Turkey Talk

Kids Outdoor Outpost March 2020

Joe Schuster | February 28, 2020

Talk turkey. That’s a phrase no longer really used anymore. It means to speak candidly or seriously. So, I shall attempt to do the same as it relates to one of Georgia’s favorite game birds, the wild turkey.

According to the NWTF website, the North American turkey species has five subspecies, including the Eastern, Florida (Osceola), Rio Grande, Merriam’s and Gould’s.

The Eastern inhabits our neck of the woods. Nothing will fire up a turkey hunter like the sound of a gobbler breaking the silence of a beautiful spring morning. On the other end of the spectrum, nothing will dampen the spirits of the same hunter when there are no turkey sounds at all.

The main vocalization of the male bird is the one you have probably heard of the most, the gobble. The male birds can gobble at some of the strangest sounds. A truck door slamming, a fire truck siren, someone crunching gravel while driving down a road may elicit a turkey to “shock gobble.”

Hunters have also developed some good calls to spur those birds into action. Probably among the easiest to use a “push-pull” call. Simply by pushing a stick, or rod, at the end of a small box produces the sound.

Next, in terms of ease, is the box call. Dragging a wooden paddle across a wooden box can produce some pretty good clucks, yelps and purrs.

Next in line, I’d go with a slate or friction call. These are often called pot calls. Materials for these circular calls range from slate, aluminum, glass or even copper inserted in a base of wood or even Plexiglas. Using a striker to drag across the slate creates friction and produces a variety of different calls from yelps, clucks to purrs and more. The materials for the striker can vary. Metal, plastic, carbon tipped and a wide variety of woods can be used. Rosewood and cedar are two popular selections for wooden strikers.

Probably among the most difficult turkey call to master is the diaphragm latex mouth call. The thin piece of latex is stretched over a u-shaped frame and inserted into the mouth. The tongue lifts it into place on the roof of the mouth. Pushing air between the latex and the top of the tongue can produce some pretty good turkey sounds. In addition to sweet-sounding yelps, hunters can produce cackles, cutts, purrs and even kee-kee runs.

Even being a master turkey caller won’t call in some “henned-up” gobblers that are happy hanging out with a flock of hens. A lot of times they won’t gobble much when they are with hens. The National Wild Turkey Federation states that things like weather can also affect how much a turkey gobbles. Gobbling can be good when winds are light, but the woods get much quieter during winds stronger than 12 mph. Also, gobblers tend to sound off more when temps are 60 to 70 degrees but tend to decrease when it gets hotter.

I suggest getting some practice in with your calls before the season really kicks in. They say that “practice makes perfect,” so get going. Don’t forget to pattern your shotgun, too!

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