Turkey Hunting Locator Call Buyers Guide

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Turkey Hunting Locator Call Buyers Guide

by Matt Wettish

If you go shopping before turkey season to get all your gear ready, you will not find "a locator call" for turkeys.  There is no such item.  Locator calls are a group of calls that do not call turkeys, as much as they call at them, just to make them gobble.

The term "locator call" refers to a group of calls designed not to call turkeys, but to just make them gobble.
Photo by: Author
A 'locator call" is a descriptive term for calls, used by turkey hunters, to make birds gobble without using a turkey call.  We have all heard turkeys gobble to things like thunder, a squeaky fence gate, or even a truck door slamming, but all of these would be a little tough to carry through the woods in our vest.  So we turn to sounds that we can mimic with something a little more manageable in size.

 Turkey locator calls consist of, but are not limited to, a few basic styles.  There are crow calls, owl calls, coyote calls, and pileated woodpecker calls that can all strike a gobble from an unsuspecting gobbler, and most turkey call manufacturers makes some if not all of these.  There are also calls that are a little less used, but still just as effective, such as a goose call, a hawk call, a pheasant call, and yes ... even a peacock call.

How A Locator Call Works

As you realize how effective locator calls can be, you will use them more and more. I use these locator type calls so much, they are attached to my vest and never come off.
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The idea behind the locator call is to not draw attention to yourself, and get the bird to gobble without him thinking much of it.  This response is called a shock gobble.  I've heard birds do this to distant blasting, vehicles backfiring, cows mooing, and even donkeys doing whatever it is they do.  It is a gobble usually sparked by some intense sound that comes out of the blue. 

When the morning is silent with no sounds but the soft chirping of song birds waking up, the "who-cooks-for-you" of the barred owl splits the quiet woods and can make a bird gobble at long distances.  He does not gobble because he thinks it's a turkey, he just gobbles because.  The sharp "caw-caw-caw" of a hollering crow will often do the same thing to a mid morning gobbler as he sits quietly, full strut in a field.  He will sometimes respond to the crow call, even if he won't answer a turkey call.

Locator calls are tools that all turkey hunters should have in their vests, because as they start to use them, and become more familiar with how they work, they will realize how effective they can be in taking hard hunted birds.

Types Of Locator Calls

The two types of owl calls are, the barrel type, which is the easiest to use, and the reeded style, which takes a little more practice, but is much more versatile.
Photo by: Author
Probably the most popular locator call is the owl call.  Used mostly in the mornings and evenings to strike gobbles on the roost, the barred owl call comes in two styles.  First is the standard owl hooter, which is a small plastic can like call with a couple holes in it.  You blow into the mouth piece, which directs the air over the hole, and it makes a hooting sound.  Very easy, and yes, it is effective.

For the person looking for a little more out of an owl call, there are reeded owl calls on the market.  These take a little more practice, and require air control to work them.  But, the sound tends to be much more realistic, the volume is greater, and the diversity of owl vocalizations far surpasses the tube style call.

When looking for a crow call, try to find one that is not only loud and high pitch, but sounds realistic as well.
Photo by: Author
The next locator in line would most likely be the crow call.  The sharp, loud, high pitched, caw sequence of a crow will shock birds into gobbling throughout the day.  It's a great call to use when you know birds are in the area, but just not answering a turkey call. 

Using a crow call can often time strike a bird into giving up his location without using a turkey call.  This gives the hunter the opportunity to get into the best position possible to harvest that bird before trying to call him in.  It's a great way to work your way in to a gobbler that won't leave his strut zone.

The pileated woodpecker, the peacock, and the hawk calls are all very similar.  They offer a very high pitched, shrill sound that will often times get a bird to fire off for you.  The calls are very easy to use, and only the cadence of the vocalization needs to be worked on.  A very simple yet effective call to have in your vest.  It can be used the same way as the crow call to move in on an unsuspecting bird.

The other types of locators, are types that you most likely won't find around the spring turkey call shelf.  They are calls that are picked by mother nature.  Calls like goose, pheasant, and of course the old "mooo" done with the mouth, are all natural sounds heard in the spring that will set a gobbler off.

The coyote howler, pileated woodpecker, and the goose call, can all be used as locators for turkeys. They work great, and used at the right time and place, the call won't sound unnatural to the birds.
Photo by: Author
I have sat many times in the spring turkey woods watching geese, get up off a small pond, and fly low over the trees honking away, and setting off gobbles as they do.  The same thing has happened to me in the mid west.  As the morning broke, the cackle of wild pheasants would set off gobblers left and right.  And of course the moo of Ol' Bessie down in the barnyard.  Her call would echo through the hollow at first light and set off every bird in the area. 

These are great calls to use that will not only get birds to gobble, but keep you blending in to the natural surroundings by using sounds that are regular, and familiar to the area.  A perfect way to put a stealth move on a bird that's been giving you the slip.

Choosing The Best Locator Call

When looking for a locator, think about when and where you will be using it.  If you like hunting right off the roost, then a owl call is great for that.  If you're a run-n-gun kind of person that stays out as long as possible, then maybe a crow call, or pileated woodpecker, might be something you should have in your vest. 

Think about your surroundings and what happens throughout the time you are in the woods.  If you're in an area with geese, and here them taking off and flying around over your woods, then that may be a perfect choice for you.  Anything that sets a bird off on a regular basis is prime suspect for a locator call.

Locator calls tend to be known as a few basic calls, but don't let this keep you from thinking outside the box.  I have killed birds before that would always fly the opposite way from me after walking in owl hooting them.  I changed it up and moo'd my way up the ridge like a cow ... lol!!! ... I know it sounds funny, but I was successful, and that bird went home with me.

So in conclusion, anything can be a locator call if it calls out and makes a turkey gobble.  They are a fantastic tool for moving in on hard hunted birds, and the more you use them, the more you will find them being a regular part of your hunt.  So pick out a couple that you think will work in your area, and give them a try.  You won't regret it.  Best of luck this season, hunt hard, and hunt safe.


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