Turkey hunting Tools of the trade
March 30, 2001
Hunting wild turkey gobblers in the spring may not be a "trade", except for hunting guides, but my dictionary defines trade as "some line of skilled, manual work." The word work and its two modifiers apply, oh how they apply, to turkey hunting.
No one who has lost inches off his/her waist chasing March gobbles will begrudge the term work, when applied to that daily chase. Skill? Without fundamental woodcraft skills, one is likely to be more a nuisance than a threat to the cunning birds. Manual, in the sense of human effort, is required as they say in blood, sweat and often tears.
Such work as we turkey hunters discharge requires tools. Okay, toys if you must be so cynical. The tools are legion. But besides the gun, calling devices are probably the most important tools of spring gobbler hunters. Beginners should note that expert calling is not a requirement for becoming a good turkey hunter. Imperfect calls are made by real wild turkeys every day. So don't worry about perfection here. Far better to be a skilled woodsman than flawless with your turkey calling. But calling is important.
There are many devices and other items such as blades of grass, and even human body parts (still attached to live humans of course) used for calling turkeys. Yes, the human vocal chords are commonly used and one Meridianite is said to have made turkey language by manipulating his ears with his hands. (This story was reported in the local media and documented in a national magazine.) The large array of calling methods is likely due to the hours available to turkey hunters for thinking as they wait for turkeys to come that they have called and which never arrive.
Here we will address the commonly used callers known as slate callers, box and lid callers, scratch boxes, push button callers, tube callers and mouth diaphragm callers. Beginners should learn the hen's yelp and cluck first. These are simple and effective calls.
The slate and peg, push button, box and lid and scratch box callers are called friction callers. Something is scraped against something else to make the sounds. The easiest of them to use is the push button caller. You push a protruding wooden dowel and the caller yelps when wood scrapes on slate or some other substance.
The timeless box call is also easy to use. It makes excellent yelps, clucks, cutts and purrs with just a few lessons. Scratch box calling can be learned inside of 10 minutes, as can calls on slate and peg callers, with a minimum of instruction.
Tricky turkey talk
Mouth "yelpers" or diaphragm calls are relatively difficult to learn to use but, like riding a bicycle, once learned – always remembered. They can be made to emit all common calls of the wild turkey, but they shine with yelps, cackles and cutts. Their advantage is that they leave both hands free to deal with the other machinations of bagging a bird.
Tube-type callers, which includes wing bone yelpers, are likewise difficult to master – perhaps the most difficult of all. They are activated by sucking with pursed lips on the small end of some kind of tube, the hole in which is no larger than a pea.
It is wise to learn turkey calling on the friction calls first and progress later to the diaphragms and tube callers. If the unusual callers fascinate you, by all means learn to use them. And if you invent a new one that sounds like a lonely hen, the turkey hunting world will beat a path to your door.