Realism: A Niche Market

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In the technologically advanced world that we live in today , it is tough for anyone to come up with anything that somebody has not already combed over. The same holds true for turkey hunters. With calls made to fit any hunter, young or old, from beginner to old pro, it is hard to find a place in the business that is specialized for you.

Today’s call makers do an excellent job making calls to fit most any turkey hunter. Heck, you don’t really even have to be a turkey hunter to have a decent idea on how to run a turkey call. With the popularity of our sport growing seemingly by the second, any “Average Joe” can turn on the TV and find somebody running a yelper of some sort. With this kind of competition, one must find their “niche market” to have any hopes of survival.

I am confident that the vast majority of turkey hunters arrived at their first opinion of how a hunter should sound on a turkey call from some person during the poult stage of their career as a turkey hunter. Most everyone was at least shown the ropes by someone who was more experienced in the spring woods. From these people we likely heard some of our first turkey calling, sitting next to some tree, in an area where someone had likely heard or seen some turkeys within a reasonable timeframe prior to the hunt. Therefore, effective or not, we concluded whatever sounds they were making on that call were the sounds that needed to be made in order to kill turkeys – with that exact rhythm and cadence no matter how much the sound resembled the desperate, pleading wails of a dog hung in a wire fence.

Now, let’s freeze the scenario, step back, and examine what is happening here. We have our (hopefully patient) grizzled veteran teacher sitting against a tree, going through the "be stills" and whispers with his green, rookie pupil, who is soaking up each passing second like a Brawny paper towel on a two liter coke explosion. A great thing is happening here; something that happens every year – someone new is being introduced to our great sport. While they may not leave here with eighteen pounds of dead gobbler over their shoulder, what they will leave with is a sound ringing in their mind of how their teacher ran his calls that morning. After the hunt, said pupil will retreat to his/her local sporting goods store and buy a fortune’s worth of calls and hunting videos to give them further opinions on how they should sound on their fortune’s worth of calls. This is all well and good, but, at the end of the day, what has said pupil learned? They have learned to make their calls sound just like what they are – somebody yelping on a turkey call.

Here is where many turkey killers have found their “niche market”, and when I say turkey killers I mean – people that call turkeys to the gun year in and year out wish such ease it's as if they carry in their back pocket a drink from the wild turkey fountain of youth and gobblers must commit suicide to get a taste. That niche market is realism. Sounding like a live hen turkey can be one the deadliest tools that a hunter can acquire. The in-depth, comprehensive study of realism is just that: an in-depth, comprehensive, ongoing study; one that, for the serious turkey hunter, never really ends. Each and every note of every yelp, every pitch variation, the pauses in every cutting sequence, the length of the front end of a yelp note, depth of rasp on the bottom end of a yelp note, there is an entire list of factors that play into realism when it comes to wild turkey vocalizations.

True realism can only be accomplished by listening to, studying, and understanding live hen turkey talk. Turkeys are just like people, each individual turkey – hen, jake, or gobbler – has his or her own voice, they each have their own way of carrying out their “words”, and, therefore, their own personalized way of executing the wild turkey language. What you have to find during your study of this language is your own definition of realistic turkey talk – what pitch, rhythm, and cadence is most repetitive and sounds most realistic to you. Upon making this determination, it is then up to you to tune you’re calling to mimic those sounds.

The discovery and application of true realism has been a turning point in the career of many turkey hunters and the demise of many bad turkeys, as well. Some have been quoted saying that realistic turkey vocalizations will kill turkeys when nothing else will. Take the wise, hardened, battle worn gobblers on public land for instance - if you walk in before daylight and setup on the public land bird that you roosted the evening prior and everything is perfect, but your first call to him that morning sounds just like every other Tom, Dick, or Harry yelping on some big name brand friction call that you picked up on your last trip to the local sporting goods store. Guess what – he did not make it until today by flying down and running to the pleading beckoning of any of those guys and ,unless you were beaten over the head with the lucky stick before leaving the house this morning, he probably is not coming to you either. However, if he hears your call and with each passing note listens a little closer and by the end of the forth note of your first yelp he is convinced that you are a long lost acquaintance of his that was conveniently displaced during the night to within 125 yards of him by an owl fight gone bad, then you may be onto something!

The best advice I can give a hunter is to go out and buy live turkeys, one of the many available recordings of live turkeys, or make your own recordings of live turkeys, and study their vocalizations. Conform every cluck and purr and each note of every yelp to sound like that of a live hen turkey and you will increase your odds of being more successful. With a record number of people hitting the woods in pursuit of the wild turkey each year, and the number of educated gobblers growing with every passing hour, realism does and will continue to kill more and more turkeys each and every season. 
Matt Persons
Matt Persons is a forester and member of the Tenth Legion from Macon, Mississippi. Matt has been passionate about turkey hunting and guiding in the hills, hollows, and river bottoms of east central Mississippi for over 20 years. Email: Twitter: Matt_Persons
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