One of the most debated, and overrated skills that a turkey hunter can possess is the ability to work a turkey call. Many hunters brag about their world champion calling skills, but place too much confidence on calling a turkey instead of being able to think like one.
“Everyone knows everything they need to know about calling right now,” said turkey call maker and former World Champion caller Preston Pittman. “It’s how you say it that counts.”
Pittman relates a soft call to a whisper — “pssst, hey.”
When soft calling to a bird that’s close and seems to be willing to work, Pittman can move a bird that’s off to his right by calling out of the left side of his mouth. The same principal applies when a bird comes in on your off hand side and you can’t change shooting hands in sight of the bird. Steer him over to your strong side by calling with the opposite side of your mouth.
“Know where you’re going to sit down every time you go to make a call,” said Pittman.
Pittman gives this advice in the event you call after walking into the woods or you’ve walked into a new area, throw out a call, and he’s right there. Getting to cover, or at least to a decent shooting position, could cost you that bird.
“You can make all kinds of mistakes calling — some of the worst callers in the woods are real hens — just be sure to end it on a good note. Put some emotion into the call. Aggressive calling works some of the time, emotional calling works almost all the time,” claimed Pittman.
The veteran hunter said it doesn’t take World Championship calling ability to get the attention of a wary bird. Calling to gobblers is not so much what you say as how you say it. Pittman said there are times when you can power call that turkey to the gun but your odds are much better to start a dialogue with him and up your odds by convincing him he wants to come in. That’s much easier done with soft calls-purrs, puts, and non-verbal calls like scratching.
“Real hens are all the time making some kind of sound, purrs, pops, clucks, putts, mostly soft stuff,” he said. “Most hunters have one or two hen sounds that they wear into the ground; the yelp and the cut.
“The next time you’re set up in the turkey woods or in a deer stand in the fall and have a group of hens come by, do a little eavesdropping on their conversations. Unless she’s spooked, a hen doesn’t shut up. Learn to mimic that soft hen chatter and watch how many gobblers come running in the spring.”