Talking Turkey with Dinner’s Country Cousins

I was recently searching eBay for vintage outdoors gear. In particular I was looking to see what I could find by searching the name “J C Higgins,” which is an old Sears brand. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff on there, but one thing in particular caught my attention and sent me scurrying down another path altogether. I saw a duck call, and I was suddenly struck with the inclination to see if I could “talk” with our feathered and furry neighbors.

At my parents’ house, there’s a rafter of turkeys that wanders up and down the driveway, across the yard, and through the adjacent woods. Hunters use calls to lure in unwitting prey, so why not use the same tools to get a closer look at these gobblers? This seems like an especially fun idea to try with kids. They may not learn how to use the calls like pros, but the activity teaches them how certain animals sound and, if we’re lucky, might get them closer than they sometimes might.*

With that in mind, I began my search. It seems turkey calls fall into two categories: You have your traditional turkey call box, that makes a sound by scraping a paddle across the wood, and there are the diaphragm turkey calls that fit in your mouth.

I found the diaphragm calls easy enough at Outdoor World. We’re not a hunting family, so the walk through the hunting section took some explaining to Grace who accompanied me on this trip. The call boxes, however, seemed to be a bit pricey until I found a man who makes them by hand in Kentucky and sells them on eBay. His reviews were outstanding so I gave it a shot.

Both calls give you a pretty realistic sound. The mouth call tickles my tongue and the roof of my mouth so much I can only use it for a few moments before I feel the urge to scratch my mouth with sandpaper. After a couple days, I am still getting used to it. The box might give some people that nails-on-a-chalk-board feeling, but it doesn’t bother me.

For the kids, the box is definitely easier. The mouth call is tricky and requires some finer motor skills than a five-year-old possesses.

There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, and the learning curve isn’t all that steep. At least, it seems easy enough to make a sound—whether or not we can consistently bring in the turkeys is another matter altogether. So far we’ve not had much luck, but on Thanksgiving day we will have hours to play around in the yard. And what could be more appropriate on Thanksgiving day than talking with turkey?


* Wildlife is not to be messed with lightly. Even a flock of turkeys can be dangerous. Even more dangerous are the hunters that mistake your call for something to shoot at. Use reasonable caution. Don’t, for example, go out during hunting season with a turkey-feather headdress and sit in the bushes making turkey sounds. But even less obvious, don’t try to feed or pet wild turkeys. Best case scenario, they cause a ruckus and scare the tar out of your kids.



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