I’ve watched quite a few videos and have sat in on several calling contests, and I think my mouth-calling sounds OK. It just seems kind of boring. How can I take it to the next level? — Rodney Donyer, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Excellent question. Here’s an excerpt from Turkey & Turkey Hunting’s “Calling Savvy 201” download. Hope it helps. — Brian Lovett
After you’ve learned the basics, the sky is the limit. Practice a lot — preferably year-round, not just six weeks before the season. Listen to real turkeys as much as possible, and try to mimic their myriad tones and pitches on your mouth call. If you can’t listen to turkeys, run box calls, and strive to reproduce those sounds.
As you practice, focus on realism. This has two aspects, the first of which is cadence.
Some calls, such as the yelp and kee-kee, have a steady cadence and rhythm. Others, such as cutting, have a broken cadence. No matter how good or bad you sound on a diaphragm, cadence and rhythm are always more important than tone and sound quality. Your calling can be deep, raspy, trilling or high-pitched. It doesn’t matter, because turkeys have different voices, just like people. But just like a drummer must keep time, a turkey caller has to maintain his sense of cadence and rhythm.
Listen to turkeys or contest callers, and note their steady rhythm during yelping sequences. Practice to get that timing down, and make sure it becomes second nature.
The other aspect of realism is putting emotion and excitement into your calling. If you yelp, cluck, cutt or cackle in a monotonous, repetitive manner, it’s not realistic. The yelp provides a good example. Turkeys often use a classic three- to seven-note yelp. Often, however, their yelps will increase in volume and excitement. Sometimes, the sequence will build and then fade in volume and intensity.
Frequently, turkeys mix yelping with clucks or cutting. An inquisitive cluck after a yelping sequence essentially asks a gobbler, “Where are you?” And of course, cutting is a call of excitement and agitation. Cutt feverishly, like a hen desperate to find a suitable suitor.
Mixing those elements into your mouth-calling adds great realism — and that really makes a difference when turkeys get tough.
One final tip: Always work especially hard on soft, subtle calling. Anyone can blow the reeds out of a diaphragm and make noise. Only a musician can produce sweet, sultry sounds.