By Steve Sorensen
Are you a newbie turkey hunter?
A veteran hunter? Either way, asking
yourself these four questions will improve
your turkey calling significantly!
Many hunters wonder what yelps, clucks and all the rest really mean. They’re unsure what they should be saying to turkeys and how they should be saying it. They’re uncertain when to make each sound. Let’s set those questions aside and get down to something that’s even more important, and far simpler. Ask yourself these four questions to tune up your calling.
1. Are your first calls soft calls?
Soft calling makes any turkey within earshot think you’re a contented hen. That means a couple of things. First, it means there’s no danger. Think about it — if you wake up in the early morning and start talking loudly, anyone hearing you will think something is wrong. So, quiet is my first rule of turkey calling.
Second, soft calling also gives the impression that you’re a hen just minding her own business. No one knows where the saying “birds of a feather flock together” came from, but we all know what it means. It’s the business of turkeys to hang around each other, so sound like a contented hen and another turkey will probably be interested in your fakery.
For quiet calling my go-to call is one I make myself. (See www.EverydayHunter.com.) I call it the Northern Scratchbox because not many hunters in the north use a scratchbox call. Although I can get strong volume from it, what I love most about it is that it can also be extremely quiet, perfectly mimicking the sleepy tree calls of a hen and imitating her soft, contented purrs when she’s on the ground.
The first time I used a scratchbox, I was calling so softly I wasn’t even sure I could hear it, but the gobbler sure did. He flew out of the tree and landed within range. If I had not been calling softly I’m sure the odds of getting him would have gone way down. Since then I have always started out calling very softly. It works. You can always get louder, but if you start out loud you can’t reel that sound back in.
2. Are you calling with personality?
Many hunters offer the gobbler sounds that are just plain boring. In the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” there’s a scene that perfectly illustrates what I mean. The teacher (Ben Stein) is the classic bore. The evidence is in the kids’ faces. (Watch it on YouTube.) If your calling is like that, gobblers will lose interest just like Bueller’s classmates.
Call with personality by transforming your boring calling with a few rapid yelps, and a couple of slow ones. End a series on an up-note, as though you’re asking a question. Alter the tone to make it sound like a second turkey is there. Change the pace by interjecting some clucks and cutts — short, rapid, attention-getting vocalizations that excite interest. Sound a little surprised. That hen isn’t calling from a studio where everything is controlled and nothing distracts her. She notices everything and all of it affects her voice.
3. Are you calling with confidence?
This might be the biggest challenge for a caller without much experience. It’s easy even for a veteran turkey hunter to lose confidence. Whenever we lack confidence it shows in our voices. That’s true whether we’re singing or speaking. Or lying. Maybe especially when we’re lying — and you’re lying to that gobbler. Don’t let it show. If you think your call wasn’t perfect, so what? Do it again, a little different, a little stronger, a little more assertive. Develop confidence.
Most people think they should practice calling to get it right, but there’s another reason to practice. It’s to develop confidence. Visualize a hen calling. Maybe she’s lost. Maybe she’s lonesome. Maybe she’s just minding her own business. When you see a hen, watch her closely and plant a clear picture of her in your head. Then when you call, run that mental tape. It will make a difference in your confidence.
One way to boost your calling confidence is to realize that the hens themselves aren’t perfect, so don’t worry about perfection. All you need to do is feed that gobbler a line he will fall for.
4. Are you willing to try something new?
Finally, in your practice sessions, try making new sounds. Sounds that aren’t the standard three yelps and a cluck. On one hunt I was at a loss about what to do to move two strutters toward me. They would answer my calls, but wouldn’t budge. Finally I began a series of hard cutts and cackles that sounded like some turkeys were in a boxing match and the crowd was cheering.
Who wants to miss a fight? Not those gobblers. They came running like they were late for an appointment. In a few minutes one of them kept an appointment with a load of number five shot. If I hadn’t tried something new, nothing would have happened.
Where I live in the north, we’re on the cusp of a long-awaited spring gobbler season. Are you ready to make your best calls? In the south, turkey season is in full swing. Are the birds responding to your calls? Either way, asking yourself these four questions should help you with your calling, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran.
About Steve Sorensen:
Steve Sorensen is the author of “Growing Up With Guns” and “The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series,” and he makes his own turkey call. He also edits content for the Havalon Post, and writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter”®. He has published articles in some of the top magazines across the USA, and recently received the “Pinnacle Award” for best creative work in the outdoor press. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.
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