Slate Call: This is the sexiest sounding call and perhaps the most versatile. You can purr seductively, cutt aggressively, yelp longingly, cluck cluckingly and even putt on it. I don’t recommend putting on it often though, as golf is even more maddening than turkey hunting. A slate, or pot call, is easy to master and sounds very realistic. This go-to call has accounted for the mysterious disappearance of many a lonely tom. Put one in your vest pocket and frequently give it air.
Box Call: A great tool in the wind, its paddle provides leverage to bear down upon its two chalky tracks, providing ear-bleeding friction. It’s the loudest call commonly available, and it works great for calling in high winds or calling into places that require too much effort to venture. A word of warning about box calls: The sounds they make, like chalk boards, are naturally annoying to most people who do not religiously dress in camo—so practice only in designated areas.
Mouth Calls: In trained mouths a diaphragm call sounds as realistic as calls get—there’s something about a living being blowing air out of its mouth that makes the resulting noise sound alive. When I was younger, taller and my ears more keen, I believed I could tell the difference in any turkey caller and a real turkey, and with callers using slate and box calls I almost always can; however, I’d admit I’ve been fooled on in the woods by masters with mouth calls. But for every mouth-call master there is a legion of hacks who scare off more turkeys than they entice. (Believe me on this.) With much practice, eventually you’ll get a handle on your own mouth, and you’ll begin making sounds coherent to turkeys. Perhaps a mouth call’s biggest benefit is that it’s hands-free—you can practice in your truck and not get a ticket!
Owl Hooter: A hoot tube is loud, easy to use, and it’ll roust most sleeping gobblers. I think of it as a tom’s alarm clock: I hit the alarm, he hits the snooze until finally he flies down for a morning shower of No. 6’s. A blast from the old hoot horn is louder and carries farther than your voice, and unlike my outdated cupped-hand routine—it’s still good for impressing kids—you can use a hooter with one hand while wearing gloves and a mask.
Crow/Coyote Call: If the owl and the gobbler secretly swear to a pact of silence, don’t despair. The crow can’t keep his mouth shut to save the gobbler’s life. In yet tougher times, especially in the West, a coyote howler can shock a gobbler into revealing its position. If none of these work, try slamming a truck door at dusk before you drive home. That usually does the trick. If that doesn’t work, don’t cuss. I have scores of empirical evidence and documented proof that cussing turkeys does not do any good for filling your game bag, and may only make you feel better for a few fleeting seconds.
Decoy: In certain scenarios—such as when a cagey bird won’t cross an open field without visual confirmation—a decoy is essential. Whenever I can’t get a bird to come in, I tell my friends that if I had a decoy the bird would have come in. I truly believe that, and as a fortunate by-product, that belief makes me feel good.
Gun Sling: Take a good look at the pictures in this story. You see a bunch of gear, don’t you? A shotgun sling will free up your hands so you can carry it all.
Flashlight/Headlamp: Until oak trees are mandated by the government to come with Braille plaques—and you learn Braille—a flashlight is a very handy tool indeed. A headlamp is even better because it allows you to find—and carry—all your other stuff.
Binocular: Okay, maybe this item should be in the “gluttonous” category, but everytime I forget mine I wind up stalking buzzards. I don’t like buzzards.
Insect Repellant: Most times I go out, a swarm of small, winged insects hovers around my head like a stinging, buzzing raincloud. Ticks are bad enough, but a tick is a saint compared to the worst animal species on planet Earth: the silent, invisible, lowly, itchy and tender-part-be-derned chigger. If you’ve never seen one, it doesn’t mean they’re not plotting against you right now. Get some repellent, bathe in it and don’t worry about a thing … . (Deet was suspected of causing cancer in lab rats, not turkey hunters.)
Turkey Wings: Wings are only good for simulating a morning fly-down and for carrying. Use your knife to lop a leafy limb, use it once, then throw it down.
Box Lunch: C’mon, if a good breakfast or a donut and coffee won’t stave off starvation before noon, perhaps you’re walking too much. Try calling for a change.