Editor's note: This article was first published March 28, 2016. The tips in it are as timeless as turkey hunting itself, with a few modern-day twists. Be sure to read the text and listen to the audio links for each call as well.
— Steve Hickoff
When a hunter wants to discover the location of a gobbler, he or she uses a locator call. Knowing the location of the bird gives them a better idea as to where to position themselves to call that turkey in.
Turkey hunters have used locator calls for ages. And they’ll use them for ages to come. Here are a few you’ve used, some you might have used, and others that you’ve probably never implemented in the spring turkey woods.
The Calls You've Used
There are a few very common calls on the market that most hunters keep in their turkey vests. From the owl to the crow to the cutting hen, it isn’t hard to make turkeys gobble with these calls.
Owl: The owl call is arguably the most popular locator call ever used. Most hunters use it early of a morning while birds are still on the roost. This allows hunters to slip into position before fly-down time.
Also, hunters use this call late of an afternoon after birds have flown up for the evening. This is a tactic used to locate gobblers for the next day’s hunt.
Crow: The crow call is another favorite among turkey hunters. However, it’s used at different times of the day and is a little more versatile than the owl hoot. While owl calls are primarily used at dawn and dusk, crow calls are used during the day to get birds to gobble.
Cutting hen: While the owl hoot is my favorite locator call early of a morning and late of an evening, the sound of a cutting hen is my favorite locator call to use during the day. But be careful, you never know when a gobbler could be close by. Make sure you have a tree nearby that you can plop down against if one comes storming in.
The Calls You Might Have Used
Hawk, peacock, and woodpecker calls — along with others — are other kind-of-popular alternatives, too. But duck calls, goose tubes, coyote howlers, and truck doors are a little more common.
Duck: Don’t think a good hail call won’t shock a tom into gobbling. Because it will. A loud duck call will do the job on just about any given day. Give it a try.
Goose: The goose call is high-pitched and changes frequency throughout the vocalization. That herky-jerky type sound does the trick a lot of the time. A good goose call will trick a tom into sounding off most days.
Coyote: I’m not a big fan of using a coyote call. I’ve not had very good luck with one. But others swear by it. So that counts for something.
Truck door: A truck door has worked for me more times than I can count. It might sound silly. But a loud truck door slam will make birds fire off of a morning.
The Calls You've Never Used
Okay. So some of these might be a little far-fetched. But they will work. I guarantee it. A bird might not gobble every time. But they will sound off to these noises.
Rock and guard rail: Just about any loud, high-pitched noise will provoke a turkey to give up its location. But some seem to work better than others. And the rock-on-a-guard-rail concept falls in line with that. You wouldn’t think a turkey would gobble at it. But they do.
That said, real or fake, bigfoot sounds make great locator calls for turkeys. Just let out a big “whoop” or “knock” and the turkeys sometimes gobble. I don’t know if that’s them telling the rest of the flock that bigfoot Frank is in the neighborhood, or what. But turkeys sure do gobble at it.
Blood-curdling screams: Once upon a time, a man was hunting turkeys in south-central Kentucky. It was around mid-morning and the man was about to try out his new mouth call he’d purchased. He put his hand to his mouth, drew in a breath, and prepared to loose a string of seductive hen yelps. But they never made it out of his mouth. Right then a girl screamed at the top of her lungs about ¾ of a mile away near a residential neighborhood. Much to the man’s surprise, the thunderous sound of a gobbling tom shook the ground less than 100 yards away. True story.