Understanding Turkey Calls and When to Use Them

Calling is a major practice throughout a number of different hunting disciplines and with turkey hunting it is more than a necessity. Calling turkeys in the spring is nothing like calling to  bring in a group of geese into a field or grunting to stop a passing buck. When you are calling to turkeys you are only slightly mimicking what actually happens in nature. Where the major shift occurs is that hens almost always come to the gobbler, but with turkey hunting we are trying to force a boss tom to break its natural instincts and go off searching for that sweet sounding lonely hen. Turkey calling is therefore an art and as such it is important to understand the types of turkey calls that are available and what they bring to the table to help you succeed in the spring. Learn when to use a turkey call and choose the ideal one for your situation below.


Locator Calls

Locator Calls

Within turkey hunting there is one type of call that plays a major role in the song and dance that has nothing to do with outfoxing an old tom. Locator calls are used to find turkeys both on the roost and when they are on the ground. These calls mimic the sounds of a turkey’s natural predators. The goal here is to use one of these calls and get a bird to shock gobble, thus giving away his position without you having to worry about the bird potential coming towards you as you move in for the kill.

Locator calls come in many different flavors. You have the classic owl hoot that some believe any true turkey hunter will only mimic with their voice and is a fan favorite across most of the country. Owl calls are typically used the most in the early morning dawn and as the sun begins to set in the evenings. Crow calls and coyote calls are also used to help locate a wandering tom and see more use during the midday lull than early mornings/evenings. Realistically though just about any loud noise will do, including using your favorite goose call.


Friction Calls 

Friction Calls 

Friction calls are manufactured and designed to imitate the sound of a turkey via two separate implements that rub against one another. These calls can be made of many different materials with the most common being any variety of wood you can think of. The push-pin call is the most simplistic call design out there that could be given to any newcomer who could easily use it and be able to produce a realistic turkey sound. The two most common friction calls are the pot and peg call and the classic box call.

No calls are more iconic than a box call or pot and peg call. In my opinion both excel in creating the most realistic of turkey sounds in comparison to the other types of calls. Pot calls use a striker to rub against the pot upon which typically sits a piece of slate, glass, or aluminum. Box calls work in a similar fashion except that on top of the box sits a paddle that rubs against the walls of the box. Box calls have the added bonus of being able to produce a sound similar to a tom’s gobble. These calls help give a hunter more reach with their calling, but come with the disadvantage of needing a hand and movement to create sound.


Diaphragm Calls

diaphragm calls

Of all of the styles of calls on the market today, my personal favorite has to be the diaphragm call. This call is made from a piece of latex that is cut into different shapes and is placed inside the mouth. Diaphragm calls, more commonly referred to as mouth calls, can be manipulated to create numerous hen calls and even a jake yelp..They excel in many different areas including allowing a hunter more control and the ability to add their own touch of realism by controlling the amount of rasp that can be heard in each note.

I prefer these types of calls for a myriad of reasons. First, I like to call and scratch as I am walking through the turkey woods and having a call that I can leave in my mouth that is always at the ready is a major asset. Second, if I am able to get a tom to commit and come looking for me, I am still able to call even when he is within eyesight without having to move and can even try to get him to pause with a pur right before pulling the trigger. Lastly, being able to keep both hands on the shotgun as a turkey is working ensures that I do not have to make any last second movements that might get picked up on by a wary 3 year old.



Today the variety of turkey call options can sometimes feel overwhelming. So in order to find the call that will work best for you, make sure to consider the situations you may find yourself in this season. No matter your choice it is always a great idea to have a variety of calls in your turkey vest so that you can adapt to each hunt. Sometimes a gobbler will like the soft sounds of a striker against slate, be compelled by the crisp drawn out yelps of a cherry wood box call, or get worked up from the extra rasp provided by a mouth call. Practice often and you will find yourself fooling more turkeys the next time you are sitting against a tree. After that the rest is up to you. Don’t miss.

Take a Look at Our “Big Tom” Prefab Turkey Blind – CLICK HERE
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About The Author
Lance Louth

Lance Louth is a waterfowl and upland hunter located in northeast Ohio. He owns and operates Honeybrook Kennels, a gundog training facility that focuses on developing a retriever’s natural abilities. Lance chronicles his passion for his dogs and hunting through his writing and photography. He is driven by his love for the outdoors and his obsession with the art of storytelling. You can follow along with Lance as he highlights the endless hunting opportunities that can be found in your own backyard on Instagram at @lancelouth or through his own personal blog, Into The Uplands.