One of the biggest blessings of modern turkey hunting is the wide selection of calls we have to choose from. Unfortunately,for someone who is just beginning this can be a much bigger curse than a blessing. Here is a quick overview of the types of turkey calls out there,with both their advantages and pitfalls.
Box: This is the essential turkey call for most hunters. While it is certainly the easiest to learn for most people starting out, it is very common amongst hunters who have been at it for a long time. A box call is one I never leave the truck without, and find myself using on about 90% of my hunts. They are loud and piercing, which make them great for calling to distant birds,as well as locating them. The downside of a box is that it is a little harder to make some of the softer turkey sounds,such as purring and tree yelps.
Slate: The slate is usually the call a hunter graduates to after learning the ropes on a box. It requires a bit more finese than a box, but also gives you more flexibility with the sounds that you can make. The slate is the call I pull out when a bird starts working in,when volume isn’t neseecarily needed as much as a little sweet talk. The downfall of a slate is they generally aren’t the loudest calls,unless you get one that is designed for that.
Mouth (also known as a diaphragm): Over the past 10-20 years the mouth call has earned a spot in many turkey hunters vests. While it is definitely the hardest call to master of the main 3, it certainly has the biggest advantage:Hands free. Having both hands on your gun as a Tom is working in close, but still being able to call to him is a HUGE advantage over both the slate and the box call. Unfortunately, it takes some hunters YEARS to master this type call, so I would only recommend it to someone who has had experience with one or both of the other types of calls listed above. The 2 biggest downfalls of the mouth call are 1-They can be a little hard to get the hang of and 2-They usually wear out over time, which means you have to buy a new one every 1-2 seasons.
Here are a few that certainly stand mentioning, but aren’t used as frequently as the ones listed above.
Wingbone: A call that is traditionally made out of 3 different sections of a turkeys wing,the wingbone is probably considered the original turkey call. You can also find this call made out of hard woods, and/or plastic. This is usually the call of older turkey hunters who have gotten tired of using boxes,slates,and mouth calls, and want to simplify their vest’s, as well as use more traditional equipment. Check out this tutorial to see how to make one yourself.
Tube: The tube is one of the simplest calls in design, yet one of the hardest calls I’ve ever tried to use. It is made up of a rubber or latex reed stretched over the end of a plastic or metal tube,usually the length and diameter of a film canister (remember those?). This is a great call to try to make yourself, as it is basic enough in design that it won’t cost you much time or money. Check out this tutorial to see how these are made.
Gobbling Tube: While some guys may be outraged by the fact this call is in the honorable mentions list, let me explain. The gobbling tube can be an invaluable tool. I have buddies who swear by it,and have used it with a lot of success. The problem with this call is it is usually a “last resort” call. It is generally the last call a guy pulls out when a bird is gobbling like crazy,but just won’t commit. You also take a big chance when you go to shake the fire out of it. If the bird you are hunting is NOT the dominant bird in the area,chances are this call is gonna spook him off. You’ve been warned. Use it wisely and sparingly.
Starting off with the basics and working your way up is a big part of learning how to Turkey hunt. I hope one of these calls pulls in a big ol’ butterball for you this next spring. Good luck, and good huntin’!