Critique your calling

Your yelping might sound pretty good in the truck or basement, but that’s not a true measure of its quality. Calling champions and master turkey hunters all agree, critiquing your calling can improve your performance. Here’s how they do it.

Turkey calling champions Matt Morrett, Eddie Salter, Paul Butski and Preston Pittman agree to improve your calling, you must be able to hear what you sound like to the turkeys. To accomplish this, record your calling from a short distance, and then play back the results.

Morrett manages Zink Calls’ turkey division and hosts the turkey hunting episodes of “Avian-X TV” In his competition days, Morrett won scads of local and national contests. And Salter, of Flextone Game Calls’ “Turkey Man TV”, also was on the calling contest circuit for many years, and at one time, he owned his own call company.

“I think the thing that helped me the most was an old-fashioned cassette tape recorder,” Morrett said. “I set it up outside in front of me and listened to what I was projecting.”

Salter said, “It really helped me improve my delivery. I didn’t realize it until I heard myself on tape, but a lot of times, I was dragging my notes. I sharpened them and started winning more contests on the stage and in the turkey woods, if you know what I mean.”

Butski won the U.S. Open title six times and the NWTF Grand National Senior Division three times, not to mention nearly 200 other contests. Today, he’s the sales manager for GSM Outdoors and a host on the popular “Turkey Thugs” television show.

Butski said, “[Recording calls] really helped me with my rhythm. When you call a lot, you tend to be tone deaf to certain sounds you’re making.”

Pittman is rumored to be part turkey, and I’ve seen nothing to dispel that notion.

Pittman said, “Get away from unnatural noise like rush-hour traffic, and don’t practice where you’re going to hunt, because you run the risk of educating the turkeys in advance. Record yourself with whatever calls you plan to use, and then sit back and listen to yourself. That way, you’ll know what you sound like in the woods, and you can critique yourself over and over.”

Missouri’s Billy Yargus, won the NWTF GNCC Senior Division title in 2008, 2015 and 2016, and also took the 2016 World Championship Turkey Calling Contest. 

Yargus said, “Actually, in some ways, I think working through the rough spots is good because that’s when you learn the most. Years ago, when I first started hunting turkeys, I never knew exactly what sound would come out of a diaphragm call. Over time, I learned to treat the calls like musical instruments. Different calls require different tongue placement and air pressure to get the most out of them. Also, I don’t hang on to favorite mouth calls too long, as they go bad eventually with constant use.”

After consulting with these expert turkey callers, I followed their advice and started calling into a recorder.  I called to it with mouth and friction calls, played it back, and was able to tweak a couple of things I think will help in calling turkeys. 

What’s good for the champions is surely good for the rest of us.

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