Which turkey call is best?
Calling turkeys has a long history dating back thousands of years to Native Americans who were the first to master the art. Turkey hunting is growing in popularity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that over 2.5 million hunters pursue turkeys every year. That makes turkey hunting the second most popular pursuit, trailing only deer hunting.
Turkeys have many distinct sounds, and being able to recognize and replicate those sounds can have a big impact on your hunting success. There is a wide range of turkey calls available on the market, so it requires some initial education for the beginning hunter. For overall distance and choice of turkey sounds, the ICOtec Gen2 Programmable Game Call/Decoy is the top choice.
What to know before you buy a turkey call
Turkey hunting season
In most states, turkey season is in the spring. Be sure to check your state’s start dates, regulations and licensing fees. Remember that only toms can be hunted. Shooting hens is illegal in many states.
Types of turkey sounds
Most people are familiar with the gobble of a tom turkey, but turkeys make a wide variety of sounds. Clucking and catting are common everyday sounds, while cackling typically indicates a turkey getting ready to fly off. Purring indicates contentment. Yelps are a series of single notes used by hens looking for toms. Putting is the sound turkeys make when threatened. It is always a good idea to listen to realistic turkey sounds online to gain a deeper familiarity for using your turkey call.
Types of turkey calls
There are numerous turkey calls to choose from. Each has its own distinct purpose and application.
A wing-bone call is made from a hollowed-out turkey bone or a plastic replica that makes a kissing sound.
A diaphragm call makes a wide range of calls but takes a while to master. It is a flat semicircle with a reed in a metal frame that fits on your upper palate. A big benefit to diaphragm calls is that they are hands-free.
Pot calls are a shallow cup with slate, glass or metal top. A striker is scraped across the top to make turkey sounds from the cup. Pot calls take some practice but can make a wide variety of sounds.
Shaker calls mimic the sound of a tom’s gobble by forcing air from bellows across a well-positioned reed. It is effective at attracting toms.
Box calls use a hollow box chamber and a wooden paddle scraped across the top at different angles and intensities. Box calls are very loud and make realistic sounds.
A push-button call is excellent for beginning hunters. By pushing or pulling a button, a wooden or plastic peg is scraped against the strike surface. They are small and can be mounted to your gun.
Tube locator calls mimic the sound of other animals like owls and coyotes. These sounds annoy turkeys, whose response will reveal their location to hunters.
There are also electronic, battery-powered turkey calls with preloaded and downloadable calls that use external speakers and offer a wide variety of sounds from far away. Purists will prefer the hand-held turkey calls.
What to look for in a quality turkey call
Some pot calls come with multiple tops made of different materials — usually slate or aluminum — that can be interchanged depending on the type of sound you want to make.
Some manufacturers include an instructional DVD or access to online videos that will further show you how to use the turkey call and replicate the intended sounds. It is always recommended to observe and listen to turkey calls being used by expert callers.
There are turkey call starter packs for beginning hunters who aren’t sure which type of call is right for them. The starter pack includes several models that they can practice with and determine which they are most comfortable with.
How much you can expect to spend on a turkey call
Most turkey calls — wing bone, shaker, locator, push button and pot — will cost between $10 to $40, although some hand-crafted pot calls can push $200. Higher-end box calls can cost up to $90 depending on the craftsmanship. Battery-powered turkey calls start at $20 but can reach prices as high as $170.
Turkey call FAQ
How often should you call a turkey?
A. Experts recommend calling a turkey every few minutes and moving around a bit, since turkeys rarely stay in the same place for long.
How quickly can you master a turkey call?
A. There are many factors that play into mastering a turkey call. Most experts recommend that you think of the turkey call like a musical instrument. It requires patience and practice. The more you use it, the better you will get. Each hunter has a different learning curve, but the more you put into it, the closer you’ll get to a consistent experience.
What’s the best turkey call to buy?
Top turkey call
What you need to know: This electronic turkey call includes sounds of other wildlife in its 24 total calls, plus access to an online sound library. The attachable decoy features LED night lights, a speed dial control and intermittent motion modes.
What you’ll love: This turkey call has a 300-yard remote range. It includes pause and restart functionality, along with a tripod mount and backlit buttons for night hunting. The battery life is strong. An external speaker port allows for added volume.
What you should consider: The unit requires batteries to operate. Some hunters will prefer the natural feel of a hand-held call.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top turkey call for the money
What you need to know: Applicable for the experienced hunter too, this starter kit offers a wide range of calls to help the beginning hunter get a good start.
What you’ll love: This starter pack includes a slate call and slim wooden striker, box call, and a cut diaphragm mouth call. It includes a conditioning kit and carrying case.
What you should consider: There are no detailed instructions included with the unit, and some hunters were unsatisfied with the sound quality.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This traditional-style turkey call is easy to use and generates realistic sounds.
What you’ll love: This wooden box call is made from mahogany with an offset pivoting walnut lid and automatic lid stop to ensure realistic hen yelps. Hand-crafted in the United States, this turkey call has been used by beginning and expert hunters for over 75 years.
What you should consider: This turkey call requires that both hands are holding it, so it limits multitasking.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Steve Ganger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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