7 Simple Turkey Calling Lessons for the Novice Hunter

by Steve Sorensen

So You’re not a Great Caller? Doesn’t Really Matter!

low volume calls drove this gobbler crazy 336x448

Offering sweet, low volume calls drove this gobbler crazy. And dead.
(Steve Sorensen photo)

Let’s be honest. Few admit it, but many spring turkey hunters worry about their calling. Is it good enough? Can I fool a wary gobbler? Am I a fool for trying? The fact is, new hunters have actually heard few live hens. Hen talk is usually quiet and subtle, and they rarely offer lessons to students in the primary school phase of spring gobbler hunting.

That results in two major temptations rookie turkey hunters sometimes face. The first is to quit. They decide it’s too frustrating. They decide to quit getting up so early because they have nothing to show for it. They hang their heads when their buddies tag out and brag about it. Why keep at it? Simple answer – because it’s fun, and there’s far more to enjoy than killing a gobbler.

Yet, killing a gobbler is what you’re out there to do, which causes some hunters to fall to the other temptation – to cheat. They move in on other hunters who are working a gobbler. They stalk the big birds. They shoot too soon and only wound the gobbler.

Let’s deal with cheating right now. Don’t. It’s dangerous, and it only shows you’re neither disciplined nor qualified. If you cheat, you might as well quit. Now, with that out of the way, let’s deal with the fact that you’re not a great caller – and let’s fix that problem so you don’t quit.

NWTF Identiflyer to learn turkey calls

The IdentiFlyer™ is a unique device that will help you learn to call turkeys like a pro. It lets you hear and mimic real turkey sounds and includes information about the meaning of each call, and how and when to use them – from the
National Wild Turkey Federation.

First of all, even if you could get lessons from the sexiest hen out there, understand this – she’s not that great a caller either, and many of her sisters are just horrible. I’ve heard hens that sound like barking dogs, and hens that sound like they were sired by a raven. Hunt for very long and you’ll hear hens make some pretty awful sounds, too.

Top-end turkey calling experts are actually better than the real hens, but the truth is you don’t need to be as good as real hens. So when it comes to your calling, don’t compare yourself with the real thing, and for heaven’s sake, don’t compare yourself with other hunters.

Second, get a recording of wild turkey sounds. Several good ones are on the market, but you can’t go wrong if you grab CDs made by Lovett Williams (www.LovettWilliams.com) or Brad Taylor (www.judgmentgamecalls.com). These are the best sources for real turkey sounds. But the handiest is the “NWTF Identiflyer”, a unique portable digital device that will help you learn to call turkeys like a pro. It lets you listen to the basic turkey sounds simply and easily.

Don’t think you have to master everything you hear on these recordings, but your experience level will take a big jump if you can learn to mimic a few of the sounds – the basic yelp, purr, and cluck. Get comfortable with those, and then add some cutting (fast, excited yelps) and you’ll have a working knowledge of the sounds that bring 95% of gobblers to the gun.

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A gobbler is roosted in these trees. If you can get close, you cut down the chances he’ll be intercepted by a hen or a predator. And your sweet calls will be all he thinks about.
(Steve Sorensen photo)

Third, get into a conversation with a gobbler. Nothing beats talking to a real turkey who talks back. Even if you have to do it in the pre-season, do it. You don’t need to make a habit of it, but that’s when you can call without pressure, and see how a real gobbler reacts to your calling skills.

Fourth, don’t let the pressure get to you. You don’t have to kill a gobbler to prove anything. If he walks off, so what? He probably has brothers who are more earnest for a head full of lead. So, try again. Play the odds. The more turkeys you call to, the better the odds one will come to you.

Fifth, get close. That’s a risky proposition not everyone would recommend because it’s easy to bump him off his roosting limb, but I figure it this way. If you know where he is, getting close gives you two big advantages.

  • The first advantage – a lot less can go wrong if you’re 50 yards from him than if you’re 200 yards from him. The farther away he is, the more likely a real hen will move in, or a predator, or another hunter, or maybe he’ll just lose interest. So, know the territory, get in while it’s still dark, be careful, and take your chances. Hey – if you aren’t getting turkeys now, you have nothing to lose.
  • The second advantage – when you’re close you won’t need to do much calling. Give him a couple of very soft yelps, and maybe a quiet purr or two. He’ll hear you, and suddenly he’s the anxious one, not you. If he thinks a hen is close, that’s all he’ll think about. Odds are good that will be the last thing he thinks about.
hunting with a buddy helps 336x336

I learned a lot from Nathan DeGroot, who makes a terrific custom turkey call. It’s a unique and deadly long box called The Ruler. He called this gobbler off posted land. (Steve Sorensen photo.)

Sixth, hook up with a buddy who calls successfully. Don’t act like you’re desperate to get a gobbler; just say you want to see how someone else does it. Even if he doesn’t call a gobbler in the day you’re with him, you’ll learn something from him.

Seventh, most of all what you’ll get from that buddy hunt is confidence. You’re not that bad. And even if you’re not a great caller, confidence goes a long way to making a gobbler think you’re a real hen.

There you are – seven easy calling lessons that will get you a nice gobbler. When you do, blow his head off and send Havalon a picture.

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About Steve Sorensen

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenOutdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen is the author of Growing Up With Guns, writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and is the editor of the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He has also published articles in Deer & Deer Hunting, Outdoor Life, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.

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