“I’ve been hunting about 50 years and there ain’t much I don’t understand about turkeys,” said Paul Meek of Raleigh. He started out hunting turkeys for fun, but over the years it became an obsession that transformed into a desire to make the best turkey calls. Meek wanted to emulate every sound a hen could make with a variety of calls.
After a lifetime spent hunting turkeys and making calls, Meek has advice for beginners, or people who simply want to kill a turkey — “keep it simple.”
Yes, Meek believes that you can master one type of call, learn to play it properly, learn how and when to use it, and then call only as much as you have too and be successful.
“And I’ve done it so long there ain’t much I don’t know about calling either,” Meek said. “I’ll start off with a few clucks and see what happens. A lot of times all it takes is a yelp, with maybe a cluck and purr thrown in for good measure. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a call shy bird interested.”
Knowing when to use a certain type call is also critical to filling your tags.
“Rarely do you ever hear a hen turkey doing a fly-down cackle, even at the crack of dawn, and you surely don’t hear it in the midday hours,” said Meek. “I can get aggressive when needed, but I learned a long time ago about going out and calling like you’re on television. Sometimes it will work, but more often than not you’re dealing with birds that have been hammered every day in these parts, and aggressive calling will shut them down.
“It may be good for television or selling calls, but over-aggressive calling won’t get you far in Mississippi, especially on public land.”
Meek has likely been responsible for more turkey deaths over the last 40 years than any other single individual through his manufacture and sales of turkey calls, and his many seminars. Meek has been training young hunters in the finer art of turkey calling on box calls, slates and scratch boxes almost as long as he’s been hunting and making calls. Each year he trains thousands of children around the country at seminars and outdoor shows.
“It’s a whole lot easier to teach a kid how to use a box call and train them than it is an adult,” Meek said. “All the kids can leave a seminar yelping, but it’s hard to show adults. The kids pick it up pretty easy.”
Meek recommends a single sided box call for beginning callers because it’s easiest to master.
“A single side box call is not real complicated and you only have to worry about using one side of the box and you’re going in one direction,” he said. “We’ll start them out with a yelp. We’ll try for a two-syllable note, Ki-ock, where you can hear the front end and back end of the note. If you do it fast enough to make it sound like one note, then you’ve got it down.”
One thing to remember is to get a little rhythm.
“Don’t peck at it, or get so fast with your stroke that you’re short stroking it,” Meek said. “Give it a full stroke and pull it across there until you get the note.
“I’ve learned that I can turn that single side box up sideways at a 45-degree angle and cock it down towards my right foot, pull the lid back up and it will make a great yelp. If I want a different tone then I’ll open it halfway and half stroke it to get a lighter two-syllable note.”
Clucks and purrs are feeding, contented type calls according to Meek and they should be in your arsenal and also mastered.
“A cluck is a soft call that can be made by exerting just a little downward pressure and picking it up,” said Meek. “If you do it real hard and aggressively it will be a putt and that’s not something you want to do. If you get them excited, then the last thing you’ll see is tail feathers getting out of there.”
A putt is an alarm sound. Don’t do it.