Hunting turkeys is by no means an easy task. You’re up against a creature with 270 degrees of vision and eyesight three times that of a human. Pair that with the nomadic nature of a turkey along with their wariness, and it seems like the odds are firmly stacked against you.
We have one trick up our sleeve, though, and that’s calling. Turkeys are suckers for calls. However, with the overwhelming amount of sounds a turkey can make and the plethora of calls on the market, it’s difficult to know what’s the best turkey calls for a beginner.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re bowhunting or out with a gun, if you learn how to master one or two calls, you’ll increase your chances of bagging a turkey ten-fold.
So, let’s get into it.
Types of Turkey Calls
There are plenty of choices of turkey calls on the market, and this can be confusing for beginners. To keep this simple, we’re gonna go over each type of call. You’ll see some are more beginner-friendly than others. However, each one of these can be learned and mastered by a beginner.
This is by far one of if not the best calls for a beginner to learn. Box calls are a little wooden box with a handle attached. What makes them so good for beginners is a combination of different things.
They are easy to learn, and most turkey hunters will tell you that they started out on a box call.
They are realistic, from hen yelps to clucks and cuts. They can all be learned quickly and sound very real. A good benefit of the box call is the raspy scratchy sound that it makes, which is very difficult to replicate with a mouth call.
They are loud. Box calls are often much louder than other types of turkey calls. It’s also easy to change the tone and volume.
One caveat of the box call is it requires movement to operate, and as we mentioned earlier, turkeys have superb eyesight. However, a great starting place for a beginner is to let out a few yelps with the call before setting it aside and waiting for a tom.
How to Use a Box Call
To use a box call, you simply move the lid to the side in quick succession. The pattern in which you move the lid and the pressure applied to the top will determine the type of call as well as the tone.
Great for yelps, cuts, and drawing in gobblers.
The pot call probably offers the widest range of sound with the least amount of effort required.
Sometimes you will hear a pot call being called a slate call or a friction call. The reason being is because it requires friction to make the sound and the most common material used for that is slate.
Pot calls are made from a wooden or plastic pot that houses a round piece of slate glass or aluminum. With this comes a striker, which would not be too dissimilar to a pencil.
To use the pot call, you simply need to scratch or rub the pot surface with the striker. Various sounds can be made by changing the pressure or pattern of the striker. Pot calls can be used for long-range location calling or close calling. They can be very versatile and a great option for beginners.
Although pot calls do require some movement to operate, it’s much more subtle than what is required for a box call.
How to Use a Pot Call
Everyone has their own sweet spot when using a pot call. Like many others, I find that the outer side of the call close to the rim makes the best sound.
When using a pot, call cup your hand and hold it between your fingers; this helps the acoustic of the call.
Hold the striker with your dominant hand and place it at an angle of about 45 degrees facing away from you. When using the call, it’s important that the striker never leaves the pot.
The shape in which you move the striker will determine the type of call you make.
For a yelp, find your sweet spot on the call and make a small oval shape with the striker.
For a cut, use a little downward pressure and quickly move the striker in little straight lines towards you.
For a purr, you do similar as a cut but in a more gentle manner, drag the striker towards you.
To change the pitch, you can drag towards the inside or towards the outside.
The Diaphragm call or mouth call is probably the most popular type of turkey call.
I usually wouldn’t recommend this call for beginners until they have learned the ropes on the box call or pot call. It’s more difficult to learn than the others and takes a considerable amount of practice.
The diaphragm call is a small u shaped plastic frame that encompasses pliable reed usually made of stretched latex.
These calls are great when trying to get a tom in closer as they require no movement. Although they are harder to use than the other calls, they are usually quite affordable, so it’s a good idea to get one now and start practicing. It may take a while to get over the gag reflex, so the first few times, just place it in your mouth without actually trying to create a sound.
How to Use a Mouth Call/Diaphragm Call
To use this call, you place it in your mouth with the latex/open end facing out. You will also notice one reed is longer than the others, this reed is the top reed.
Use your tongue to push it upwards to the roof of your mouth. You then force air over the reeds to produce a sound. This is done by bringing air up from your diaphragm, not from blowing with your mouth.
Push Button Call
These calls are extremely easy to learn how to use. Push button calls are a really simple concept. It consists of a small wooden box with a spring-loaded piece of wood inside that is operated by pushing.
While they don’t make the widest range of sounds, they are certainly effective, and many experienced hunters still carry one with them when they go out.
A great benefit of push button calls is that they can be mounted on the barrel of your gun and have a string attached to the striker. This allows you to sit back and tug on the string to operate the call.
How to Use a Push Button Call
This is the easiest call to use. Once you push the spring down into the call, all you have to do is push your striker. The spring will return it to you, allowing you only to have to push and not pull.
The only thing you have to worry about with this type of call is getting the rhythm right.
Locator calls are exactly what they sound like; they are used to locate turkeys. Now, these don’t make turkey sounds; rather, these are any sound that gets a reaction from a gobbler.
This could be owls hooting, coyotes howling, ducks, goose, even a truck door. However, the one I find to work best is a crow call.
When you first walk into quiet woods and have no idea where to start out, use your locator call to elicit a gobble from a tom. This will then give you an idea of where the turkey is and where to place yourself. Then you can get set up and use the other calls to draw him in.
How to Use a Locator Call
There is no one way to use a locator call as it will depend on the type of call you are using. One man’s call could be slamming his truck door, while another could be howling coyotes.
I like to use either a crow call or an owl call. For the crow call, it’s similar to using a duck call. I like to make a short, aggressive call. A loud shrill usually gets a gobble.
The owl call is my favorite on early spring mornings.
Best Turkey Calls For Beginners
Now that we know the different types of calls out there let’s take a look at our favorite calls for beginners.
Best Box Call For Beginners
Primos Hook-Up Magnetic
If you have done any sort of looking on hunting calls, I’m pretty sure you would have come across Primos. They’ve been in the call game for a long time now and are pretty darn good at it.
The Hook Up box calls is perfect for a beginner just as much as it is for an expert. A huge benefit to a beginner is the use of an ultra-strong magnet to hold the paddle at a perfect angle.
The smart use of this magnet makes it easy to go from beginner to expert in a couple of minutes. You will be able to do cuts, purrs, varying yelps as well as gobble with the included Gobble Band.
Definitely our number one pick for a beginner.
Best Pot Call For Beginners
Primos Ol Betsy Slate Call
The Ol Betsy is one of the most popular pot calls from primos, the reason being is it offers exemplary performance at a budget price. As a beginner, what more could you ask for? Now don’t get me wrong, this call is used by many turkey hunting veterans also.
Yelps, cuts, or close in calling, you name it, this call can do it.
Built with Pennsylvania Slate and combined with the internal soundboard and acoustical cup and hardwood striker, you have a premium, versatile call at a budget-friendly price.
Best Mouth Call For Beginners
Woodhaven Custom Calls – Ninja Hammer
This is one of our favorite sounding turkey calls.
The Ninja Hammer is a 3 reed call, and although you might be thinking why would I be suggesting a 3 reed for a beginner, the latex in this call is very beginner-friendly.
Great for producing raspy yelps of an old hen and perfect for close in calling.
It does, however, take a little bit of time to break in, but once you’ve gotten it broken in, the Ninja hammer offers a wide range of sounds, from soft clucks purrs and whines to hard crisp cutting whistling and yelping.
This is definitely a call to keep in your pocket
Best Push Button Call For Beginners
Quaker Boy Cyclone
Such a simple design, such a huge effect. That’s the best way to describe the Quaker Boy Cyclone.
Made with mahogany sides, a maple striker, and a birch dowel, the cyclone is a quality call.
The great thing about this call is it requires no chalk, making it a hassle-free call.
Works in silent woods or windy condition thanks to adjustable volume and a mistake free clucker button.
Best Locator Call For Beginners
Primos Crow Call
Yet again, another Primos call. Although this call probably works great for crows, it certainly works great for locating gobblers. It’s an absolute must-have for springtime turkeys.
Crows are one of the most vocal birds I’ve come across and have a wide variety of sounds. This call can cover a huge range of them sounds.
I like to use this in a quiet forest when I first arrive. Once I get a response from a gobbler, it goes into my pocket and stays there. That’s it, it’s cheap, good quality, and it gets the job done.
Also, as an added bonus, you can call some crows if you wish.
Turkey Sounds and What They Mean
Turkeys are known to make a wide range of sounds, but there are only a few we need to look at to draw in a tom. These are the most commonly used social sounds used:
This is the way turkeys communicate with each other to let others know where they are and find out where the others are. Hens will also use yelps to communicate with a gobbler during mating season.
The cluck is used to get the attention of another or for reassurance. Often it’s 2 or 3 clucks together.
Cluck & Purr
This is usually used as a content sound as a flock is roaming around feeding.
This is the sound of excitement from a turkey. Cutts are loud, sharp clucks mixed with yelping.
There are many more sounds that you can learn to make. However, these are the most important calls to learn, and once you’ve learned these, you’re sure to bag a gobbler.
Turkey Calling Tips For Beginners
Now that we’ve seen the calls and picked our favorites, let’s take a look at some calling tips for beginners to increase your chances in the field.
Use locator calls
We get it, you’re out in the woods after your first turkey, and your instinct is to get out that brand new box call and start letting off yelps. However, we don’t recommend that. Rather when you first get out there, use your locator call to get a shot gobble response.
If it’s early in the morning before the sunrise, I like to use an owl hoot, or if it’s a little later in the day, I take out my trusted crow call.
Remember, we’re not trying to get them to come to us. We just want them to reveal their location to get set up to use one of our other calls to draw them in.
Don’t Educate the Turkeys
When you’re trying to practice your calls, it’s a good idea not to this wherever you plan on hunting. Turkeys are smart birds, and they will quickly learn your calls.
So I recommend going somewhere like the state park or somewhere you don’t intend to hunt to get your practice in.
Less is More
You’ve got your brand new call. You’ve done your practice and are ready to get out and bag that bird. Your first instinct will be to keep calling. However, when calling turkeys, it’s best practice to remember less is more.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, turkeys have excellent eyesight as well as hearing. If you overcall, they will have you pegged and spot you before you can draw them in for a shot.
Let off a call and be patient. Wait there quietly and watch and listen for sign of turkey.