Sometimes, our ears reveal a painful truth: Our calling might not be very good.
That can be especially true with diaphragm calls, which can be tough to master. If you’re dissatisfied with your mouth-call sound, don’t panic. Let’s review some fixes to get you calling like a pro.
First, go back to basics. Try calls with various cuts, and find the models that are easiest to blow — ones that let you force air easily across the reeds. Everyone’s palate and tongue differ. Some folks might push air across the middle of their tongue, but others stream it on the left or right side. Consequently, some callers do best with a split-V, but others find cutter calls or reverse combination cuts easier to run.
When you find your ideal cut, focus on air control. Remember to huff air up from your diaphragm like you’re fogging a mirror. Don’t blow like you’re trying to extinguish a candle. Locate your ideal tongue position on the reed. It’s often somewhere between the positions you’d use to say “h,” with the back of your tongue touching your palate, and “s,” in which the tip of your tongue touches. Then, work at producing a clear, continuous whistle. You’ll have to experiment with tongue and jaw pressure to accomplish this.
After you’re proficient at making a whistle, work into a basic yelp by dropping your jaw or lowering your tongue pressure at the end of a whistle, creating the second, lower note of a yelp. Keep huffing air through the call, even as you break into the second note. Early efforts might sound awkward, but keep working to coordinate a sharp, concise yelp.
With your yelp in order, work on other vocalizations. You can already whistle, so kee-kees and kee-kee runs should be relatively easy.
Create clucks, putts, cutting and cackling by blasting sharp bursts of air across the call. Some folks advise that you say “pick” or “puck” as you do this, but that involves too much lip action. Try saying “shut,” making sure to concentrate on forcing the air up from your gut as you do. Work first on single clucks or putts, and then coordinate those into cutting and cackling as you improve.
Purring on a mouth call can be difficult. You can flutter your lips while blowing the call, but that’s usually not very realistic. It’s better to flutter your tongue or, best, make a gargling action in the back of your throat while lightly forcing air across the reeds. Puff up your cheeks as you do this, which creates a baffle and facilitates a soft, muted sound.
After you’re comfortable making most turkey sounds, your path to improvement is clear: Listen to real turkeys, whether in the woods or on sound files, and practice often. Identify your weak areas, and focus on improving them. Solicit advice from more experienced callers.
Above all, remember that learning the mouth call is supposed to be fun. And when you yelp in a gobbler next spring, every bit of practice will have been worthwhile.