Turkey hunting tips from Realtree Pro Staffer Chad Schearer
If you’re going to learn one call for turkey hunting, one turkey sound that will let you speak their language and provide the best chance for you to lure in a gobbler, learn how to yelp.
The yelp is the most common sound a hen turkey makes when communicating with other turkeys, according to Realtree pro staffer Chad Schearer. “If I can make only one sound for hunting turkeys, that’s the sound I’m going to make,” he said.
Schearer, host of Shoot Straight TV, has hunted turkeys in 17 states (and New Zealand). Yelping, he said, is the turkeys’ universal call. “The yelp is a common communication sound they make year-around,” he said. “It’s letting gobblers know where they are.” And that’s why the yelp is so effective in calling in a curious gobbler or a young tom, as long as you aren’t calling overly aggressively at them.
“I’ll use a yelp all day,” Schearer said, though he’ll vary it depending on the time of day.
“First thing in the morning, I start with a light yelp,” he said, “and I love a slate call for that because I can really quiet it down by how I hold it. I put my index finger on the bottom to help deaden the sound and then call real light. I don’t get super-aggressive.”
Later in the morning he’s likely to get more aggressive with his yelping. “Especially late in the season, when those hens are starting to sit on their nests and gobblers get lonely again, I will pick up my cadence and cutt more, which is more of an aggressive yelp.” Schearer said he prefers using a diaphragm call for those aggressive yelps and cutts. Or a box call. “You can make your slate call louder too, but I like that box and mouth calls when I want to be aggressive.”
But the single-note yelp, or series of yelps, is the key, Schearer said. “Basically, you’re telling the gobbler, ‘Here I am. I’m over here.’ It’s just a common communication among turkeys.”
Not that you’re likely to use it when hunting, but you should know that gobblers also yelp, a deeper, slower yelp, Schearer said. To make it, use less tongue pressure on the reed of your diaphragm call, he said. “Would I use it to call in turkeys? Not really, but it’s something to think about,” he said.
Schearer said if his yelping sparks a gobbling response from a tom, he shuts up and lets the tom’s curiosity work. “I tell people there’s a difference between calling to turkeys and calling turkeys in,” he said.
Reverse Mother Nature
Bear in mind, hunters are trying to reverse the natural order, he said. Normally, when toms are strutting and gobbling, the hens are going to the gobblers. “We are trying to change that around and get the gobbler to come to the hen,” Shearer said.
“You can get gobblers to respond and gobble their heads off and they might walk away if you keep calling to them,” he said. “It’s not natural for gobblers to come to the hen. It’s natural for the hens to come to the gobblers. That’s why sometimes you get a gobbler working and all the sudden a hen comes in yelping and – boom – he leaves with her.
“You’re trying to reverse Mother Nature, so if I have a gobbler working I play cat-and-mouse with him and call less. If he answers me, he knows where I am and the more I call to him the more he’s going to hang up and strut and expect me to come to him. So, if I call less, a lot of times he’ll come in quietly – unless he’s a jake, which usually come in just hammering all the time – he’ll come in quiet so you have to be sitting there quiet looking for that red, white and blue to pop up.”
If a tom gobbles, showing interest but he loses interest or a hen takes him away, and if he can do it without being seen, Schearer will get up and shadow him for 150 to 200 yards and set up and call a couple yelps again. That tells the tom the hen he heard is moving toward him and is still interested in him. “The key,” Schearer said, “is I want to locate him before he sees me.” If you try it, be careful not to bump into other turkeys, like the young satellite gobblers, watchful hens or a gobbler that might be coming quietly to your call, that might be in the flock with your big gobbler.
Also, later in the season, especially in eastern regions, when undergrowth is getting thick, the sound of your call won’t travel as far, so you may need to move in closer or call more frequently as you move through the turkey woods, Schearer said.
And don’t be afraid to get into a yelping competition with a real hen. At times, you can use it to your advantage. “Sometimes that excitement of one hen yelping to another, going back and forth, can fire a gobbler up and bring him in,” Schearer said. Plus, gobblers follow hens, so if you can get her to come in and lead him in, you’re in business.
Sometimes it pays to play a rude hen, he said. If the real hen gets excited in her yelping, you should too, yelping back and forth and cutting her off with your yelp as she starts to answer with her yelp. That can spark an aggressive response from an irate hen. “Sometimes you can lure her in and she could have a gobbler with her,” Schearer said. “A lot of times a hen will take a gobbler away from you but if you start cutting her off, you can sometimes get her fired up and get her to come in and bring a gobbler with her.”
Listening to turkeys yelping can also tell you what you are up against, Schearer said. “Early in the morning, use your owl call to hear those gobblers, but it is very important to listen to the yelps so you can tell if that gobbler has hens close by and you know what your competition is.”