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How Can I Learn to Use a Mouth Call?

Champion caller Steve Stoltz

With practice, you can sound great on a mouth call in no time.

Can you lead me to a website or somewhere that shows how to use a mouth call? I have tried and tried but cannot make a peep with one. I have a full top denture and have tried with it in and out. I think using a mouth call would really help my turkey hunts. — Mike Gaffney

Your denture might be the problem. I’ve known several folks who couldn’t work diaphragm calls because of plates, dentures or other dental work. Assuming that’s not the issue, here’s a cheat sheet on learning the mouth call.

Start by placing the call in your mouth with the small tab on the frame down. The top reed — the one with the cut — should be on top, facing the roof of your mouth. Take some time to get used to having the call in your mouth. Then, make sure that it’s sealed against your palate. If you push air across the call, none should escape through the top. It should all go across the reed. It’s easy to tell when a call isn’t sealing properly.

When you’re comfortable, start by huffing air up from your diaphragm — not blowing — across the reed. Do this in a long, steady stream until you can produce a whistle. You’re not trying to make turkey noises yet — just a whistle. You might have to adjust your tongue and tongue pressure on the call somewhat to find the “sweet spot” that produces a whistle, but every call has one. Work on this for as long as it takes. That might be hours, days or even weeks. You’ll get it.

When making a whistle is second nature, you’ve won half the battle. That whistle is the kee, which is the backbone of the yelp. To yelp, produce a whistle, and then decrease the pressure on the reeds with your tongue and jaw. You’ll hear the call “roll over” to produce the second, lower note of the yelp. As you do this, speed up the process into a turkey rhythm: “kee-ock.” You’re not saying anything into the call; just huffing air to make a whistle and then decreasing the pressure to form the lower note of the yelp. Before you know it, you’ll be yelping.

Clucking, cackling, putting and cutting involve short, sharp blasts of air across the reed. Avoid using your lips to form pressure. Simply pop air from your diaphragm up and across the reed. Some folks say “shut” as they do this.

Kee-kees and kee-kee runs are no problem if you’ve already mastered the whistle. Just put your whistle together in ascending runs to kee-kee, and then add a yelp to form the run.

It can be tough to purr on a diaphragm call. Most pro callers flutter their uvula — that is, they gargle — while huffing light blasts of air across the reed. It often helps to let your cheeks puff a bit while doing this to provide back pressure.

That’s a primer. For more instruction, check out pro caller Scott Ellis’ Mouth Call Magic video or our Talking Turkey: Expert Tips and Video Clips for Using All Calls. If you absolutely cannot work a mouth call, check out the Flambeau Mouth Yelper Turkey Blow Call, which gives you diaphragm sound without having to put a call in your mouth.

— Brian Lovett

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