Turkey Talk: Selecting A Call

So, if you’re new to turkey hunting, or a novice like me, you may be a little overwhelmed by turkey calls. There are so many types and designs! Which one is the best? Should you go with a box call, a friction/pot call, or a diaphragm? And, then there are gobbler shakers, gobble tubes, and locator calls. Oh my, where does one start?  Is one type better for a beginner than the others? So many questions! And, the worst part is that there are almost as many types of calls as there are questions.

 I’m not sure I can answer them all for you, but I am going to do my best to explain the different types of calls to you. Remember, I am a novice myself, so I am taking this opportunity to educate myself while sharing what I learn with you. As always, I’ve done the research. I’ve done a lot of reading and spent some time talking to experts; now I’m going to tell you what I have learned.


Let’s kick it off with the box call! I’m starting with this one because it is considered to be one of the easiest to learn. There’s really not much to it. It is simply a hollow wooden box with a loosely applied lid, or paddle, which is slid across the box. The box call is a friction call and works by sliding the lid across the box in an open to close direction. This creates vibration and friction that in turn mimics the sounds of a turkey. With a little practice, you should soon be able to master clucks, yelps, and purrs with a good box call. So, the major advantage, of course is that it is easy to learn and use. It is also very low maintenance; you may need to occasionally chalk your box or adjust the tension screw. What about disadvantages; are there any? Well, the major disadvantage is that the box call will not work if it gets wet. So, if you’re hunting on a wet, rainy day, you will have to be very careful to keep it dry. It can be done, though. Just place your box call in a roomy plastic bag that you can easily get your hands in; then you can continue to use the call just as you normally would. So, that sums up the good ole box call, a favorite of many turkey hunters, old and new!


Next up, we are going to look at another type of box, the push-button box call. This one also works off of friction. The push-button call is also considered an easy to learn box. I will confess, however, this is one that I have personally not tried. And, the only one I haven’t used. I guess I’m going to have to invest in one of these little gadgets and give it a try! Anyway, back to the push-button call. Again, this is a wooden box; however, this one does not have a lid. Instead this box contains a wooden dowel that has a wooden block attached to it. Tension is held to the dowel and block through the use of springs or rubber bands, and once the button is pushed the block slides against the wooden pillars underneath it, creating friction which in turn produces the sounds of a turkey. In order to create different sounds, the caller just varies the speed and depth of tapping the button. The most common sounds mimicked with the push-button call are clucks and yelps. The major advantage of push-button calls are their small size and ease of use. This is a great one-handed call. The only disadvantage to the push-button call is the limited number of sounds that can be reproduced. Otherwise, this is a great call for the beginner, and is still considered by many experts to be a must-have for the serious turkey hunter.


Okay, on to the more difficult to learn calls. First up in this category is the pot/friction call. This call, in itself, can be a little confusing. Why? Well, there are several styles of pot calls. You can go with slate, glass, or aluminum. And, then there are the strikers that you are going to use on them; they also come in a wide variety of material. Strikers are made of wood, carbon, or acrylic. What type you use typically just comes down to personal preference. With that said, know that there is a difference. This is a call that I recommend you actually go into a store and try out. Go play around with them; find the one that works the best for you. All pot calls work on the same principle, and they really don’t look too complicated; I mean, it’s a pot and a stick! How hard can it be, right? Well, that’s what I thought at first. But, I soon learned they are much harder to get the hang of then I had ever imagined. The pot call, again, is a friction call. Turkey sounds are reproduced by rubbing or scratching the striker against the pot. Different sounds are reproduced by changing the pressures and patterns of the striker against the pot. The pot call is very versatile and can create a wide variety of turkey sounds, from soft purrs to louder, raspy tones. So, it’s easy to see the major advantage of the pot call is the wide range of sound you can reproduce. The disadvantages of a pot call are that it is harder to learn; this is one that requires practice. Also, these calls will not work when wet; you have to keep it dry. And, this is not one that you would be able to easily use inside of a plastic bag, like the box call. Last, the pot call does require a small amount of maintenance, in the form of occasional sanding/scratching with the approved or recommended abrasive. The pot call in my opinion, is one call that every turkey hunter needs to learn to use. This type of call reproduces some of the most realistic, and widest range of turkey sounds out there.


Next, the diaphragm call! We all know this one, right? This has been the hardest call for me to master! And, of course, it’s the one I most wanted to be able to use. What’s better than a hands-free call! And, there’s just something about being able to call using your mouth. The diaphragm call is also considered to be the call that can reproduce the widest variety of turkey sound. The diaphragm call also comes in a wide variety. There are single reeds, double reeds, triple reeds, split reeds, and so on. Each one creates a different sound, so again this one can be a little overwhelming. But, for the beginner, it is recommended that you start with the single or double reed calls. Unless you are a natural, this call will require a lot of practice. The diaphragm call works by placing the call in the roof of your mouth and then sound is reproduced as you exhale. This is not normal exhalation, however; it will be more of a mild or mini huff. This call is so much fun to practice with, but it does take a lot of getting used to. Once you get the hang of the diaphragm call, you will be able to do so much with it! So, the major advantage of the diaphragm call is the wide range of realistic sounds you will be able to make. And, let’s not forget, it’s completely hands-free. The disadvantage? Well, there’s really only one I can think of; it is hard to learn. Yet, I would highly recommend getting one. And, there are so many videos out there to teach how to use it properly. So, go ahead, get one and start practicing. Just don’t take it hunting with you until you have mastered it!


Alright, we’ve covered a lot of different ways to make realistic hen sounds. But, what about gobbling? Well, there are options; however, you are a little more limited. One of these was already mentioned. And, that’s the diaphragm call. Yes, you can use it to reproduce a gobble; it just takes a lot of practice to master this skill. Your other options include the gobble tube or the gobbler shaker.


Just like a diaphragm call, the gobble tube is hard to master. It also works off of air movement over reeds. This is another call that I have never tried, and honestly have never even looked at. But, I am now intrigued and will be purchasing one so I can try it for myself. The major advantage of a gobble tube, is of course being able to reproduce the sounds of both the jake and the tom. It is also very small and only requires one hand to use. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to master. But, just like with the diaphragm call, if you want to use one, practice, practice, practice!


Now, if you’re looking for an easier method of reproducing the gobble, go with the gobbler shaker. This call is super easy to use! Like with the gobbler tube, you can mimic both a tom and a jake. In order to reproduce the gobble of the jake, you simply use one hand and shake the call. To make the more mature sounds of a tom, you will need both hands. But, don’t worry! It’s still easy to use. You’ll just use one hand to hold onto the call while you use the other to rapidly pump the bellow up and down. That’s it. The gobbler shaker is definitely the easiest way to make those gobbles while you’re out there on that hunt. I have used this one several times. The major advantage is the ease of use, and the ability to mimic both the tom and the jake. The only disadvantage I see with this call, is that it is fairly large compared to some of the other calls. But, if you want effortless gobbling, this is your go-to call.


You can also get these 2 calls combined into one. Primos has designed a call that can serve as a gobble tube alone, or you can add the bellow to the top and use it as a pump just like with the gobbler shaker. I guess, sometimes you really can have it all.


Last, I mentioned locator calls. I’m not going to go into great detail on these. They are pretty self-explanatory. These are basically used to “shock” the toms/jakes into gobbling so you can figure out where they are. The most popular locator calls are the owl and the crow. Luckily, these are both easy to use and won’t require a lot of practice on your part.


That pretty much sums it up! So many calls, so many choices! Hopefully, this helped you at least gain a basic understanding of the different types of calls out there. And, remember there are lots of videos available out there to teach you how to use whatever type of call you decide to go with. My last piece of advice is to pick at least 2 types of calls to carry with you at all times. It’s always great to have a backup, and if one’s not working for you, maybe the other one will.

Do you have a favorite call? If so, why is it your favorite? Or, maybe you have some great advice you would like to share. Please comment below or contact me at kls2703@yahoo.com. Now get those calls and get to practicing! And, best of luck to you in the turkey woods!!



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