It was a pretty quiet morning in the turkey woods and, after hours of hearing nothing I decided to take a break and just enjoy the spring woods. Sitting on a hillside with my back to a large red oak I reached into my pack to see if one of the half dozen or so calls I normally carry might elicit an answer from one of the mature toms I was sure still roamed the woods I hunted.
I spread the calls on the leaves beside me and soon realized how many ways there were at my disposal to mimic the call of a wild turkey. My go-to call is a Lohman Model 870 double-sided box that I’ve used for years. It makes all the sounds of a hen turkey and is sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse I sometimes expose it to. Another box call that has a special place in my heart is the Lynch Fool Proof Model 101that I’ve had since the mid-1960s. I used it to kill my first mature tom back in 1968 when Pennsylvania opened its first six-day spring turkey season.
I knew nothing about spring turkey hunting back then and I doubt anybody knew much but, as far as I was concerned, all I needed to know was printed on the side of the one-sided Lynch call. “It’s fool proof,” the box said. “It’s set for the yelp, cluck, putt, whine, and cackle,” the writing reassured. The rest of the message went on to say the call was “semi-automatic” (it had a rubber band around the body and paddle) and that the user should read the simple instructions. That was all the information I needed to know. Never mind, I never before heard the yelp, cluck, putt, whine or cackle of a wild bird, and despite my lack of knowledge, using that Lynch box, I managed to call in a mature tom about an hour after the season began. That made me a turkey hunter for life.
Today, I use a wide range of calls and other favorites include the H.S.Strut Gold Premium Triple Glass and Lil Deuce Double Glass pot calls. Glass or crystal calls often elicit a response when other calls fail.
Slate calls can produce the right sound and pitch to which turkeys will respond. In the early days, I used a Ben Lee Super Hen autographed by the man himself. It also came in an aluminum version. This call still works fine but it has too much nostalgic value to me so I prefer using the more modern Quaker Boy Triplet Slate.
Often when working a bird that I know is nearby, but I can’t see I use a diaphragm or mouth call. There seems to be no end to the ways these calls can be configured. Diaphragm calls can be made with a single latex rubber like Quaker Boy’s Kee-Kee or with multiple rubbers like their Screamin’Green or Old Boss Hen. My newest one is Paul Butski’s Original Cutter by Hunters Specialties which features three reeds and allows me to make aggressive and realistic yelps and cutts with ease. Diaphragm or mouth calls are offered by a host of manufacturers including Primos, Knight and Hale, Primos, and others.
Years ago, when I wrote for a fledgling magazine dedicated solely to turkey hunting I had a gentleman stop into my office in Owego. He was from Kansas and on his way to Ithaca and Cornell University for his 50th class reunion. He said he read several of my articles and wanted to meet me. I was flattered of course and before he left he gave me several “scratch” box or “matchbox” calls he made himself. He said they were made from walnut and cedar. I love them and still carry one in my shirt pocket during archery season in case the deer aren’t active but the turkeys are.
Back in the ’60s when I first started turkey hunting there weren’t many calls available save for some box calls made mainly by M.L. Lynch. Today a turkey hunter has dozens if not hundreds of calls from which to choose. Which one becomes his favorite depends on his or her success with the call.
My respite was a short one as the noon whistle blew at the fire station across the valley. I packed up the calls I laid out in front of me and wondered if I really needed all the calls I carried but, a voice inside my head said, “Hey, you never know.”