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Master These 3 Turkey Calls

Master These 3 Turkey Calls
(Photo by Scott Haugen)

Turkeys often respond to different tones, which is why having a few calls in your arsenal is important. (Photo by Scott Haugen)

Hunters soon will be heading into the turkey woods (seasons begin in earnest in March in many states)? Master these three spring turkey calls before you go to improve your success.

The toms kept talking, but wouldn't budge. Then I stashed my diaphragm call and broke out a box call. Instantly the toms gobbled at my raspy yelps, then closed the distance.

Soon, I punched my third spring tag. And each bird was taken with a different call. When it comes to calling spring turkeys, don't get hung up on all the lingo. Instead, master yelps on three different calls, and your odds of success will increase.


Box calls are likely the most widely used by turkey hunters. Make sure the paddle of your box call is conditioned with either chalk or resin in order to produce crisp sounds.

When holding a box call, lightly grip the base of the sound chamber, called the boat. Avoid grabbing the sides of the boat, as this will deaden the sounds. Find the sweet spot of the call by lightly sliding the paddle over the edge of boat. Where resistance begins and ends, that's your call zone.

Next, apply enough pressure to produce a yelp, which sounds like yup, yup, yup. Do this note three to seven times, and that's all you need. Pressing harder on the paddle will increase the volume.

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The yelp is also easy to produce on slate calls. Different slate surfaces and different strikers yield different pitches. Glass, aluminum and slate are all good surfaces, and wooden strikers made of oak, maple and purple heart are hard to beat.

With abrasive paper, rough up an area on the slate halfway between the center and the edge of the calling surface. Lightly grasp the outside edge of the slate in one hand, making certain not to touch the surface or bottom of the call. Touching the surface can get moisture or oil on the slate, making it hard to produce sounds. Covering up the sound chamber on the underside will decrease sound quality.

In the other hand, grasp the striker as you would a pencil. Place the striker tip on the slate, tilting the top of the striker away from you at a 45-degree angle. Draw the striker toward you, skipping it across the roughed surface to produce sound. In an oval pattern, return the striker to the starting point; the movement away from you will not produce sound. Repeat the motion. The harder you push, the louder the volume as the striker moves toward you, and the faster you move, the quicker the yup, yup, yup cadence.


Don't be intimidated by diaphragm calls, although mastering them takes practice. Place the call in your mouth with the open end facing out at about your third tooth from the front. With your tongue, push the call against the roof of the mouth. This ensures airflow will pass under the tape and reed, and over your tongue, whereby producing clear, crisp sounds.

Apply light pressure with the tongue and blow. You'll get a tickling feeling, but keep blowing, changing the pressure and positioning the call in your mouth until it goes away. Next, try and produce a long note, then take it into high and low pitches with pressure variations. Think of saying the words chirp, chirp, chirp as you blow, and bingo, you have a hen yelp.

Turkeys often respond to different tones, which is why having a few calls in your arsenal is important. If toms are answering your calls but not moving, change to a different call. Call with confidence, and you'll be surprised at how quickly the game can change.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Scott Haugen is the author of the best-selling book "Western Turkey Hunting: Strategies For All Levels." For signed copies, visit

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