Using an Owl Call to Locate Turkeysby Matt Wettish
Who-Cooks-For-You … Who-Cooks-For-You-All rings through the valley as the spring woods come alive. It’s turkey season and the quiet pre-dawn moments are cut by the cadence of the barred owl making his presence known. A soft but powerful sound that has an uncanny ability to set of gobblers just waiting to start their day.
The owl call comes in two basic configurations, a hoot tube barrel style call, and a reed style call. One is certainly easier to use than the other, but both are very effective.
Daybreak is the perfect time to break out the owl call, locate a bird, and plan your next move.
Photo by: Author
The tube, or barrel style call is easy to use and is set up with a mouth piece that directs wind over a hole on the side of a small can sized tube, usually about half the size of a soda can. The sound is made by the air passing over the hole, and sounds similar to blowing over a bottle top, but is tuned to mimic the sounds of the barred owl. Some have multiple holes that can change the tone, or even slightly increase or decrease the volume as desired.
The reed style call takes a little bit of practice, but once mastered, can reproduce many of the barred owl’s vocalizations. It is also more versatile in its range of volume. Able to produce everything from a soft hoot, to the loud, high pitched laugh, this style call is certainly worth putting in the practice.
Many people don’t bother with owl calls because they don’t feel they perform all that well at locating gobblers. Although this may be true is some places, every area is different, and for the most part, the barred owl type locator call is extremely effective if used at the right times.
To explain, many people say; “I go out at night to roost birds and can never get a gobble from an owl call.” Now, although this can be true, and is so in many areas, there may be a reason for it.
First, birds tend to gobble more in the morning than in the evening, because at night they are going to roost and they are done for the day.
Second, unless it is very late in the evening, the sounds of the soft owl call will not travel as far. During daylight hours, the atmospheric ceiling is higher because of the warmer daytime temperatures pushing it up, therefore, the sound doesn’t go as far. This is also why the owl call doesn’t sound as loud midday.
To be most effective with an owl call, you must use it at the right time, and the most effective time to get a gobbler’s response would be first thing in the morning. This is when most of the gobbling activity occurs.
Birds gobble most on the morning roost to draw in the hens. It is the hen that most often goes to the tom, not the other way around. So when a gobbler wakes up in the morning, the first thing he wants to do is gobble, and gather as many hens as possible. He waits for them to come to the tree, and then drops down.
This can work in the hunter’s favor in two ways. One, gobblers are more susceptible to shock gobbling in the morning just because they just want to gobble anyway. So using the owl call just may do the trick.
Secondly, just as the atmospheric ceiling is high in the evening from the warmth of the day, it’s lower in the morning because of the cooler ground. Therefore, your call will travel further, which in turn allows you to be heard by more birds, and strike gobbles at a longer distance.
Once a gobbler is located with the owl call, use it sparingly. Get a gobble, and move in quietly. As long as I have a good idea of where that bird is, I try to use the owl call as little as possible, letting the bird gobble on his own. The more you make a bird gobble, the more hens he may attract, or even worse, the more hunters he may attract. So use it only when your not sure where he is.
Once I get as close as possible, I set up and wait. Unless I have competition from other hens, or other callers, I try to wait until that bird drops to the ground before I call too much. If you call to early, he may sit and wait for you. Then when the hen doesn’t show up, he may go the other way. So don’t lay all your cards down at once. Keep a couple aces in your pocket that you can pull out when you need them.
Hopefully these tips will help you close the deal with an early morning gobbler right off the roost next time you hit the woods. Best of luck, hunt hard, and hunt safe.