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Calling Fall Turkeys

Fall Hunting Hints from Ray Eye

In the fall, you use nearly every vocalization of the wild turkey. When you sound like a hen, you will call up other hens and young of the year of both sexes. When you kee-kee, you will call the young peepers. And when you duplicate the yelps adult gobblers make, you will attract mature toms to your setup. Believe me, they know the difference between the yelps of hens and other gobblers.

Yelping is the universal call of the wild
turkey. The meaning of a yelp varies according to how it is presented. When it comes to yelping, my own strategy in the fall is to try and match the volume, pitch and frequency of whatever the birds are doing at a particular time. The response you get should tell you if you’re on the right track or not. — J.H.


Fall Calling

Comparing fall turkey hunting to hunting in the spring is like comparing sweet Red Delicious apples with tart Granny Smiths.

That’s because they are different versions of the same thing. Similar tactics apply during both seasons, but to different degrees and for different reasons.

During the spring, breeding season you expect to hear plenty of turkey talk on nearly any given day as toms interact with hens. In the fall, turkeys still talk routinely, but for reasons other than breeding. The hens vocalize to gather flock mates, refresh the pecking order and to keep track of their broods. The toms, usually in separate small groups of like males, will converse for similar reasons. Of course, as is the case with turkeys all year round, there are times when they are quite vocal and times when they’re not.

One popular approach to successful fall hunting is for the hunter to scatter a flock of turkeys and to set up nearby and call them back when they start to regroup.

I see the value of that approach, but instead, I move slowly, call occasionally, and listen intently for any turkey response, which usually comes in the form of plain hen yelps. I then determine the flock’s direction of travel, set up in front of them, and try to rouse their curiosity with a few yelps of my own.

Happily, this tactic has worked well for several years running.

To explore another option, I had a chat with Missouri’s Ray Eye, pro-staffer for Hunter’s Specialties, radio and television personality and well-known seminar speaker. He killed his first fall gobbler in 1975, and he’s been hooked on fall turkey hunting ever since.

“A lot of folks still don’t realize how effective fall calling can be. That’s because they’ve only heard about breaking them up,” said Eye. “I take a different approach. More than anything else I like to call gobblers in the fall, and I’ve found if you make the right sounds you can bring them in, just like spring.”

If anything, Eye calls more aggressively in the fall than he does in the spring. The toms renew the pecking order at various times all year round so he challenges them with appropriate calls, like gobbler yelps, fighting purrs and cutts.

“Ninety percent of the time, if I can get the toms excited, they will come in to see what’s up, which is good for me, bad for them,” he said.

Eye prefers to hunt the toms near a roost, as they’re more vocal in the morning when their feet first hit the ground. However, he often locates the gobblers later in the day by roaming and calling.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of fall hunters do not recognize gobbler talk when they hear it,” Eye said. “Gobbler yelps are deeper and more drawn out than hen yelps, but the majority of hunters just write them off as a deep-voiced hen. Sometimes they’re surprised by a longbeard that just shows up when they’re not expecting him.”

Eye carries at least three types of calls in the fall. Diaphragms top the list because of their versatility. With mouth calls you can duplicate all common turkey vocabulary, including the kee-kees of young birds, which are useful for locating turkeys as well as attracting them. With an easy to blow mouth call, simply say, “pee-pee-pee” with pursed lips to recreate the whistles and top them off with a few yelps at the end.

“I use mouth calls a lot,” Eye said, “but you can’t beat slate or glass pot and pegs for aggressive purrs and deep gobbler yelps and clucks. And in the right hands a box call works well, too. It’s not so much the call, as the sounds you make with it that makes the difference in fall.” — John Higley