Daybreak dawns with a chill and a pale orange sky, the hills painted red and yellow. Roosted autumn turkeys softly yelp, cluck and even gobble. Wingbeats tick branches as birds fly down and regroup. What’s not to like?
Fall turkey calling — including the friction and mouth calls in your vest — varies depending on the hunting situation.
SITUATION 1: SCATTER THE FLOCK
Identify whether it’s a family flock, gobbler gang or even a broodless hen flock. If you’ve scattered the birds on foot, you likely know. If you’ve used a dog, where legal, you might not. Listen for turkeys as they begin calling, post-scatter. Mimic the calls.
Calls to Use: Ghost-cut diaphragm calls work well to imitate the kee-kee and kee-kee runs of young turkeys regrouping.
Top Pick: Carry a Zink Calls Lost Lady diaphragm.
SITUATION 2: STRIKE A BIRD
When on foot, you can kee-kee, cluck, or hen or gobbler yelp to strike a vocal bird in a flock. Various wild turkey sounds can prompt an answer. Often, you might also hear birds in the woods or fields while listening intently when you’re not calling.
Calls to Use: Run a long box with a series of yelps, clucks and especially cutting. This can garner a reply in fall from silent birds, as it does in spring.
Top Pick: A custom-made option from Marlin Watkins is a good choice.
SITUATION 3: COLD CALLING
Study fall turkeys. Where do they roost? Where do they feed each day? Make your setup for a long sit between those locations. Select a pinch point with a wooded game trail or near a field entrance. Ideally, fresh turkey sign will be nearby.
Calls to Use: Imitate a flock. Turkeys occasionally call excitedly on the roost and while walking on the ground. Think like a group of birds. Soft calling, with occasional steady turkey talk as if birds are interacting, can pull them to your position.
Top Pick: Use a Pat Strawser slate call paired with a mouth diaphragm for the range of mellow and loud flock talk during fall hunts.
SITUATION 4: FALL GOBBLERS
You see a handful of gobblers running together. Scatter them, or call to the group.
Calls to Use: If you strike a fall gobbler with a cluck, start gobbler yelping at the bird. If it responds to you again, gobble at that turkey. Gobbler calls, when used sparingly, can prompt responses from adult toms, super jakes and young male turkeys. If you’ve scattered the flock, listen as the gobblers regroup. Sometimes, they’ll gobble when lost or looking for other turkeys. Call as they do. Aggressive purrs, cutting and gobbling can interest male birds into approaching your position.
Top Pick: Scratch boxes make deep, coarse gobbler yelps. Bob Fulcher, of Shadetree Callers, crafts some of the best.