Video courtesy of Shane Simpson and callingallturkeys.com.
Everyone loves pot-and-peg calls for spring turkey hunting, but are you truly maximizing the potential of these great devices? Here, turkey calling champion Scott Ellis gives you 10 phenomenal pointers to have you yelping like a pro in no time.
One of the first critical points when running a call is the angle of the striker as it contacts the calling surface. If there is too much or too little angle, you can’t achieve optimum sound quality. You need about a 110-degree angle to create the best tone. This applies to almost all the sounds you will be making. If you don’t achieve the exact sound, simply move the striker a little more toward you or away from you until you identify the angle that creates the best sound.
This is another critical factor. I’ve witnessed many hunters applying too much striker pressure to the calling surface of a pot call. This causes the call to create a high-pitched squeaking sound, which is not conducive to quality hen calling. It will also make the striker drag, making it almost impossible to create the ovals needed for good yelping. Simply, when you’ve implemented critical techniques, you only need light to medium striker-to-calling-surface pressure to create hen sounds.
Gripping the Striker/Grip Pressure/Grip Position on the Striker
There are two main grips used by most turkey callers on stage and in the woods. One is the pencil grip, and the other is what I call the chopstick grip. Each can create good turkey talk. It’s purely personal preference.
The grips are self-explanatory. The pencil grip simply involves holding the striker as you would grip a pencil when writing. The chopstick grip mimics how you would hold the stick that rests closest to the web in your hand. The striker shaft rests on your ring finger.
After you’ve chosen a grip, the grip pressure and position become imperative for quality sound. All calls require light to medium grip pressure. The exception is the kee-kee. When making a whistle, you increase the grip pressure on the shaft. This lets you obtain the high-pitched tone needed to create the kee.
Grip positions on the shaft of the striker range from center, slightly shy of center and slightly above center toward the head of the striker. Small adjustments make the difference in effectively creating calls.
Often, you see hunters laying a pot call flat in the palm of their hand. This is incorrect and will deaden the resonating rasp and tone of which the call is capable. It’s simple to correctly grip the call. Place your fingertips on the outer rim of the pot with only enough pressure to control the call. Holding the call on the tips of your fingers lets sound escape the bottom of the call freely and emits the best tone. Again, overtightening your grip on the call can deaden the sound.
Applying the Techniques
Now that you’ve applied the proper grips and pressures, let’s put the techniques to use so you can attain better quality calling. Let’s examine five of the most common spring calls, including the kee-kee, and then apply the previous instructions. Either striker grip will work. My preference is the pencil grip. Try them both, and even experiment a little. Note: When I wrote “hold” the striker shaft, I referred to the placement of your thumb on the striker shaft. Your thumb will create the grip pressure.
Yelping: Place your fingers on the striker in the middle of the shaft. Start the yelp with light striker-to-calling-surface pressure to obtain the sweet front note to start the yelp. Then slightly increase pressure as you get into the series. This increase in pressure will help the yelp roll over, creating the high-to-low pitch needed for realism. Make quarter-sized counter-clockwise ovals, and you should create an awesome yelp. Make sure you’re hearing the distinct high-to-low transition. If you’re not, make your ovals a little larger.
Clucking and cutting: Place your fingers on the middle of the striker. Apply a medium amount of striker-to-calling-surface pressure. Then apply slight downward pressure, with the striker traveling toward the middle of the call, until the striker jumps. This will create your cutt note or cluck. Then replace the striker to the start point by reversing the direction, never removing the striker from the calling surface. Simply restart the process and continue cutting or clucking. Note: When cutting, to obtain a little louder and higher-pitched note, apply slightly more striker-to-calling-surface pressure. When the striker jumps, assist the downward motion with a little wrist action.
Cluck and purr: Place your fingers a little past midway on the striker, toward the head of the striker. This creates a higher fulcrum point, letting the tip of the striker bite the calling surface a little better. Then pull downward in a small, slow and steady motion. This will make the striker chatter on the calling surface, creating the purr. Note: Although you will generally hold the pot with the tips of your fingers, I sometimes bring the pot closer to the palm of my hand, creating a smaller sound chamber. That helps muffle the sound of the purr, making it more realistic.
Tree call: Place your fingers slightly past midway on the striker, toward the striker tip. This lets the striker slide easier. Use light striker-to-calling-surface pressure. Then make small ovals in a counter-clockwise motion — the same type of oval illustrated for basic yelping. This will create wicked tree yelps.
Cackle: Place your fingers on the middle of the striker. The cackle note is essentially the same as a cutt note. You are simply changing the rhythm. Start with a few soft clucks and tree calls, and then build into your cackle. Start with four or five quick notes, and then slow down the rhythm as you mimic the hen hitting the ground. The complete sequence should be 10 to 12 cackle notes.
Kee-Kee: Place your fingers a little past midway on the striker, closer to the tip. As you grip the striker, use your thumb to apply generous pressure to the shaft. This will let you create the high note of the whistle. Apply light to medium striker-to-calling-surface pressure. Then create the first right-to-left motion associated with the yelp, but do not complete the oval. This creates the whistle. Produce three to four whistles. At the end of the whistle sequence, relax the pressure and complete the oval to create the yelp note at the end of a kee-kee run sequence.