Pot calls: Best bet for beginning wild turkey hunters

I had one call in my lap as I sat there watching a lone tom gobble his way up a woodline. My classmates at the time were on their way to school and I was sitting next to the base of a red oak tree, a wide-open cornfield off the end of my gun barrel. The late-season bird was looking for love, but I was terrified to call. I knew he had seen my decoys, but they were silent and he took that as a sign to move. 

Reluctantly I pushed the plunger on my push-button yelper three times. The bird immediately responded, so I repeated my calling. By the third round, he was on a dead run toward my decoys and within seconds he lay still in the chisel-plowed field. Since that bird, 20 springs ago this year, I’ve become much more competent and confident in my calling. Mouth calls get top billing for my hunts, but pot calls earn a second-place spot. Others, like box calls, occasionally make it into the woods with me but without mouth calls and pot calls, I’m in trouble.

A recent phone conversation with a buddy who wants to get into turkey hunting turned to calls and he asked what he should consider. The push-button style is always a sure thing because you just about can’t screw them up. But a good pot call – slate, or glass or graphite – can be a hunter’s best friend and isn’t terribly difficult to use. 

Most first timers, with a decent pot call and some instruction, can get pretty decent in a short time. The best bet for starting out is to learn to yelp competently. Without being able to yelp, turkey hunting is a different and much more difficult proposition. The tendency for most first timers when learning this call is to make short, sharp circles with the striker. This will create a yelp, but it will be a fast-in-cadence type of yelp that sounds rushed. 

The better bet is to extend that circle into an oval, or a J-shaped stroked to make a yelp a two-note sound. Listen closely to live turkeys and you’ll hear that their yelps aren’t monosyllabic sounding calls, but contain two parts. Any new hunter who spends a fair amount of time mastering yelping and getting the rhythm down will kill turkeys. And if they can do that, they’ll learn the slow-drag of a purr or the quick pop of clucking and cutting sequences. 

After that, the birds had better watch out. 

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