Giving a hoot

I’ve always said, half jokingly, “if you find something you really like buy two because sure as anything they won’t make it anymore.” Nothing can be a better example of that philosophy than my old owl call. Many turkey hunters use a locator call to verify the position of a roosted tom and in the past I was no exception. Locator calls are usually loud calls made by common forest creatures such as owls, bobcats, crows or even pileated woodpeckers. By far the most common locator call used by turkey hunters is the call of the barred owl.

Barred owls are common here in New York and are part of the natural order of things, especially early in the morning when turkeys are safely perched in trees. Many hunters make excellent barred owl calls by using nothing but their own voices, while others rely on commercially made calls, some of which sound better than the real owl. I’ve always used a commercially made owl call because I’m never sure what will come out of my mouth in the early morning hours before the crack of dawn.

The “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” call of the barred owl is just easier to make when using a commercially made call and I find the call of the barred owl to be a more efficient turkey locator than calls mimicking other creatures, such as crows.

Back in the 1970s I had a commercially made metal owl hooter that looked like it was fabricated from an old juice can. I don’t know where I got it or who made it but it was by far the best owl hooter I’ve ever used. It was easy to use, had great volume and, more importantly, I almost never failed to get a roosted turkey to answer that call. Unfortunately, I no longer have it.

One morning I shot a nice gobbler and unloaded my gun. As I did so, the tom suddenly started flopping in the leaves and I ran to recover him. Unfortunately, as I ran toward the downed bird, a strand of old barbed wire fence wire buried under the leaves caught me by surprise and down I went. In my attempt to avoid injury, I twisted my body so I landed on my side and back. I was unhurt but I can’t say the same about my prized metal owl call. It was crushed.

No problem I thought. I got the bird and could replace the call with one like I just demolished. But that proved to be impossible. I went to every sporting goods store in our area looking for the same metal call as the one I destroyed but that was not to be. Nobody carried one exactly like the one I had. As my luck would have it, whoever made that call was either dead or out of business.

Today, I have at least a half dozen owl hooters and they work to some degree, but I’ve never had the success of getting a turkey to gobble on the roost as I did with that metal juice can. Rest assured, if I ever find a call like that again, you can bet the ranch I’m buying two.

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