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Home / Hunting / Hunting Articles


Caller Basics

March 16, 2004

At the heart of turkey hunting’s amazing growth has been the fondness for calling to birds. There’s no greater thrill than working a bird within gun range by talking to them in their own language. Today’s market offers a variety of calls or callers, as they are also often referred, and standing at the counter of your local discount store or sporting goods shop can be a confusing experience for new and even experienced turkey hunters.

“Knowing how to properly and effectively use the call you select is just as important as having a quality call,” said National Wild Turkey Federation CEO and expert turkey hunter Rob Keck. “No matter which call type you use, listening to real turkeys and calling experts and practicing regularly will get you real results in the woods.”

Following is a short list with descriptions of the basic types of calls along with some of their benefits and drawbacks:

  • Diaphragm or Mouth Call: One of the more difficult calls for new turkey hunters (and a few older ones) to learn to use, it is also one of the most widely used because of its effectiveness and hands-free operation. The call is simply a small horseshoe-shaped frame, wrapped in tape with latex stretched across the opening of the frame. A variety of turkey sounds can be reproduced by holding the call in the roof of the mouth and exhaling air between the call and the tongue. A caller uses the tongue to adjust pressure and alter the sounds of the call. These calls can often be had for a few dollars making them very cost effective.

  • Push-Pin Call: A friction call consisting of a small box with a rod that the user pushes or pulls to make turkey sounds with, the push-pin call is great for somebody new to turkey hunting. Not only is it one of the easiest calls to use, but it also can be very effective. These calls are great at making basic yelps, clucks and both contented and aggressive purrs, and allow the hunter to minimize movement with one hand operation. Some models are also easily fastened to the barrel of your shotgun and then operated with your finger as you hold your shotgun on an approaching bird.

  • Box Call: A turkey hunting classic, the box call was first patented by Henry Gibson in 1897. As the name implies, the call consists of a small coffin-shaped box that creates a sound chamber and is operated by running the lid of the call along the edges of the box. These calls can be used to replicate the entire range of turkey vocalizations including gobbles and offer great volume needed on windy days.

  • Slate Call or Pot and Peg Call: Commonly referred to as a slate because of the friction surface most commonly used until recent times, this call consists of a small pot that acts as a sound chamber and is covered by a surface made of slate, aluminum, glass or other synthetic materials. The pot is held in one hand, while a striker, also made of a variety of materials including wood, glass and graphite, is drawn across the surface to make turkey sounds. Many hunters have developed a real affinity for their pot and peg calls as they offer realistic sounds, great pitch and volume and are dynamite for replicating purrs, yelps and excited cutting.

  • Tube Call: A small tube covered on one end by latex, these calls were once crafted by many hunters using old snuff cans. It can be a tricky call to learn, but those that are skilled at using tube calls swear by them. Not only are they great for making gobbles, few hunters use them, meaning even fewer birds have heard them. This can sometimes translate into a bird that would ignore the calls offered by a box or mouth call to come running to the newer sound of this seldom used call.

  • Wingbone: Native Americans were the creators of this call more than 4,000 years ago. Made by joining the small bones of a wild turkey’s wing together, most often the hen because of its smaller size, the call creates sounds by drawing air through the hollow bones. In the hands of a skilled user, the wingbone call has a fantastic sound that works well on today’s gobblers. It is also a call many hunters enjoy making and decorating themselves.

These are but a few of the many callers available to today’s hunter. Many turkey hunters will use a combination of the above calls, and with time and practice can become skilled at using all of them. Watching shows qlike NWTF’s Turkey Call television can help you to learn about calls—and how to use them—more effectively. Learn to use at least a couple different types of calls to improve your odds this spring. On any given day, a call that brought them in last week may have little impact today, while switching up to a different call might make all the difference.

The NWTF is a great resource for turkey hunting tips and other wild turkey information. Visit the NWTF’s Web site for information or call 800-THE-NWTF to become a NWTF member and receive one of their great magazines filled with turkey hunting tips and stories.


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