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.
Whining at Turkeys
Hardcore turkey man Scott Ellis is a whiner. Why? It helps kill turkeys.
Say what? Yep, you heard right. A Florida-based member of the Woodhaven Custom Calls “Sting Team,” he’s also an Ol’ Tom Turkey Technical Gear Field Expert, and on both the TruGlo and ThermaCell pro staffs. He’s also a highly rank competition caller on the national stage and state level.
We caught up with him recently to talk about an often overlooked call in the wild turkey hunter’s arsenal: the whine.
Steve Hickoff: When did you first start using the whining/feeding call?
Scott Ellis: After over 25 years of studying the wild turkey's vocabulary there were certain sounds that were being overlooked and were not truly noted as common turkey vernacular. The whine was one of those calls. Before I go any further, I have to state for the record that I feel there are two types of the whine. Just as in purring, there is a contented whine and an aggravated whine. The contented whine is used when a hen is easing along feeding, while clucking and purring. The aggravated whine is used in conjunction with fighting or aggravated purrs when turkeys are squaring up for a fight. I started using the whine probably 10 years ago. Mixed in conjunction with clucks and purrs I feel it epitomizes "real" turkey talk.
Hickoff: Got a quick hunt story (or two) when it worked to calm/excite turkeys and pull them in?
Ellis: Two springs ago I was hunting Rios in Texas when the bird I was working in hung up at about 60 yards in the mesquite. I gave him the silent treatment for about 15 minutes but he was stubborn and content to strut back and forth just out of gun range. I knew it was time to talk "sweet love" to him, so I opted to play the coy, shy hen and started whining mixed with clucking and purring. Three minutes later he broke strut and marched directly in to a load of Winchester High Velocity #6s.
Several springs ago, I was hunting gobblers on public land in central Florida. I was in an area that I knew held turkeys, but it was the 4th weekend of season and I knew the birds had been hunted unmercifully. I opted to set up and blind call giving nothing more than whines, soft yelps, and clucks and purrs. I produced the sequences as softly as I could make them and scratched in the leaves. After about two hours of sitting patiently and emulating feeding hens, I spotted a lone gobbler alerted and slipping towards my position. He never uttered a sound, but from his posture and body language he was actively looking for hens he had heard. Let's just say he met the bad end of my Winchester 1300. That gobbler was a four-year-old sporting 1 1/2" spurs.
Hickoff: Do you ever use it as a fall vocalization at preferred feeding zones? When and where else?
Ellis: I tend to use the whine with soft yelping, and purring and clucking anytime I am set up in a place blind calling. Add a little "old school" scratching in the leaves and you have depicted a perfect feed zone. During the fall I will also blend in a couple of really soft kee-kees to the mix as well.
Hickoff: Why do you think it's an "under-appreciated" call?
Ellis: The whine is completely underrated because most turkey hunters do not even recognize it as a call that is produced by the wild turkey. It is a very soft barely audible call but can seal the deal on a bird that is hung up just out of gun range. As well the aggravated whine I made mention above can be used with fighting purrs to add another level of realism. Just keep in mind that probably the only time a turkey hears this call being produced is by another turkey. There is only a very small group of hunters that can produce the call and use it in the field, thus making it deadly if the hunter can learn to produce it.
Hickoff: In your experience, what's the best reed #/latex thickness/type of diaphragm for vocalizing it? Do you use a box and pot-and-peg to make it too?
Ellis: The whine is best produced on a mouth call. If you’re able to produce the sweet front end that most hens start their yelp with and then carry at the front of each yelp note, you can create the whine on your mouth call. The same goes for anyone who can kee-kee on mouth call. You can produce the whine from a kee-kee whistle, but with 1/4 the pressure you would use to make a kee-kee. Depending on the skill level of the caller most any mouth call can be used. From a split V, such as my signature call with Woodhaven, to a ghost cut, bat wing or cutter call. It all depends on the caller. It is quite difficult to master but it will put payloads in your turkey vest each spring and fall.
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