Hunter in woods using turkey box call

Turkey Calls: Fact & Friction: Part 1

The Barred Owl is always mother nature’s alarm clock. The woods were so quiet it was scary until the owl woke up every sleeping creature, including me. I had been asleep for almost an hour. I moved into this spot very slowly, very quietly and very early. I wanted to be set-up a full hour before light. This was no ordinary gobbler I was after. He was old and he was big. I was going to handle this hunt very carefully.

Within minutes of the owl’s hoot, birds began to chirp, frogs began to peep and thunder began to roar from deep inside the huge gobbler’s throat. He sounded much closer than I knew he was. “He must be facing me on the roost,” I thought. I had been there at dark, when he flew-up. I knew exactly where he was sitting.

At this point I know many turkey hunters would begin “tree-talking” to the big bird. I am not a great proponent of “tree-talking.” I usually set-up far enough away from the bird that it is not very effective. I wait until he is on the ground to begin my conversation.

I found out the hard way that the more you say to a bird gobbling on the roost, the longer he is apt to stay there. If he hears a hen, he gobbles to her and expects her to appear under his roost. The more she says to him, the longer he waits.

I heard my bird fly down, alone, shortly before sun-up. His mood and his gobbling changed at this point. I began my calling sequence with a diaphragm call. I cut with a Lohman Model 839 “Hot Hen Cutter.” This 2.5-reed call accurately reproduces the exact sounds of an excited old hen. It will usually fire a big gobbler up quickly.

Let me say something now that may surprise some of you. Hen turkeys do not make mating calls. Cutting, purring, yelping, putting and clucking are sounds that hens make whether they are in season or not. A wild hen has never and never will make a mating call. The only absolute, for sure, mating language for the wild turkey is the gobble.

When a male turkey fills the timber with gobbling, the females, who are in breeding season, respond to that noise by seeking out its source. The hens come to the gobbler for mating. A wild tom turkey has never had to chase a real hen in his life. That is why calling them is so tough. We imitate the sound of a hen and the big gobbler just holds his ground and waits for her to show-up. His instinct tells him to wait, not to go to the hen. Remember that fact.

Now, I am sure I have this old boy’s attention. Every time I yelp or purr he immediately gobbles. He has not moved in over 30 minutes, but responds quickly to each call. He is waiting for the hen he is talking with to come to him, for a date. Remembering the fact we discussed earlier, I am relatively sure this wise old bird will never come in, he will just wait.

The time has come for me to change his frame of mind. He will not come for a date, but he will come for a fight. I change calls. I begin making the yelps of a young gobbler with Lohman’s Model 870 Box Call. These yelps differ from the hen yelps in rhythm and volume. They are loud, distinct, crisp yelps that imitate a jake’s voice.

Instinctively the big tom reacted to the presence of another male. With his next gobble it was obvious that he had already cut the distance between us in half. He was coming fast, I had my gun up and ready. He did not pause or hesitate just out of range like an old tom will so often do when approaching a hen. He literally trotted to the exact spot where he thought the jake would be. That spot just happened to be nine steps from where I was concealed in my Realtree Camouflage. The harvest was clean, quick and efficient. He weighed 25-pounds and sported an 11-1/4-inch beard with solid 1-inch spurs.

Please read more about how being versatile with the different types of calls will increase your odds of success in Part 2.

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