Tips on directional, positional calling
The thing that can make hunting knowledge gleaned from other outdoorsmen and women somewhat dubious, is the fact that you may get a different opinion or suggestion from each person that you ask. This is especially true when gathering second-hand information in regard to turkey hunting. Undoubtedly, calling techniques and suggestions are at the forefront of the most commonly asked and answered questions when it comes to our feather foes.
So, with the most typical questions of the amount, type of, and the loudness of calling set aside, let’s explore some of the benefits of what I describe as positional and directional calling.
So let’s take a deeper look at “positional and directional calling.” The directional aspect is simple enough — when you’re using a mouth style diaphragm call, to just turn your head in one direction or another and use your hand as a shield. The ultimate key to using these two tactics becomes complete and total deception. Making that particular turkey not only believe you’re the hen that he is seeking, but that the hen he seeks is in a place other than where you have chosen to set up. The trick then becomes, where and when is the right time to use it.
A story came to mind when I began to think deeply on this topic. In 2008 I had taken a week off from work during the spring season and planned to spend most of it turkey hunting. I became fixated on one particular turkey that had given me the slip three mornings in a row. Each morning I would setup and call. He would respond, fly down, walk within sight distance — yet outside of shooting distance — of where I had called, where he would stand, strut and wait around for nearly an hour, then walk away. So my first success from the point of positional calling would come the next day.
I slipped into my position well before daylight and stood next to a tree that had become all too familiar to me that week. I waited until I heard his first gobble, and proceeded to ready my call. I clucked, yelped and did a fly down cackle, then proceeded to walk an additional 30 yards toward that gobbling bird that had just answered me. I did not call again. I just sat and waited.
Right on cue, he flew down and came right toward where he had heard the call, but this time he didn’t expect me to be sitting between where the hen had called and where he usually stopped. When I pulled the trigger that morning, I metaphorically placed a new trick in my bag, and it would help me fool old toms many times over the next decade. My definition of positional calling was born.
My truest lesson of directional calling wouldn’t come until a few years later when I took a right leg amputee on a turkey hunt as part of a wounded veterans in the outdoors program.
Leaving aside many external details of the hunt from locating the bird to making our move toward him and setting up, he was coming and coming fast. On the top of a power line with a hard slope to the right, the gobbler was working the hills edge at our 3 o’clock and quickly moving toward our 6 o’clock.
Just then, I turned my head directly to my left, cupped both hands around my mouth and left out the softest yelps that I could muster on my diaphragm call. The turkey immediately changed his course and headed toward a hen that seemed to have changed position on him. He came right where we wanted him, walked to the decoys and that would be his final resting place.
What I learned through these experiences has shaped me into a more rounded turkey hunter. It became less about when to call and what call to use, and more about focusing my calling in certain ways that can direct the incoming path of an approaching tom. This has helped me not only fool many turkeys since then, but also to take complete and total control of the scenario.
As my grandfather once told me “lessons learned in the turkey woods today are tools you can use to kill a turkey tomorrow.”
Hunt hard, hunt safe, and shoot straight, friends
John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.