an aggressive tom to be susceptible to calling. It’s the boldness of the birds that makes spring turkey hunting a blast.
If you’ve never experienced the warmth of the woods in early May, or heard a gobble fracture the stillness of a warm spring evening, then you ought to give turkey hunting a try this year. If you’re new to the calling business, here are 4 spring turkey calls to try out so you can land an evasive longbeard.
One of the easiest spring turkey calls to start out with is the simple box call. A box call is just about what it sounds like; a box. Generally these calls are rectangular in shape, and the top section of the box pivots near the front. They work by scraping the top of the call against the box in a sideways motion. The result is a soft purr that closely resembles the sound of a hen. It really doesn’t take all that much practice to get proficient at. What does take practice is learning the different sounds you’ll need to know. The nicest thing about a box call is that they are simple, effective, and pretty fail proof. Here is an excellent video put out by the folks at the National Wild Turkey Federation on the different sounds you can get from a box call.
Slate calls are another of the spring turkey calls you can pack to the woods with you. They are similar to the box call, but a little more difficult to work. With a slate call there are two main components; a base called the slate, and a striker. Slates used to be made out of slate rock, but today are often made of plastic or glass as well. To make the alluring turkey sounds with a slate call, you begin by holding the striker vertically on the slate. With the right amount of pressure, you then drag the end of the striker across the slate. The result is a similar set of sounds to the box call.
Many folks will say the major advantage of a slate call over the box call is the added versatility you have. With a slate call nothing is attached, so you have complete freedom to manipulate the call any way you would like. These are popular options for more experienced callers, but rookies can operate them as well. Here is a good video showing how to work a slate call.
The final option for someone looking to mimic hen sounds is the versatile mouth call. Personally, I find mouth calls to offer several key advantages, and are the reasons why I always take one afield. First off, a mouth call is designed with two parts, the skirt and the reed. Skirts are generally made of plastic, or aluminum wrapped in plastic, and form the frame of the call. They are horseshoe is shape. The reed is a thin piece of latex that is stretched across the opening. When air passes over the plastic it creates the same sorts of sounds produced by the box call and slate call.
Mouth calls are effective at making a wide range of noises. To manipulate the call you have to adjust it on the roof of your mouth, until you get the desired pitch. Then by changing your air flow, and by influencing the reed with your tongue ,you get almost endless vocalizations. Like the slate call, the variety of noises you can make with a mouth call are really only limited by the operator. They do take a bit of practice, but are fun to experiment with.
When comparing the mouth call to the other calls, they have one major advantage. That advantage is the ability to operate them hands free. Wild turkeys have keen eyesight and are great at picking off movement. This poses a serious problem to a solo hunter who is trying to operate a box call, or slate call, when a tom comes to investigate. Trying to operated the call, and then get ready to shoot can be difficult. Also, for bowhunters, the mouth call seems to be the only option. Having a mouth call affords you the opportunity to have your release clipped on the string when you call. Again, keeping the movement to a minimum is a major advantage when calling birds in.
Here is a good video demonstrating how to use a turkey mouth call.
Perhaps the most underutilized of the spring turkey calls is the gobbler call. Although you can make gobbler sounds on a few of the other calls, they are generally used for hen sounds. During the spring breeding period, hen calls are great for getting the attention of a wandering gobbler. In all honesty though, many of the longbeards have heard a call before, and heavily hunted birds can become wary of a hen call by itself. By combining it with a gobbler shake call, you can offer a bit more encouragement to the tom that it is safe to come investigate. Sometimes it's not a bad idea to pair several different sounds together to make it appear as if a whole flock of turkeys have gotten together.
Using a gobbler call is very easy, but here is a video to help demonstrate how to use this effective alternative call.
Whichever of these spring turkey calls you decide to tote along with you, the important thing is that you know how to use them prior to hitting the woods. Learn about the different sounds turkeys make, and learn to become proficient with those calls before you hunt. In all honesty, each of these calls has landed uncountable numbers of birds in pickup beds over the years. The trick is to figure out which call, or calls, best fit your needs and hunting style. Over time you will begin to develop a preference for one kind of call for the other. Whatever style that happens to be, it certainly won’t diminish the excitement when that spring gobbler comes in on a strut. After a long winter, rays of sun gleaming of the iridescent feathers of a spring turkey looks all the more impressive. Good luck this spring and happy hunting.NEXT: BASICS OF BOWFISHING: EVERYTHING YOU'LL NEED TO GET STARTED
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