Calling turkeys with your mouth shut: Friction works just fine

Some turkey hunters are absolutely brilliant when it comes to using a mouth (diaphragm) call. I am not one of them and I’ve come to the conclusion that I never will be. It’s not for lack of trying, but no matter what I do my mouth calling attempts sound more like a sick goose than a seductive hen turkey. I’ve got a feeling there are others out there like me. 

I’m not sure how I got to this point. When I first started turkey hunting as a teenager in the early 1980s an inexpensive mouth call was about all my parents could afford for me. I went to seminars, listened to cassette tapes (this was before the outdoor TV revolution) and practiced as much as possible before turkey season. When it finally came, there I was prowling the woods near my home in the southeastern Adirondacks wearing my dad’s old duck hunting suit and yelping profusely in hopes bagging a gobbler. I actually put myself in a position to do so, which I promptly messed up. But that’s another story. 

I was about as good – or bad – with a mouth call back then as I’ve ever been. Spring turkey hunting, however, took a back seat during my college years and early on in my working career. When I eventually got back into it I figured I’d be able to master a mouth call.  However, now I’m just not comfortable with a mouth call, nor can I seem to even come close to the sounds I made as young man. 

Therefore, I put a lot of faith and effort into being proficient with other types of calls. These days, when I’m around inexperienced turkey hunters, such as during New York’s youth turkey hunting weekend, the first thing I show them is a box call and how to use it. For me it’s the most versatile of all calls in terms of being able to adjust the volume and cadence. And you can even learn to gobble with a box call. 

Next is a slate or pot call with a good striker. I’ve been using the same slate for a decade now and it’s starting to get a little concave from all the sanding. I also invested in a good striker for it, which I think makes a big difference in the sound quality. Other than high-volume calling or making a gobble call, which I seldom do, the pot call is just as effective as a box call. Typically, I’m working both of them on a given hunt.

Lastly, I like the one-handed push/pull friction calls that are very popular with turkey hunters but I find myself not using them much. Instead, my go-to one-handed friction call is the Do-Ral model, which is very compact, durable, easy to contain and is perfect for soft yelps, purrs and cuts.  

Along with a crow call, these aforementioned calls are in my turkey vest every spring. I’m never going to win a turkey-calling contest with any call, especially a mouth call, but thanks to other options, I’m able to walk out of the woods once in while with a gobbler slung over my shoulder.

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