Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When talking turkey, you’ve got to say the right thing

- By John Hayes

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

American Indians sucked on turkey wing bones to imitate the calls of turkey hens. Modern hunters have more options. Friction calls, including the common box call, rely on the sound made by rubbing wood on wood, glass or slate. Tube calls force air through a narrow opening, and mouth diaphragm calls are self-explanator­y. Savvy spring gobbler hunters carry several types of calls to make sure they can make the right sound when they need it.

If you asked someone, “What time is it?” and he answered, “The boo-uk is on thou sheelf,” you might reply, “Huh?” That’s what it’s like when talking to turkeys. The spring challenge is to lure a wary long-beard close enough to get a shot by saying the right thing at the right time in the right way.

Eastern wild turkeys have been recorded making more than 30 vocalizati­ons, all believed to have subtly different meanings. Spring gobbler hunters can get away with just a few phrases.

• Yelp. “Hey, all of you! Come over here.”

• Kee. “I’m young and about all I can squeak is the first syllable of ‘kee-yelp.’ ”

• Cluck. “Where are you? Everything’s OK and I'm right over here.”

• Purr. "I’m safe, relaxed and mmmm, the food is good.” THIS WEEK: As with other “big game” animals, protection is not removed from wild turkeys when personal property, other than an agricultur­al crop, is being destroyed or damaged. Turkeys should not be classified as “big game.” • Agree • Disagree am very, very contented.”

• Fly-Down Cackle. "Look out below! I’m so excited about gliding off this roost that my clucks and cuts are slurring into cackles.”

Don’t say something stupid. The best way to practice calling is to listen to vocalizati­ons and repeat them again and again until you get them right on multiple devices. Hear turkey calls at http:// soundbible.com/tags-turkey.

Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvan­ia Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist, said there’s reason to believe this could be an outstandin­g spring gobbler season. A light fall harvest and mild winter are likely to result in more birds, and unfilled fall turkey tags usually lead to increased availabili­ty in the spring..

“Fall mast last year was spotty and turkeys responded by moving to those food sources, which in some cases meant they moved away from areas frequented by hunters. The fall turkey harvest dropped as a consequenc­e,” Casalena said in her annual spring turkey forecast. “And while that might have been bad news for fall turkey hunters, it’s likely good news for spring turkey hunters.”

Mild winters are easier on turkeys and make it easier for them to adjust to spring breeding.

That should lead to a healthier turkey population and might put gobblers on a timeline to be exceptiona­lly fired up when the season begins.,” said Casalena.

With that in mind, it might be worth considerin­g an investment in that second turkey license.

“Hunters who want to ensure their best opportunit­y to hunt as many days of the season as they can need to buy the license soon,” she said. “There’s promise for a great season.”

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