Advice From A Veteran Turkey Hunter

Upstate Outdoors
March 09, 2018 - 3:19 pm

Phillip Gentry

With less than two weeks before the Opening Day of the 2018 Wild Turkey hunting season, many Upstate turkey hunters are getting their calls tuned up and practicing for that first conversation that will hopefully occur just after daylight on Opening Day.

The Eastern Wild Turkey is either the dumbest bird on the planet, or the smartest. Every spring, this majestic and elusive bird falls to the simplest of attempts to harvest him. At other times he takes the most eloquently laid out plans and laughs at them, leaving the would-be harvester to sit all alone in the woods, scratching his head.

One of the most perplexing facets of turkey hunting is revolves around calling – knowing what to say, when to say it, how loud to say it or even, to say it at all.

World Champion Wild Turkey caller and call maker Preston Pittman said even veteran hunters who have taken lots of birds still seek his advice on calling gobblers to the gun. 

Preston said one of the most debated, and over-rated skills that a turkey hunter can possess is the ability to work a turkey call. Many hunters brag about their world champion calling skills but place too much confidence in calling a turkey over being able to think like one.

 “Every decent turkey hunter knows everything they need to know about calling right now” said turkey call maker Preston Pittman. “Its how you say it that counts.” 

Pittman relates a soft call to a whisper—pssst, hey. When soft calling for a bird that’s close in and seems to be willing to work, Pittman can move a bird that’s off to his right by calling out of the left side of his mouth. The same principal applies when a bird comes in on your off hand side and you can’t change shooting hands in sight of the bird; steer him over to your strong side by calling with the opposite side of your mouth.

“Know where you’re going to sit down every time you go to make a call” said Pittman. 

Pittman gives this advice in the event you call after walking into the woods or you’ve walked into a new area, throw out a call, and he’s right there. Getting to cover, or at least to a decent shooting position, could cost you that bird.  

“You can make all kinds of mistakes calling, some of the worst callers in the woods are real hens --just be sure to end it on a good note. Put some emotion into the call. Aggressive calling works some of the time, emotional calling works almost all the time” claims Pittman. 

The veteran hunter said it doesn’t take World Championship calling ability to get the attention of a wary bird. Calling to gobblers is not so much what you say as how you say it. There are times when you can power call that turkey in to the gun but your odds are much better to start a dialogue with him and up your odds by convincing him he wants to come in. That’s much easier done with soft calls-purrs, puts, and non-verbal calls like scratching.

“Real hens are all the time making some kind of sound, purrs, pops, clucks, putts, mostly soft stuff,” he said. “Most hunters have one or two hen sounds that they wear into the ground; the yelp and the cut.”

“The next time you’re set up in the turkey woods or in a deer stand in the fall and have a group of hens come by, do a little eavesdropping on their conversations,” said Pittman. “Unless she’s spooked, a hen doesn’t shut up. Learn to mimic that soft hen chatter and watch how many gobblers come running in the spring.”


Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, Upstate Outdoors will be broadcasting live from the Cabela’s in Greenville.


According to veteran turkey hunter Preston Pittman, turkey calling is not so much about what you say, but how you say it. Photo by Phillip Gentry.



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