How to Choose Your Turkey Calls (Part 1 of 2)
by Steve Sorensen

Two Rules For Choosing Calls,
And Two Reasons For Switching Calls

I could be wrong, but I think turkey hunters have more calls to choose from than any other kind of hunter. There must be a million.

How to Choose Your Turkey Calls Part 1 - Image 1 by Steve Sorensen

If you choose the right call and use it well, turkey hunting can sometimes be as easy as falling off a log. Usually it isn’t, so don’t get discouraged.

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but passionate and resourceful turkey hunters have dreamed up countless types of calls. Many of them are amazingly realistic, with better turkey sounds in them than some self-respecting turkeys have.

Most hunters have one or two old reliable – “go-to” calls that have worked for them. They’re easy to run, feel natural, and give the hunter confidence. But many hunters also clutter their vest pockets with some of the latest, greatest calls to hit the market in the last few years, but still use nothing but their go-to calls. Why load yourself down with calls that you really don’t believe in, and calls you’ll never actually use in the field?


Two Rules For The Calls You Choose

The thought you put into choosing your turkey calls before the hunt can make a big difference during the hunt, so it’s best to have a plan. I recommend carrying only a few calls, and I follow these two rules:

Rule #1:  My first standard is for every call to offer ease, comfort and confidence. If a call fails on these points, I probably won’t use it, so I don’t carry it.

Rule #2:  After those three qualities, I select calls for a variety of tones – low-pitched, high-pitched, smooth, raspy, soft, sharp.

Many hunters suggest carrying a box, a pot, and a couple of diaphragms. (That’s not a bad idea, and I’ll talk more about that in Part 2.) But what if your slate sounds a lot like your box call? Are you really giving the gobbler something different when you switch?

Two Reasons For Switching Calls

How to Choose Your Turkey Calls Part 1 - Image 2 by Steve Sorensen

When you’re switching calls, make sure you’re giving the gobbler the voices of more than one turkey.

You never know what a gobbler will respond to, so when you’re switching calls in an attempt to trigger a response, make an intelligent decision. Don’t change calls just for the sake of changing calls.

Reason #1:  When changing calls, switch from smooth to raspy. Or high-pitched to low-pitched. Or a soft sound to a bright, sharp sound.

That stubborn old gobbler isn’t standing out there thinking, “Hey, that was a Woodhaven pot call, and now I’m hearing a Quaker Boy box!” He doesn’t know the difference between types of calls, but he does notice if there’s a change in tone, and the change in tone is vastly more important than the change in call style. That’s why choosing your calls properly is so important.

Reason #2:  Most hunters think that changing calls is simply an attempt to give the gobbler a sound he likes. Yes, he might respond to your second or third different sound, but maybe it’s because the second or third sound gives him the impression that you’re more than one turkey, and he’s missing out.

When I switch calls, I try to make sure he thinks he hears more than one turkey. After all, every turkey grew up as a member of a flock, so the most ordinary thing in the world is for a turkey to hear the voices of more than one turkey. That seems totally realistic to him.

Why Switching Calls Works

The life story of every turkey involves other turkeys every day. You know – “Birds of a feather…” and all that. Where more eyes are pealed for predators, turkeys feel safer. Where one turkey is scratching for food, other turkeys are copycats. Where one gobbler is mating, others watch. (It’s not really “kinky”, it’s just that wildlife has no private moments.)

When you switch calls, you don’t want to sound like you’re saying, “Well, this didn’t work. I might as well try that.” There’s no confidence in that. Instead, try to sound like you’re a hen that has called in another hen. That means you shouldn’t completely abandon one sound for another. When you switch from a diaphragm to a box call, go back to the diaphragm for a yelp or two. That tells the gobbler a second turkey showed up – and maybe he should, too.

Next time I’ll talk about the specifics about call choices based on the above rules and reasons.


About Steve Sorensen

Steve Sorensen, Outdoor WriterAward-winning outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen loves the Havalon knife, and has been a fan of knives since he begged his dad for a hunting knife when he was six years old. His articles have been published in Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, Sports Afield, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow his writing on his website,


Click HERE to read more articles by Steve.

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