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The Roving Sportsman… The Secret Call

Much mystery exists in the world of spring turkey hunting. While there are times when success in the field can come more quickly than expected, it is more often the case that bagging a gobbler will take time, patience, and often a bit of luck. Every aspect of spring gobbler hunting carries an air of secrecy. While deer hunters are a bit more open-minded when it comes to sharing the location of some of their favorite hunting locations, the majority of turkey hunters would never think of telling you where they spend time in the woods in pursuit of gobblers!

Turkey hunters don’t mind so much helping out fellow hunters, especially those who are new to the sport, but they never truly reveal all that they know that has led to their successes over the past seasons. Even when it comes to the types of callers they use, the majority of hunters have their favorites that they don’t mind talking about, but rarely, if ever, will they let slip any information about what they consider their “secret” call — the one that always seems to work under any and all conditions.

The box caller, both the standard and the long versions, are ones that have been popular throughout the years and have been manufactured by dozens of call makers over the decades.

The shorter or standard size is most often used by turkey hunters, with the long box call brought into use in windy conditions or when a hunter wants to project the sound to a greater distance. Fellow hunters will be very open to pulling their box call out of their vest and demonstrating how to make turkey sounds that have brought them success over the years.

It is not their “secret” call.

The slate call is the term used to describe a hand-held call that uses a round body, or pot, with a thin piece of slate or glass on the top surface. A striker is drawn across the slate or glass and can produce a wide variety of turkey “sounds” or calls, making it a very popular call among hunters.

If you did a survey among hunters, you would find the slate call to be one of the “go-to” calls that they rely on when other calls don’t seem to work in the turkey woods. But the slate call is also not the one call that most experienced turkey hunters have used over the years that they would protect as their “secret” call.

The wing bone call is generally made up of the three wing bones of a wild hen, jake, or gobbler.

They range from a simple design to ones that are highly decorated and are true works of art. They are rather difficult to master, but in the hands of an experienced hunter can accurately mimic the sounds of a live wild turkey.

The wing bone call is not often seen in the field, and those who use them usually employ them as a last resort when all of their other calls have failed to draw a response from a turkey.

It, too, is simply not the “secret” call that the majority of old-time turkey hunters are willing to tell you about.

Now — I will reveal the “secret” call that has brought me success — sort of — over the years. Most recently, I used it on a hillside in the northern Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania on a cool, overcast spring morning. I had been calling to what seemed like two or three gobblers on the opposite hillside from my location, and while they would gobble back to my various yelps and purrs, they just didn’t seem to want to leave their side of the mountain. After more than an hour of getting responses from them, things went silent.

Suddenly, an alarm putt awakened me! The fresh spring mountain air and the lack of sleep the night before had taken its toll on me. I had drifted off to sleep for who knows how long and, in the meantime, the gobblers having ceased to hear the hen calling, had crossed over to my side of the mountain and slipped into shotgun range! My silence had aroused their curiosity!

At the sound of the “putt,” I raised my head from my chest, and as I slowly opened my eyes — my heart sank. There, just 25 yards in front of me, stood three long-bearded gobblers on full alert!

They had traveled a long distance and were drawn to my exact position by my “secret” call. It, no doubt, was my snoring that had lured them into shooting range!

Snoring a gobbler into shooting range is not something most hunters will tell you about, but I venture to guess that most long-time turkey hunters have experienced the success of this “secret” call. Try it yourself sometime — you might be impressed as to just how effective it can be!

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  • Craig Ausmann
    April 25, 2021, 9:02 pm

    Enjoy your articles Jon. I introduced my future son in law to Black Hills Merriams this weekend. He is a Big Game Hunter from Baggs, Wy and he thoroughly enjoyed it. We were in the area where you and I first met in Wyoming and I told him our story! I will never forget you! Happy Trails Jon!