by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 27, 2013.)
OK. You don’t need to be.
a long time, waterfowl and predators were popular targets of the game caller’s
skills. In those cases, game calling was about one of two things. It was saying
“Hey, everybody, head over here – it’s partytime!” Or it was about making
sounds that drew a Pavlovian response from a hungry fox or coyote.
along came the ’60s and ’70s. When spring turkey seasons were created in the
north, hunters became entranced with communicating one-on-one with a game animal.
If you make a bad sound,
that's not the end of the rodeo.
what makes calling spring gobblers different. It’s a fascinating interaction
with a wild animal. It’s sending a message in the vocabulary of the wild
turkey. It’s a conversation – comments and responses.
in the days when turkey hunters were feeling our way along, so-called experts
gave us advice that seemed to make sense. I remember reading that a turkey
caller should give three yelps and shut up, that if you scared a gobbler one
day he’d probably stay scared for the rest of the season, and that if you made
a bad sound you might as well give up – your hunt was over.
we know none of that is true. Three yelps will work, but often one yelp works,
or a dozen. And not just yelps. We’ve learned to make contented purrs, loud
cackles, and several other calls. All of them have variations in tone, clarity
and volume. And they have meaning.
you scare a gobbler, he might be difficult to call in for the rest of that day,
but he’ll still respond. You can shoot at him, even sting him with shotgun
pellets, and he’ll come to the call as soon as the next day, if not sooner. So,
scaring a gobbler does not mean game-over.
if you make a bad sound, that’s not the end of the rodeo. In fact, bad sounds
are characteristic of turkeys. Most seasoned turkey hunters have heard some
unspeakable sounds come from turkeys, but do we really know if they are bad
sounds? They might actually sound pretty good to other turkeys.
the lesson is this: practice your calling. It can make a big difference. It’s
no accident that the best callers bring home the most gobblers. But it’s also
true that relatively unskilled callers can do well too, if they do the other
are those “other things”? You learn them by going hunting as often as you can. What
you learn one day may help you kill that gobbler another day. It’s called
“woodsmanship,” and woodsmanship has killed turkeys when calling couldn’t.
to calling, I offer only two bits of advice:
be anxious. The voice is a billboard for anxiety. You know that because you’ve
seen anxious speakers stand up before a crowd and you’ve heard the nervousness
in their voices. If your calls sound anxious you’ll get less response from
gobblers. Turkeys aren’t tense when they’re calling to other turkeys. You
shouldn’t be either.
worry about calling mistakes. For every turkey that makes the clean, clear
yelps you strive for, four others will make a sound that would make you say
“Uh-oh!” if you made it. When you make one of those “bad” sounds, come right
back with something better. What you think sounds bad doesn’t necessarily sound
bad to the turkey. Even a squeaky hinge on a pasture gate can call in a turkey.
turkeys is a con game. Turkey callers are con artists. “Con” is short for “confidence.”
You’re attempting to fool the gobbler, to scam him, to hustle him. Your
counterfeit sweet talk creates confidence, but you also exploit his weaknesses
– his vanity, his lust, his desire for companionship. You’re trying to make the
turkey comfortable with the situation – so you get the opportunity to pull the
do that, you don’t have to be an especially good caller. If a squeaky gate can give
a gobbler what he wants to year, you can too.