Four Calling Mistakes We All Make

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There literally are a thousand reasons why I love turkey hunting.  Well maybe not literally, but it's not far off.  If you were to ask a hundred passionate gobbler chasers the five main reasons why they love the sport, you'll likely get a myriad of reasons.  However, I'm willing to bet that the calling aspect of turkey hunting is firmly in every turkey hunter’s top five reasons.

There is nothing more exciting than taking on the role of the hen via reproducing her vocabulary, having that gobbler respond, and coaxing him into range.  The problem is that we get so excited about this interaction that we tend to hurt ourselves more times than we care to admit.  Let's discuss a few common calling mistakes we all make.

We call to keep tabs on the gobbler

The best advice I ever received about calling turkeys was from veteran caller and turkey killer Randy Panek of WildTalker Game Calls.  The Massachusetts call maker knows a thing or two about killing pressured gobblers that have heard it all.  His advice was simple, and clever: call to move their feet, not their beaks.

We all love to hear turkeys gobble; it's why we get up at 4:30 day after day and face the mosquitoes, snakes, heat, and cold.  But a turkey call isn't designed to be a locator call, it's designed to replicate the sounds of a lonesome and willing hen. And the hen that we're replicating doesn't need to know every two seconds where the gobbler is.  She probably knows he's coming sooner or later, and is contempt to let him do so.

I'm all for being aggressive, and if the turkey continues to "cut you off" then sure, call to him until he's flopping.  However, if he goes silent, calm down and let him do his thing. Match his temperature and give him some time to come in.

We don't study hen turkeys (and how they interact with gobblers) enough

Some lessons, such as this one, come via time in the woods in the midst of wads of turkeys. It's not every day that we get to hear hens calling to gobblers and getting a feel for how they respond.  The responses we get to hear can vary too based on the gobblers’ mood.  So soak it all in.  Note as to how "hot hens" call to "hot gobblers."  Do they continue to pour it on?  What about when a hen gives her prettiest yelp and the gobbler doesn't answer?  No day, situation, or turkey is alike so the key is learning to "become a hen" and knowing how and when to call.

We can yelp loud, but can't get soft

I'm definitely guilty of the classic Will Primos quote "Son you yelp too loud and too much."  My "happy place" in the spring woods is cutting and running, calling as loud and aggressively as I can in hopes that a lonely gobbler is as eager to meet me as I am him. However, the critical part of the game-the 70 yards and in portion of the hunt-is many times won by he who can call the softest.

Clucks and purrs, whisper yelps, and whines can oftentimes seal a deal that is still in limbo. Because low volume noises can be tough for turkeys to pinpoint, they tend to "have to come looking" for the hen little further, which many times can be the difference between fried turkey breast and tag sandwiches. Learn to call soft-on a mouth call preferably to avoid excessive movement-and learn to mimic the tones and cadence of real hens that are barely audible.

We don’t incorporate enough realism into our calling

This could probably be lumped into point number 2, but I’m going to take it a step further. Realism is everything when it comes to calling, as Matt Persons discussed in the WTR article “Realism: A Niche Market,” and so many times the only reason you were even in the game was because you sounded so much like a real flock of turkeys that the gobbler forgot he had been shot at three times already this season.

Several things I like to do to add realism:

-Use my hand to broadcast my mouth call yelps from side to side, as a hen would do as she walks through the woods
-Change up the volume and tone of my calling to simulate not only multiple hens but hens coming and going
-Scratch in the leaves with both hands to simulate two different turkeys (if you can do so without getting busted by the gobbler)
In summary, don’t let your calling get in the way.  Remember that you are “just another hen” when you enter the woods, and being “as real as the real thing” takes practice, good calls, and time spent amongst live turkeys.  
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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