By Walter Parrott
Competition calling is different from calling in the woods. When hunting, I don't call as often or as loudly as I do in competition. Remember, if a gobbler is coming, he's doing what you're asking of him. You don't need to keep talking.
Let the Bird Talk Back
I test a roosted gobbler to see what type of calling he wants. First, I make contact with the gobbler to learn his location. Then, I use a few light tree yelps and let the hunt unfold.
You can't create rules when turkey hunting. You must determine what mood a gobbler is in, whether he's with hens and which direction he wants to go. Then, as you understand what a gobbler is doing, you can position yourself and use the appropriate calls.
If a tom gobbles at my tree yelps, pitches off a limb and walks toward me, I stop calling. If he flies down and stands around, I might use a few light yelps and clucks. As soon as he starts moving toward me, I stop calling.
Public Land Hunting
If I'm hunting public land late in the season, I know toms have been called to by many hunters. And most hunters have probably called too much and too loudly.
If a public-land gobbler hears a lot of loud calling, he'll be suspicious. However, if you use a few yelps and purrs and a lot of silence, he'll probably investigate. You can always call more if needed, but you can't take back aggressive calling.
Hunting pressure also affects how vocal hens and gobblers are. In pressured areas, hens usually call softly. If you call aggressively, you won't sound like local hens.
The No. 1 Rule
The No. 1 rule when turkey hunting is not to call if you're unsure. If you do, call as softly as possible. Use loud, excited calls if you're trying to get a turkey to shock gobble, but remember that when a turkey gobbles, he's already pinpointed you.
If a gobbler is coming toward you, he'll probably come to soft calling. He can hear better than you think.
If a turkey moves off-course, he's missing you for a reason. He might have another place he wants to be or might want to move where he can see you better. If a turkey walks past me, and I can't get a shot, I will call extremely lightly after the bird has its head behind a bush or a tree, maybe only three to five yelps.
Another advantage to soft calling is a gobbler can't easily determine how far he is from you. When a turkey is close, and is walking or stopped behind a bush, I call softly so the bird thinks I'm farther than I am.
If I could choose one call, it would be the Knight & Hale Select three-reed cutter. The third reed adds rasp. If you want clear calls, slide your tongue over the cut and call without rasp. However, if you need more volume and rasp, move your tongue off the split reed.
The three-reed cutter lets me call softly and clearly if a turkey is close or loudly if a bird is farther away. Therefore, I can sound like a flock of turkeys by moving my tongue on the call.
One of the biggest mistakes hunters make - regardless of where they hunt - is overcalling.
Pretend you have few calls to give. Use your calls sparingly and only when you must. Your turkey hunting success will improve.