Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
How to Use a Turkey Mouth Call
Will Brantley demonstrates the basics of learning how to use a turkey mouth or diaphragm call. He also discusses the advantages of running this type of call while hunting.
Why choose a turkey mouth call? They’re inexpensive. They make realistic turkey sounds. A diaphragm, as they’re often called, offers hands-free operation. Just ounces to carry, you can hide one in your mouth.
Basically turkey diaphragms are made by stretching latex rubber — often described as a reed —across a horseshoe-shaped frame centered inside a plastic skirt. You blow air across the latex reed (or reeds) to make turkey sounds.
To call, use your tongue to fit the diaphragm against the roof of your mouth. Face the straight edge forward. Try for a tight air seal. Now put your tongue lightly against the reed or reeds. To yelp, push air between the top of your tongue and the reed. Saying words as you do this can help.
Ask turkey buds what word they use when yelping on a mouth call and answers might vary. Likely the words “chick,” chirp,” “chop” or “chalk” will be mentioned. Whichever word you choose for this vocalization, make your yelps with snapping, beaklike lips — just as a turkey would.
To cluck, say “pock” or “puck” as you call. To purr, make a fluttering sound with your throat or tongue as you expel air across the reeds. For cutting, run clucks together in a fast series. To cackle, make variable clucks and yelps to imitate a turkey flying from the roost.
Fall turkey hunters often kee-kee or kee-kee-run. To kee-kee on a mouth call, say “pee-pee-pee” as you put more tongue pressure on the reed. Keep the notes rising with lost urgency — as when a young turkey is separated from a family flock. To add the “run” part, say “chalk-chalk” after the kee-kee.
Running your mouth diaphragm call with the right number, rhythm, length, volume, spacing and pitch of notes will improve your turkey calling game. Listen to real birds. Learn from your mistakes as you practice. Soon you’ll be able to make the many turkey sounds and fool a wild bird into range.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree's turkey hunting editor and blogger.