Types of Turkey Calls, Applications, and Pros/Cons

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For avid turkey hunters, there are few items as a beloved, as a well-chosen turkey call. Many hunters have numerous calls at their disposal, of which some are favored over others. The use of a call allows hunters to interact with the turkey that they hunt, in a bid to better their odds of success. 

Today, there are numerous types of turkey calls for a hunter to select from. While all of these calls can be used toward the common goal of enticing a tom into range, each does so in its own specific way.

Some calls are better suited for use in a particular situation than others, making it imperative to understand the value of each type of call and the value that each has to offer.

Why Are Turkey Calls Important?

The use of a call makes it possible for a hunter to attract wary birds, that would otherwise be nearly impossible to get within range of. A turkey’s response to a hunter’s calling is largely instinctive in nature.

Turkeys are highly social animals and communicate with the use of numerous vocalizations. As a result, hunters use various calls to replicate these vocalizations.

During the spring of the year, toms are heavily focused on mating and are therefore extremely receptive to the vocalizations of hens.

Such vocalizations include yelps, cluck, cutts, and purrs, all of which convey a particular message on a hen’s behalf.

These subtle sounds are often met by an intrigued or excited response by any Tom within earshot. Turkey hunters use this knowledge to their advantage, in order to fool a tom into believing that a receptive hen awaits him over the next rise.

Types of Turkey Calls

Turkey calls come in many different forms, each coming with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While one type of call might yield success one day, an alternative type could very well be the winning choice during a hunter’s very next outing.

The following is an outline of the various types of turkey calls, from which hunters can choose.

Turkey Box Call

Lynch World Champion Turkey Box Call

Pros:

  • Extensive range
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to be used as a locator

Cons:

  • Poor ability in wet weather
  • Difficult to control volume

For many hunters, the box call serves as the gold standard for what a turkey can, and should be. This type of call has been around for decades and is characterized as a long hollow box, on which a flat, paddle-shaped lid pivots.

As this lid is manipulated by a hunter, it pivots back and forth, creating friction with the box’s lip. This friction produces high-pitched, Turkey-like noises.

Most box calls can be heard from lengthy distances and make wonderful locator calls. In fact, box calls have gained quite the reputation for being capable of eliciting a gobble from tight-lipped toms, when nothing else will.

Box calls also replicate a wide range of turkey vocalizations, including yelps, purrs, cutts, and clucks.

Box calls are also straightforward and easy to master. Most hunters can become proficient enough in their use to call in a turkey, with little more than a single afternoon’s worth of practice.

Mastery of the box call can be obtained throughout a single season, if one puts in their fair share of practice.

However, it is worth considering, that it can often be difficult to meter a box call’s volume. This can become a concern when you are attempting to work turkeys at close range, where extensively loud calling can push a bird in the opposite direction.

Wet and extremely humid weather can also have temporary, yet detrimental effects on a box call’s ability to perform, due to a loss of friction.

Turkey Pot Calls

Primos Rare Breed Glass Turkey Pot Call

Pros:

  • Highly versatile
  • Easy to control volume
  • Relatively simple to use

Cons:

  • Poor ability in wet weather
  • Requires extensive movement for use

A pot or “slate” call, as it is referred to by many, is another type of turkey call which dates back a number of decades.

This call utilizes an up-facing circular pot with a flat bottom, that contains a piece of slate, glass, crystal, or aluminum inside its face.

A striker, most commonly made of wood or carbon, is drug across this face material, to create friction. 

This friction, when strategically initiated, is capable of reproducing virtually any turkey vocalization imaginable. The range of a pot call can vary significantly depending upon its material composition.

However, most can be easily controlled in a way that makes it possible to call with extreme volume, or at a very subtle pitch. 

Pot calls tend to be somewhat more difficult to master than a box call, though a hunter can become proficient in their use within a short period of time with a little practice.

Most hunters begin learning to use a pot call by producing a standard yelp. One can then shorten these notes and vary their calling cadence in order to produce cluck, cutts, and purrs.

The effectiveness of a pot call can be hindered by wet and rainy weather (read.. Turkey Hunting in the Rain), as this reduces the call’s ability to produce friction.

However, numerous calls of this variety have been engineered from alternative materials in recent years, which are largely impervious to the effects of moisture.

This has made pot call use far more viable when hunting in all but the heaviest of downpours.

Turkey Diaphragm Calls

Primos Hunting Hook Hunter Turkey Mouth Call (Pack of 2)

Pros:

  • Can replicate any turkey sound
  • Operable in a hands-free fashion
  • Easy to meter volume

Cons:

  • Difficult to learn
  • Requires movement for use

Though diaphragm calls have been around for quite some time, they have grown enormously in popularity over the last couple of decades and become an undeniable staple of turkey hunting.

Diaphragm calls consist of a horseshoe-shaped frame, with a set of latex reeds stretched across its opening. The call’s frame is concealed within a sheath of tape.

A diaphragm call’s reeds typically feature subtle cuts, which produce variances in its sound characteristics. This style of call is placed between a hunter’s tongue, and the roof of their mouth, where air is forced across its reeds.

This air causes a diaphragm call’s reeds to rapidly vibrate, producing high-pitched sounds, much like those emitted by a turkey.

Much of the diaphragm call’s popularity stems from its ability to be operated in a hands-free manner. This is of immense value, as a turkey can pick up on a hunter’s slightest movements, especially at close distances.

Additionally, diaphragm calls are unaffected by the weather, allowing them to be used universally, no matter the conditions that one faces.

Diaphragm calls can be rather difficult to master, often taking years.

However, those who are new to mouth call use can typically learn to produce basic sounds, such as yelps and clucks, in a matter of 2-3 months’ worth of practice.

Despite requiring patience to learn, the use of a mouth call is well worth the effort expended on a hunter’s behalf, as a quality mouth call is capable of producing any turkey vocalization imaginable.

Turkey Tube Call

Primos Hunting Foggy Bottom Snuff Tube Turkey Call

Pros:

  • Unparalleled range
  • Excellent volume control
  • Robust sound quality

Cons:

  • Difficult to learn
  • Failure of the diaphragm or connecting band can occur

Tube calls, while not as popular as they were in years past, are still a highly effective tool in any turkey hunter’s arsenal.

A tube call is characterized as a short hollow tube, often no longer than 3-4 inches in length, with a latex reed stretched across a portion of the tube’s opening at one end.

A hunter blows air across the call’s latex reed, creating a sound that is then amplified through the tube.

A tube call is renowned as an excellent locator call, as it can often be heard from a mile or more when operated by an experienced hunter.

This can be extremely beneficial when hunting expansive river bottoms, or large tracts of public land, where birds can roost almost anywhere.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, tube calls can also be blown extremely quietly when the need arises.

Many hunters also favor tube calls for their waterproof functionality. Much like a diaphragm call, tube calls operate upon the vibration of a reed, as opposed to friction.

With no friction required for proper use, a hunter can confidently pack a tube call along on every hunt, without any care as to what the weather forecast looks like.

It is worth mentioning, however, that tube calls can be relatively difficult to get the hang of. While passable turkey sounds can be produced on a tube call with minimal practice, true mastery often takes years.

In time, the use of a tube call begins to become instinctual in a way, much like riding a bike.

Turkey Trumpet Call

Primos Wing Bone Yelper Turkey Call

Pros:

  • Ultra-realistic sound quality
  • Unmatched volume control
  • Impervious to weather

Cons:

  • Extremely difficult to use
  • Often expensive to purchase

A trumpet is perhaps the most realistic sounding of all turkey calls, yet among the most difficult to use as well.

This call consists of a hollow, pencil-like tube, which is bell-shaped at one end. On the opposite end from this bell, sits a narrow taper, fitted with a cork mouthpiece.

This tapered end of the trumpet call is placed to a hunter’s lips, where a kissing action takes place.

As a result, air is taken in through a trumpet call in small bursts. This passage of air creates sounds as it passes through a hunter’s lips and is amplified throughout the call’s body.

The trumpet call is capable of producing some of the richest sounding yelps, cutts, and clucks imaginable, and is even preferred over various alternative call types by many veteran hunters.

The realistic tone produced by a trumpet call is often cited as being able to conjure a response from reluctant gobblers when nothing else will.

This tends to be especially true when hunting heavily pressured public lands, where turkeys are regularly bombarded by sounds from nearly every type of call imaginable.

Because of their unconventional manner of use, in relation to various other types of turkey calls, trumpets are inherently difficult to use. In some cases, it can even take years for a hunter to become proficient enough in the use of a trumpet call, to make plausible-sounding vocalizations.

Some, however, are never able to master the trumpet call, despite extensive effort.

Turkey Scratch Box

Tom Gaskins Turkey Call 'The Classic One Piece Hand Tuned Box Call

Pros:

  • Great range
  • High level of versatility
  • Crisp tonal characteristics
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Extremely susceptible to moisture
  • Requires hand movement for operation

In the past, the scratch box used to be as prominent as the box or pot call is today.

This unique little call employs the use of a small, rectangular piece of wood, along with a thinner piece of wood known as a scratcher, to create noise-producing friction.

The scratch box’s body is hollow in design and amplifies the call’s sound output, which is produced when each of the unit’s two pieces is rubbed together.

In many ways, the scratch box is somewhat of a hybrid between the box call and pot call.

A scratch box looks and operates much like a miniature box call, yet features a secondary friction device (scratcher), that can be interchanged to create different sounds, much like a pot call’s striker.

Scratch boxes are also very easy to operate, making them ideal for use by novice callers. Much like in the case of a box call, one can become proficient enough in the use of a scratch box to replicate basic turkey vocalizations in little more than a single afternoon.

Mastery of the scratch box can be achieved in a single season if one were to practice extensively.

Much of the scratch box’s fall from prominence has come at the hands of its sensitivity to moisture.

A heavy morning dew is often enough to render the scratch box inoperable, and rainfall makes the use of this call impossible.

If you intend to use a scratch box on an exclusive basis, it is advisable to hunt from an enclosed ground blind.

Turkey Push Button Call

Hunters Specialties H.S. Strut Push Button Yelper Turkey Call

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Requires minimal movement
  • Can produce a wide array of vocalizations

Cons:

  • Limited in volume
  • Not as vibrant in tone

A push-button call is an ideal choice for any novice caller, or youth hunter, as it is nearly impossible to use incorrectly.

This call consists of a rectangle box, which is open on one side. Inside this box sits a wooden dowel that protrudes outward, as well as a pronounced friction surface on which this dowel rides. 

A hunter pushes on the dowl’s protruding end, which causes it to scrub across the adjoining friction block’s surface, emitting noise in the process.

A return spring then brings the dowl back to its neutral position when not acted upon by force. A push-button call is capable of producing yelps, clucks, cutts, and purrs, all with minimal input on a hunter’s behalf.

The push-button call has maintained significant popularity, primarily as a result of its ease of use.

This call can be operated in a simple enough fashion, that it is virtually impossible to produce a sound that is not turkey-like in nature.

Many experienced hunters even keep a push-button call around, due to its ability to be operated without much in the way of visible movement.

Locator Calls

Outside of traditional turkey calls, which primarily replicate the vocalizations of a hen turkey, most hunters also choose to employ the use of purpose-specific locator calls.

These calls are designed to elicit a shock gobble from any tom within a hunter’s immediate vicinity. Using such a call enables hunters to choose their setup wisely, on any given hunt.

The following are some of the most popular types of locator calls currently available.

Crow Call

Primos Crow Call

The crow call is among the most popular of all locator calls on the market.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever listened to the thundering chorus of gobbles that typically accompany the repetitive, shrill vocalizations of a crow. 

Throughout the day, toms will readily gobble at a hunter’s crow call, in the vast majority of instances.

The sudden piercing note of a crow’s call is often more than a tight-lipped tom can stand, leading to a reactionary shock gobble.

Crow calls are extremely easy to use and can be mastered right out of the box, in a matter of only minutes. Simply blow into the call with the exact same cadence as that which is typical of a crow’s actual calls.

Owl Hoot

Primos Hoot Flute Call

An owl hoot is yet another locator call, which has become immensely popular among turkey hunters.

Though an owl’s hoot is relatively soft in composure, it is often all that is needed to entice a wary tom into giving up his position.

While no one is truly certain as to why turkey shock gobble at an owl hoot with such regularity, its effectiveness is indisputable.

An owl hoot works best during the early morning when the sun is just beginning to peer over the horizon. Additionally, many hunters use an owl hoot of an evening in order to roost turkeys for the following morning’s hunt.

An owl hoot call generally consists of a hollow tube, with a mouthpiece, and several holes along its body. A hunter blows into the tube’s mouthpiece while covering these tube’s holes with their fingers.

The pitch of the call can be varied by removing one or more fingers from the holes they were covering.

Coyote Howler

Johnny Stewart CYC-1 Coyote Dog Howler Premium Mouth Call

For those who have heard the shriek of a coyote’s howl, it is no surprise that a tom would instinctively gobble in shock at such a sound.

For this reason, some crafty hunters have begun using coyote howlers to roost turkeys in the evening, before a hunt the following morning.

While a coyote howler is an effective locator call for evening use, many hunters caution against using such a call in the morning, before flydown.

This stems from the fact that the coyote is a natural predator of the turkey, and a turkey is apt to avoid the source of such a sound.

Coyote calls vary in type, some being handheld, mouth-blown units, while others take on the form of a digital recording, played out across a set of speakers.

As such, the difficulty of using a coyote howler is highly dependent upon the type that is chosen.

Gobbler Call

Primos Hunting PS222 The Gobbler Turkey Shaker Call, Black

Many hunters utilize a gobbler call in place of a locator. These calls typically take the form of a baffled tube, which is shaken back and forth to replicate a tom’s gobble.

However, many skillful callers are able to produce a gobble with the use of other hen-style turkey calls.

With an immense amount of practice, it is entirely possible to use both a mouth and tube call to replicate a tom’s gobbles.

Likewise, a number of hunters claim to be capable of doing the same with a box call. No matter the call used, toms have a habit of gobbling at one another’s vocalizations.

This is a fact that becomes evident when listening to pre-flydown gobbles, that often come in a volley.

The use of a gobbler call as a locator also comes with an additional side benefit. Toms are highly territorial during the spring months and will often respond with aggression whenever another tom is perceived to be in the area.

It is not uncommon to see a tom sprint into range after hearing the sound of a gobbler call. 

A Full Bag Of Tricks

While many hunters tend to cling to the use of their favorite call, doing so can actually be detrimental to their success. While a particular call might bring gobblers in at a dead run on one occasion, it might be incapable of rendering so much as a gobble during the following day’s hunt.

Turkeys tend to be ever-changing in their temperament and can be fickle in their preferences.

For this reason, it is important to always have more than one type of turkey call at your disposal during any trip to the woods.

If at first, your calling falls on deaf ears, continue to try every turkey call in your vest, one by one, with a few minutes, break separating each effort.

Whether it be your first option or your last, you will eventually stumble upon the sound that will pique a tom’s curiosity.

With a vest full of calls, and the knowledge to use each wisely, a hunter is poised to experience a season like none other. With a little luck, a tom will be fooled into thinking that a hen awaits him just out of sight, much to the excitement of a camo-clad hunter behind the call.

Last update on 2020-11-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Alexander Knobloch
Alexander Knobloch
Hi. My name is Alex. I am the founder of BowAddicted.com. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors.

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