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Best Turkey Calls

Updated July 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 19 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 312 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best turkey calls

    Last Updated July 2018

    Wild turkeys are native to North America, and people have been hunting and eating the birds since people have lived on the continent. But to catch one, you need to be able to call one, and to call one, you need to be able to sound like one. Native Americans crafted turkey calls out of river rocks and turkey wing bones. Today, there are dozens of different turkey calls on the market, but they’re all just increasingly sophisticated versions of Native American technology.

    Ask three hunters what their favorite turkey call is and you’ll probably get nine different answers. Many turkey hunters use more than one call depending on the terrain, the time of day, and the turkeys. If you’d like to try hunting turkeys but don’t know what type of call to buy, BestReviews can help.

    If you know what type of turkey call you want to buy, check out our top picks in the chart above. If you’d like to know more about turkey calls, keep reading our shopping guide.

    Wild turkeys have a surprisingly large vocabulary of about 30 sounds, some of which can be heard a mile away. A successful hunter needs to master several of the different sounds hens, toms, and jakes make in different circumstances.

    Talking turkey

    Before you use a turkey call, you need to know the sounds a wild turkey makes. Of course, knowing them and making them are two different things! Because they encompass a wide range of pitches and cadences, turkey sounds can take some practice to master, but many hunters say that you can call any turkey if you can learn the plain yelp, cutt, and cluck and purr. You can hear wild turkeys making these sounds at the website of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

    • Cluck: One to three short, staccato notes are meant to get the attention of another turkey. A “cluck and purr,” a cluck followed by a soft rolling sound, is a contented call turkeys use within the flock.

    • Cutt: You’ll hear these sharp, loud clucks when turkeys are excited but not frightened.

    • Fly down/fly up cackle: Turkeys make several loud, staccato, irregularly spaced notes that change in pitch when they fly up to or leave the roost.

    • Gobble: This is perhaps the most familiar turkey sound to non-hunters. A male turkey (tom) makes this rapid, loud gurgle to let the female turkey (hen) know he’s there.

    • Kee-kee: Lost young male turkeys (jakes) or young hens make this three-note call.

    • Purr: This soft, gurgling sound signals contentment, often made while turkeys are feeding.

    • Putt: Turkey hens signal danger with a single or several sharp putts.

    • Spit and drum: Toms make this soft, guttural sound when strutting.

    • Yelp: This series of single notes is the most common sound wild turkeys make. It’s used by a hen looking for a tom or by a turkey to let other turkeys know it’s nearby. A turkey assembly call is a series of loud, long yelps that a hen uses to call her poults (young).

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The main threats to wild turkey populations include loss of habitat, cold spring weather, and nest predators like crows, hawks, and raccoons.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The wild turkey is the most hunted game bird in North America, and it’s the official game bird in South Carolina, Alabama, and Massachusetts.

    Types of turkey calls

    There are about as many different turkey calls as there are turkey sounds, and you can find hunters who champion each type. The calls are made of materials as different as latex, wood, glass, and resin – in shapes from flat and round to boxy and hollow. But there are basically only two types of turkey calls: those that make noise with air and those that make noise with friction. The bottom line is, if you want to catch turkeys, you need a call that is versatile enough to make many different turkey sounds.

    Air-driven turkey calls

    • Locator calls: This small, simple tube you blow into does just what it says: it locates turkeys. A turkey looking to mate will gobble at any sound that annoys him, and few sounds annoy him more than those of crows, owls, and coyotes.

      • Using a locator call can force a turkey to gobble and reveal his location.

      • The hunter can then use one of his other calls to draw the bird into range.

      • Turkeys that are wise to or won’t respond to other calls will sometimes respond to locator calls.
         

    Price: Locator calls range in price from about $9 to $65.

    • Wing bone calls: Native Americans crafted turkey calls out of hollowed-out turkey wing bones, and with some online instruction and a few simple tools, you can do the same today. There are also modern equivalents made of plastic.

      • Wing bone calls require some practice to position the mouth correctly and make the right “kissing” sound.

      • Some calls require the use of both hands.
         

    Price: Wing bone calls range in price from virtually free to about $13.

    • Gobble or shaker calls: Some of these calls are made of a soft plastic cylinder shaped like a bellows with a latex reed inside. Pushing and pulling on the bellows forces air past the reed. Shaker calls produce the gobble with a one-handed shake.

      • You can lure a dominant tom into wanting to fight with this call.

      • It’s simple to use, but some take two hands to operate.
         

    Price: Gobble/shaker calls cost about $11 to $20.

    • Mouth or diaphragm calls: These flat, semicircular calls consist of at least one latex reed in an aluminum frame held together with a plastic “skirt.” It fits against the upper palate in the mouth, and you make sounds by blowing air across the reed. You can find reeds cut in many different shapes.

      • These calls have the steepest learning curve, but they can make a huge range of calls, loud and soft.

      • Most importantly, the hands stay free so the hunter can call and aim at the same time.

      • There is no motion to be detected by an exceptionally wary tom.

      • These calls are very inexpensive.
         

    Price: Diaphragm calls cost anywhere from about $4 to $14. You can also find sets of three calls with an instructional CD for about $12.

    Friction turkey calls

    • Push button calls: These popular wood or plastic turkey calls are the simplest to use and master, making them a good choice for beginners. Pushing or pulling a button on the outside of the box forces a peg to scrape against the striking surface, producing realistic turkey sounds.

      • These calls are very small.

      • These calls can be used with one hand.

      • Some versions of these calls can be mounted to the gun.

      • These calls won’t work if wet.

      • Push button calls have a smaller range than other calls, though some have a volume control.
         

    Price: You can find push button turkey calls that cost from $10 to $41.

    • Slate calls or pot calls: Native Americans fashioned friction turkey calls out of smooth river rocks and sticks, and you can, too, but now there are lots of other options. Some say pot calls are the easiest to use and make the best turkey sounds. These consist of a shallow acoustical cup topped with a surface of slate, glass, titanium, resin, copper, plexiglass, or other material. To make turkey calls, the hunter scrapes the tip of a stick, called a striker, on the surface. The acoustical cup, or sound chamber, makes the sound resonate.

      • These calls are usually round, but you will also see some square and rectangular calls.

      • Some pot calls come with interchangeable surfaces (such as slate and aluminum) for making different tones and pitches.

      • The realistic sounds travel long distances.

      • Slate calls stand up to wet weather.

      • You can also change the striker from wood to carbon, plastic, wire, glass, or bone to make different sounds.

      • These calls are very versatile, but they require some patience to master.

      • These calls require some upkeep. The tip of the striker and the slate or other surface need to be roughened, or conditioned, periodically with something like sandpaper or a scouring pad.

      • It will also take some practice to figure out the best way to hold this call and locate the “sweet spot” on the surface to make the most realistic calls.

      • Slate calls require the hunter to use both hands.
         

    Price: Pot calls with or without strikers range in price from about $10 to $200, depending on the surface, features (such as tone holes), and craftsmanship.

    • Box calls: These calls have been around for decades. Many hunters use them because they’re so effective at producing loud, realistic calls. They consist of a wooden box with a flat wooden “paddle” attached. Scraping the bottom of the paddle against the lip of the box produces different sounds in the hollow chamber depending on the angle, pressure, and speed.

      • You have to be careful not to get oil from fingers or water on the paddle surface that scrapes against the box.

      • You must condition the surface of the paddle with chalk periodically.

      • These calls work best in dry conditions.

      • Most of these calls require two hands to use, but there are some models that strap to the leg for one-handed operation.
         

    Price: Box calls range in price from $19 to $90 depending on the quality of the materials, craftsmanship, and other features.

    Electronic turkey calls

    • Battery-powered calls: Of course, in today’s electronic age there are now battery-powered turkey calls that can take the place of air and friction calls. These devices come pre-loaded with turkey calls, and some allow you to add more calls. Press a button and you can play calls made by the turkeys themselves.

      • Some of these calls come with a built-in speaker and remote control.

      • Using the remote, the hunter can position the speaker up to 300 yards away.

      • Programmable models let you add more calls from digital call libraries.

      • These turkey calls require batteries.
         

    Price: You can find battery-powered calls for $20 to $170. The cheaper models come with five pre-recorded calls. Pay a little more, and you can find models with 25 turkey calls. The most expensive models come with not only turkey calls but also many other wildlife calls, and there’s room to program in a couple dozen more turkey calls.

    Turkey call package deals

    If you can’t decide which type of turkey call you like, you can find beginner packs that include two or three different types of calls, as well as a CD to help you practice.

    Price: Turkey call starter packs range in price from about $12 to $63, depending on the calls and media included.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Wild turkeys are omnivores, eating grass, grain, insects, berries, and even small reptiles. Within 24 hours of hatching, the poults are foraging with the hen.

    Tips

    • Be patient and practice. If you’re new to hunting turkeys, experts recommend that you go about mastering a turkey call the way you’d learn a musical instrument.

    • Change it up. Experienced hunters often carry several turkey calls of various types with them. While each manufacturer may say its calls make all the sounds you need, there are subtle differences in pitch and tone among the different types.

    • Listen to real wild turkeys. No amount of verbiage can tell you what a real turkey yelp sounds like or how far apart the clucks are or how loud the gobble is. You’ll find lots of digital recordings of turkeys online. And if you have an electronic turkey call, you can download the sounds, too.

    • Recognize the toms. It is illegal to shoot a hen in most states, so it’s important to be able to tell the hens from the toms. Look for the male’s distinctive strut, fanned out tail, and, in spring, red, blue, or white head.
    Benjamin Franklin championed the wild turkey, arguing it would make a better national symbol than the scavenging bald eagle. Despite his endorsement, the wild turkey was nearly extinct by the 1930s. Conservation efforts have brought its numbers back up to some seven million today.

    FAQ

    Q. If I’m hunting wild turkeys, why would I need a call that sounds like a crow or a coyote?
    A.
    Wild turkeys have predators, and if the birds hear one, they’re going to react. Crows, owls, possums, raccoons, coyotes, and other birds and animals eat wild turkey eggs and young. If a tom thinks there’s one in the vicinity, it’s going to gobble, revealing its location. In mating season, a male turkey will even gobble at vehicles or anything else that makes a loud noise.

    Q. When can I hunt wild turkeys?
    A.
    Toms strut during spring – the breeding season – and gobble to let the hens know where they are. The hens cluck and yelp in response. All these sounds and more are what you are trying to imitate to lure a wild turkey to you. Alaska is the only state that doesn’t have a spring turkey season. In other states, the season can begin as early as the first of March and end in early June. Check online for the exact season dates, regulations, and license fees in the state where you plant to hunt because each one is different. There are also online resources that rate the turkey hunting in each location.

    Q. What kind of gear do I need to hunt turkeys?
    A.
    Experts say to keep it simple. You need a gun that you know how to use safely; ammunition; comfortable camo that lets you blend into the surroundings; knife; pruners for trimming shrubs or briars out of the way; and a good turkey call. You don’t need more than one call when starting out. Just choose one you can reliably use to make realistic hen sounds. You will probably want to buy more calls as you gain experience.

    The team that worked on this review
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