Turkey Mouth Calls / Diaphragm Call - Buyers Guide

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Turkey Mouth Calls / Diaphragm Call - Buyers Guide

by Matt Wettish

The purpose of this article is to give you a higher level of understanding of some of the basic components that you should consider when purchasing a mouth call.  Additionally, we have provided the following articles to help further your understanding:


All turkey hunters strive to perfect the mouth call, or the diaphragm turkey call, and yet its mastery alludes so many of us for so many reasons.  It doesn't fit right, it makes me gag, my mouth starts to water, it tickles, or ... I just can't get it to sound like a turkey.

Many of these issues start at the heart of advertising, and the claiming of what's new and better than last year.  Before purchasing a mouth call, you must take in to consideration that, what's new for this year, or better than last year, may not be what's best for you.  You need to start out with an understanding of the mouth call, so you can choose the one best suited for you and your experience level.

Parts Of A Mouth Call:

At the top is the aluminum frame that maitains the rigidity of the call. The yellow and green reeds are what make the sound, and the tape seals the call in the mouth and directs air over the reeds.
Photo by: Author
First, to become familiar with the mouth call, here are the three major components in which it is made: 

1) The Frame:  Frames, back in the day, were made of lead and tin, are    now most often made of aluminum, although synthetic materials are    effectively used by some manufacturers.   It is designed to give rigidity to    the call, and maintain the stretch of the reeds. 

2) The Reeds:  The reeds are usually made of latex, although some higher   end calls utilize prophylactic rubber as well.  The reeds are stretched    either by hand or machine to a given tension.  It is the reed that vibrates    when air is passed over it to make the turkey sound.

3) The Tape:  The tape is the material that goes over the frame and    creates a seal in the mouth to force the air over the reeds, and not around    the call.  

How a Mouth Call Works:

Now we can focus on how a mouth call works.  I will start from the tape and work my way in.

The tape is on the call to create a seal in your mouth that will stop air from passing around the call and direct it over the reeds.  If the tape is to large, it will be uncomfortable and often create folds that will allow air to pass around the call.  When this occurs, you can usually hear a hissing sound while trying to call.  The hissing is the sound of the air escaping  from not creating an effective seal, and the air not completely being directed over the reeds.

The tape can be cut down slightly so it fits in your mouth more comfortably.  Be sure to only cut a little at a time, because once it's gone, you can't put it back on.  If the tape does become too small, it may be more difficult to create the necessary seal to limit the escaping air, or the call may move around your mouth while trying to use it, making it more difficult to be consistent with your sound quality.

The frame of the call is there to keep your call in tune.  People often try to bend the frame to fit the roof of their mouth better, in hopes of making it more comfortable.  This can be done, but isn't that great of an idea.  Being that the frame is holding an exact tension on the reeds, any bending might affect the overall sound and performance of the call.  It can also loosen the hold that the frame has on the reeds, allowing them to slip and lose  tension all together.  In this case, the call will sound like nothing more than a balloon loosing air.

Lastly, but certainly most important, are the reeds.  The reeds are what makes the turkey sound when air passes past them.  They are stretched both side-to-side, and backwards to a predetermined tension that should allow the user to make hen sounds.  The reeds come in different thicknesses, each allowing for a different tonal quality.  As cuts are introduced into the reeds, a raspy quality occurs within the notes, because of the flapping of the cut latex, often times giving it a more realistic sound.  Pulling, cutting or changing the tension of the reeds will more often than not render a call unusable.

Choosing The Correct Call:

When choosing a mouth call, you must be honest with yourself in realizing how good of a caller you truly are, and evaluating the different types of turkey mouth calls that best suits your level of experience.  This will not only allow you to sound better quicker, but it will allow you to get better, and advance as your perfect each type of call.

A clean double call with no cuts in the reeds is a great call to start with. It allows the user to hear any imperfections in the call without being covered up by the raspy sound of a call with cuts in it.
Photo by: Primos Game Calls
When starting off, or if you just want to start over and try to get better, I would recommend getting a single or double reed call with NO cuts, just straight reeds.  The reason for this is, that any cuts in the reeds will create a rasp, and hide the imperfections in your calling.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to get better, you need to hear what you're doing wrong.  So get yourself a clean sounding call, and learn to do your basic yelps with a nice high to low tone drop.

As you advance you will find that there are is a vast variety of calls on the market.  Double reeds, triple reeds, quads, 2.5's, cutters, ghost cuts, v cuts, and on, and on, and on .... the shelves are full, and each one better than the other.  But the truth is, each one runs a little different, and the person that designed that particular call, may not call the same as you, therefore it may not run as well for you.

More reeds and thicker reeds, usually, means you need to put more air into the call to run it.  This also usually means that it's going to be a louder call, and maybe not so good for those up close and personal calls you need to do to close the deal.  But they can come in handy on those less than perfect days where wind or wide open terrain may be an issue.

By having down solid basics with a clean call, it will allow you to achieve the correct form to run the more advanced style calls.  Positioning the call more forward or back in your mouth, changing where you run the call on your tongue, how much pressure you place on the reeds, or how much air you put in to the call can all make a difference on how the call sounds.  Don't just give up on a call right away if it doesn't sound right for you right out of the package.  I have messed with calls for hours before learning how to get the right sound out of it.  But once you do ... it's well worth the effort.

So in conclusion, recognize your capabilities with a mouth call and chose accordingly.  Start with a clean call so you can practice, hear your mistakes, and get better, and lastly, don't give up on a call right away because it doesn't sound right.  Move it around and keep trying different positions in your mouth to try and find the right sound.  If you do this, not only will it make you a better caller, but it will make you more successful in the turkey woods.

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