A good turkey hunter will generally have an arsenal of turkey calls in his pack, and he should be proficient with all of them. You do not have to be a contest caller, but it helps to know how to properly use a particular call.
Every gobbler will not respond to the same call; different calls will arouse different toms, so it is best to be prepared.
I remember one gobbler that surprised me and came in quickly after a few yelps with the wing bone. I went back a few days later, the tom responded again to that call and came to me.
I decided to change calls, make him think it was a different hen — and the tom actually turned around and started walking away.
I yelped with the wingbone, and he turned and began moving to me. After a few more yelps, the gobbler was in the bag.
So be prepared with a variety of box calls, slate calls, scratch boxes, mouth calls and tube-type calls such as wingbones.
Turkeys make a variety of sounds and calls, including but not limited to, whines, purrs, yelps, clucks, cackles, putts and, of course, gobbles.
They are very vocal birds throughout the day. They greet one another with soft tree yelps in the morning and continue communicating until they fly back up to the evening roosts with cackle or gobbles, pretty much like the six chickens we have in our chicken coop.
When feeding in a food plot, turkeys are constantly communicating with one another with a number of soft sounds.
So watching and listening to the real thing is a great way to learn to talk turkey.
The style of calling I use depends on how the gobbler is responding to my calling. State turkey biologist Jimmy Stafford likes to work a gobbler into a frenzy, get him really excited — and then Stafford stops calling.
After waiting a few minutes, he will cut the gobbler off when it gobbles with a series of calls and then go silent again.
Stafford said the tom will often come in quickly, looking for that hen that got him all hot and bothered.
The old Lynch box call is Jimmy’s favorite call, along with a few of the mouth calls made in Louisiana.
He uses a Benelli Super-Eagle 3 ½-inch shotgun — and not many toms escape from this veteran turkey hunter.
Stafford’s sons David and Brandon have also become excellent turkey hunters, and the Stafford Clan feasts on wild turkey on a regular basis.
Retired turkey biologist Larry Savage takes a different approach with his calling.
Savage likes soft purrs, whines and yelps made by the small but deadly scratch boxes, and he also has an old Lynch box call that he frequently uses.
He will do the “soft talk” to the toms, while many turkey hunters call aggressively with mouth calls and slate calls during their run-and-gun efforts.
If Larry does not get on a tom early, he will use the scratch boxes to purr and softly yelp during the mid-day hours.
Once a hen has left a tom to take care of other business, the gobbler will often go looking for that hen he heard earlier. This is where turkey hunting demands a degree of patience, and Savage knows the chances of that gobbler coming back to find the hen are good.
This hunter uses a Remington 870, and I have measured a few toms he has bagged.
I have a variety of shotguns I use when hunting turkeys. My old Mossberg 500 pump with a full-choke turkey barrel is death to a tom. I have two bolt-action, vintage Mossbergs — one a 20 and the other a 12 gauge.
But my favorite is dad’s old Belgium-made Bayard 16-gauge double-barrel. The left barrel is full choke with a tight pattern, exactly what one needs to drop a tom at 30 yards.
I generally do not like to shoot beyond 40 yards, but many hunters choose to do so. I always cringe when I hear stories of a hunter trying to drop a bird at 60 yards only to have it get up and run off.