How A Turkey Mouth Call Works

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How A Turkey Mouth Call Works

by Matt Wettish

Sitting down with your first mouth call and trying to make it sound like a turkey right off the bat can be very frustrating.  Knowing exactly how a mouth call, or diaphragm style turkey call, works can certainly help alleviate some of the trials and tribulations in the learning process. 

First and foremost, a turkey call is just like a musical instrument.  Similar to any reeded instrument, air is passed over the reeds to make them vibrate and whistle, in hopes of creating something that sounds like a wild turkey. 

First a seal must be created in the mouth with the tape of the call pushed up to the roof of the mouth.  Then the tongue is then pushed up on to the reeds, and then air is pushed down the tongue and between it and the reeds.  It is the air moving between them that makes the sound.

The tape on the call is what creates the seal in the mouth and directs the air over the reeds.  It is more often than not, much larger than the frame to fit any size pallet.  If it feels to big, or the tape is folding and you can't get a good seal, cut it back a little and try again.  But don't cut off too much at once, because if you make it too small, you can't put it back on.

There are also different size frames to help with fit as well.  Although most are a standard, there is a large size, and a small/youth size as well.  The frames are what hold the reeds in place and maintain the tension so the call will have a certain tone or frequency.

The reeds held by the frame come in many thicknesses.  The thicker reeds have a tendency to create lower tones, and take more air to blow.  This usually makes them a louder call, and great for locating birds at a greater distance, or on windy or rainy days when sound doesn't travel as well.

Thinner reeds tend to have a higher pitch sound to them, and are more often than not, easier to blow.  This would be the opposite of a thicker reed, making them better for quieter, more finesse type calling. 

When looking at a mouth call that has no cuts in the longest top reed, that call will have a cleaner sound to it.  It will also have a slightly higher pitch to it than if the exact same call had cuts.  Now a clean call is no better or no worse than a cut style call.  In fact, sometimes the high pitch, clean sound of a call with no cuts will strike gobbles when other calls won't.

A clean style call is certainly the recommended choice for beginners.  A two reed is usually best.  I will give the user the ability to go from the high note to the low note of a hen call, and hear if it is being done correctly.  If the user is not blowing the call as intended,  a clean style call will make it much easier to hear the imperfections, and adjust accordingly.

Introducing cuts into the top reed of a call ads a raspy tone to its sound.  Certainly a realistic trait of an older, or more mature hen turkey.  This type of call is many times recognized as a easier call to use, because the raspy sound hides the imperfections of the less experienced caller.  It also makes certain sounds like cutting and purring a little easier as well.  Again, because its raspiness allows for less than perfect calling.

Once a cut reed call is truly perfected, often times both clean and raspy tones can be made.  This allows the user to master all of the vocalizations of the hen turkey and add much more depth and realism to the call, making the cut style call the call of choice for most professional callers.

There are many types of cuts used in mouth calls today, v-cuts, cutters, ghost, bat wing, and on, and on, and on.  Unfortunately there is no way to know which one will work best for you without trying multiple styles.  Each one blows a little different, so trial and error, unfortunately, is the name of the game.

Hopefully this information will allow you to look at a mouth call, before you buy it, and have a good idea of what kind of sound you can expect to achieve when you get home with it.  Good luck, hunt hard, and hunt safe.

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