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Calling Strategy
Copyright © 1998 - 2002  Roger W. Raisch * Nadine Adele, all rights reserved

 


 

Turkey calling is the most confusing and frustrating part of turkey hunting for many hunters, even experienced ones.   Turkeys make dozens of calls or sounds, but you don't need to know them all to be successful. 
 

Master the cluck, yelp and purr, with a few variations and you're ready for the woods.
  

Calling is the most overrated part of turkey hunting, although the part that most hunters focus on.  No secret calling sequence or calling device is guaranteed to "bring em' in" every time. 
 

There are three SECRETS to turkey calling strategy:

  • Know how to effectively operate your calls.

  • Make the right call at the right time.

  • Call to a gobbler that is by himself....one that hopefully wants company.


Calling A Roosted Gobbler
          

I recommend a standard approach to calling a roosted gobbler.  Let him know you're a hen just waking up and looking for company. Play a little hard to get to start off. 
   

Begin with a few soft tree yelps, a cluck or two and purrs...just what he expects to hear from a hen on roost. 
    

If he answers with a gobble, wait 10 minutes before calling again.  Repeat the call if he's still in the tree after 10 minutes. 
    

If he answers again, put the call down.  You'll know that he's still in the tree by the sound of his gobble.  It will sound strong, clear and all from the same location. 
    

Don't call too much to him when he's in the tree.  You want him to come down.  By calling too much, he generally prolongs his stay on roost, making him gobble more, which attracts hens or other hunters and lets him know precisely where you are.  He expects you to come to him.
     

When you see or hear him fly down or if the next gobble sounds muffled but in the same general direction, you should assume that he is on the ground. Immediately make a fly-down cackle, followed with a short series of yelps or cutts
      

If he gobbles at that, you have his attention.  What you want to hear now is his gobbling getting closer and closer as he moves towards you.  And...sometimes it actually happens that way! 
     

If you hear him spitting and drumming, he's almost in gun range.  Make a few soft clucks and purrs to let him know you are close too.  That is what he expects to hear.

      

What  If   He  Doesn't  Walk  Right  In?
        

What to do if he doesn't come right in? 
       

There is no secret call or tactic to drag him in, despite what the call manufacturers tell you.  Each situation is different.   Each bird is unique and will respond to different calls in different ways. 
        

Turkey calling is very much an art.  It helps to have a lot of experience.  But...be patient if he doesn't prance right up to your location. 
       

If he's getting closer, but not coming in very fast, make no move.  Keep calling patiently about every 5 minutes or so.  Try to sound like an excited hen with snappy, yelps, clucks and cutts with an occasional cackle.  Don't give up on a slow moving gobbler for at least an hour.
     

Call only loud enough for him to hear you.  If you call too loudly, he will think you should move towards him.   Keep your calls low at this point...make him curious. 
       

Call often enough to keep his attention.   If he is gobbling several times a minute, and some will first thing in the morning before they join up with hens, it's a mistake to answer every gobble. 
        

I like to answer him about one time per minute. But, if he's gobbling only about once per minute, I'll answer every gobble early in the morning. 
           

And...I suggest you wait to hear him gobble and then answer him.  In this way, you know exactly where he is and it will help you make the decision on how to respond.   It's fun to call and have him answer, but I prefer to know his location before I call, because he may have approached and be in my lap and a loud call to him at that time may cause him to hang up.

        

How To Call If He Still Won't Come In?
          

As long as he is still gobbling I remain in my position unless I know I'm too far away or there is an obstacle between the bird and my location.  Then I'll move quickly to a better set up before proceeding to call more.
         

Assuming you think you are located correctly, which is the real SECRET to calling, be patient with your calls.  Be adaptable. 
         

Try soft calls...like purrs, whines, and clucks and yelps to try to fool the bird into thinking you have moved farther away. 
          

If that doesn't work, try to sound like an obnoxious, excited hen with loud yelps, and cutts.  I'll try to sound like more than one hen.  Use a mouth call and a friction call to imitate two birds talking to each other.  Sometimes this drives gobblers crazy.  I don't call when a bird can see me, unless I'm trying to coax him in the last few yards.   I'll use soft clucks and purrs mostly.
       

There are many reasons why a gobbler won't come to your calls....and most of the time it's not your poor calling.  The best callers in America will have no better luck calling gobblers than you will.  It mostly depends on the situation. 
        

For example, if he has hens with him, it's doubtful that you can drag him away.  Or even if he's alone, he may hang up.  I usually try a period of the "silent treatment" on a gobbler that has been answering me and won't come in. 
        

And....later really crank it up and call almost constantly for a minute or so to sound like a lost, excited bird....to try to get him stimulated to gobble and make him move in.
        

No matter what you do, many gobblers will simply slip away and you'll feel defeated. 
        

Don't be discouraged...this happens to all of us.  The same calls that failed today may work nicely tomorrow on a different bird or the same bird.

       

Strategy for Hung Up and Silent Gobblers
       

Try these three tactics for any silent gobbler or one that hangs up or won't come to you after an hour of calling. 
        

Give him the "silent treatment" for about 20 minutes.  He's been hearing you call every 5 to 10 minutes for an hour.   Now shut up.  He may get curious and come over to investigate. 
         

Be prepared for him to walk in silently, like a ghost. 
        

If that doesn't work, try calling a lot...you've got nothing to lose. 
         

Try to fire him up with excited cackles, cutting, and yelps.   Give this approach about 15 minutes.  You're generally trying to simply stimulate him into gobbling so you know where he is and to excite him into doing something. 
     

If he answers, work him normally. 
          

The last resort is to move.  But....don't move if he's getting closer, even if it is very slowly.  Don't move if you can hear spitting and drumming....he's very close...stay where you are.  If you get him to gobble, even once, and he shuts up again, be on the alert for him to come to you silently. 

          

You'll Eventually Decide To Move
         

If you decide to move, make one more excited series of calls to try to stimulate him into gobbling so you know where he is. When moving, do it quickly, quietly and stay out of sight.  Move into another, better position.  
       

If he's been close...say 100 yards or so, move back 50 to 100 yards and try calling again.  Make him think you are leaving. 
         

If he's far away, try to cut the distance in half.  Keep using the same calling patterns you did before. 
         

If the bird is on another ridge or has been moving away from you, stay with him as long as possible.  Move in closer but stay out of sight.  Trying to get ahead of a gobbler to intercept him is often said to be the best policy, but I find it difficult to predict where he's going. I prefer to bring up the rear, and stay with him because eventually he will stop and set up shop in a new Strut Zone and then I'll make my final adjustment of position.
        

There are times when you need to move quickly. 
         

If you hear gobbling from the other side of an obstacle like a fence, ravine, or heavy brush and he seems to be pacing back and forth over a hundred yard distance or so, you can get up and move to the end of his pattern when he's on the other end, but this is easier said than done. 
      

If he's on a different ridge than you are, it's best to move to his ridge.  Turkeys will come across obstacles, but most hunters don't have the patience to wait that long.  If he's clearly leaving, every gobble getting farther away, get up and move so you can stay with him. 
        

And...finally,  after at least an hour of calling from one spot, you may want to move to another spot, especially if you heard gobbling from it earlier.
       

The best advice on calling strategy is to select the proper strut zone and stay there for several hours.  I strongly believe that hunting in no more than two good spots each morning will produce more consistent results than moving every hour or so.

 

Subjects in the Secrets Library
About Turkeys
Spring Hunting Tactics
Fall Hunting Tactics
Camouflage & Concealment
Turkey Calls & Calling
Check List & Misc.
Equipment
Bow Hunting Tactics
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