When looking for flockmates, wild turkeys cluck. To make this sound on a slate, finger the peg with extra pressure, push down and pull the tip toward you with a quick pluck. Gobbler clucks are usually low pitched. Find that sweet spot on your friction call’s surface, and cluck sparingly, pausing for several seconds or minutes between clucks.
Gobbler yelps are deeper and have a slower cadence than higher-pitched hen yelps. In my fall hunting experience, friction calls imitate gobbler yelps best, though resonant diaphragms also work.
Often three deeper, slower yelps—yawp, yawp, yawp—will get a “super jake” (a year-and-one-half-old male turkey) or mature gobbler’s interest. Like the cluck, it’s a questioning call that seems to say, “Where are you? I’m right here.” As slate yelping for gobblers goes, run your striker closer to the call’s centerpoint than the rim. While holding the peg like a pen, draw it toward the call’s middle with the one-two-three yelping rhythm of a gobbler. Experiment with strikers on your call of choice.
In the spring, a gobbler is primarily attempting to call hens to his roosted or ground-standing position. In the fall and winter, he’s declaring his proud presence, and possibly gobbling during daily efforts to maintain pecking-order status, or move ahead in rank, as he fights other male birds. If you raise a gobbler with a cluck, then start yelping at a bird, which responds to you, try gobbling at that turkey. Gobbler calls, when used sparingly, can draw responses from adult toms, super jakes, and young male turkeys. If you’ve broken the flock on foot, or with a dog where legal, listen as the gobblers regroup. Often they’ll gobble when lost or looking for other turkeys. Call as they do.
Aggressive purrs, cutting, and gobbling can interest male birds into approaching your position. Just as a crowd gathers during a street fight to see what’s going on, gobblers will investigate the location where such sounds indicate fighting turkeys. You can hold the lid of your cap, and smack it against a tree or your leg to imitate wings colliding as you purr, cutt, and gobble—so long as the turkeys are out of sight, and won’t chance at seeing your movements. —Steve Hickoff