When it comes to turkey calling, many times a turkey friction call is the first type of call a turkey hunter uses. The ease of use and realistic sound make friction turkey calls an excellent choice for the seasoned turkey caller, as well as for the novice hunter. To maximize the potential of these turkey talkers, you must understand the proper way to play them and practice often. We will discuss the proper techniques and how to create the different turkey calls.
A friction call consists of a pot with a friction, or sounding surface, and a striker, used to drag across the friction surface. All too often, hunters place the pot flat in their palm. This grip is incorrect and deadens the resonation and tone of the call. To correctly hold the pot, position your fingertips on the sides of the pot with just enough pressure to contain the call. Lightly holding the sides of the pot with your fingertips creates a sound chamber between the bottom of the pot and the palm of your hand, allowing the call to resonate and the sound to flow through the bottom ports of the call.
For the striker, most hunters switch between two different grips to create the different sounds. Some hunters stick to only one grip and become very successful turkey callers. Both grips produce realistic and effective turkey sounds. Personal preference will dictate the grip route you take.
The first grip style, known as the pencil grip, is fairly self-explanatory. You simply grip the striker the same way you would hold a pencil while writing. The second style is often referred to as the chopstick or drum stick grip. In the drum stick grip, the striker shaft is held in the web between the thumb and index finger, and the tip of the striker rests against the tip of the middle finger.
Once you have decided on a grip, the grip position and pressure are essential for sound quality. Grip pressure refers to how hard you press your thumb against the striker shaft. Most turkey sounds require a light to moderate grip. The whistle, or kee-kee, requires a heavier grip to produce the high pitch sound. Along with grip pressure, the grip position will affect the sound of the friction turkey call. Small changes can make a big difference in that sound. Striker grip positions vary from positioning your thumb on the striker shaft below center slightly closer to the tip, center, or above center slightly closer to the head.
Once you chose your grip style, position, and pressure, you have to locate the correct angle between the striker and friction surface. If the angle is too small or too large, you lose sound quality and control. If the call makes any sound at all. The best angle range is slightly greater than ninety degrees. Hold the pot in one hand, grip the striker in the other hand, place the striker tip on the friction surface, and hold the striker straight away from the pot. Now slightly tilt the striker head away from you. This is the starting point for locating the correct striker angle. Move the striker head towards you or away from you until your call produces the best sound.
The final piece to the calling mechanics puzzle is the amount of striker pressure applied to the friction surface. Typically this is the most common error a turkey caller makes. Most calls only require light to moderate pressure. If you apply heavy striker pressure, you will get a high pitch squealing sound. Too much striker pressure will also hinder your control and striker movement. Now that we have the proper calling mechanics, we will put them to use on the five most common turkey sounds. Experiment with both striker grips. Adjust your striker angle. Start with a light touch.
The Yelp – The yelp is a two note call, which sounds like a “kee-yok.” It is produced by drawing small quarter size counter-clockwise circles with the striker. Position the pot in one hand. Grip the striker with the other hand. Use a light striker to friction surface pressure to create the first note and slightly increase the pressure to create the second note. As the striker lightly drags across the surface, the higher pitch “kee” is produced. As the striker tip changes contact points as it moves through the circle and the pressure increases, the “kee” breaks into a lower pitch “yok” sound. The break from high to low pitch creates the realism. If you are not hearing the high to low transition, try increasing the size of the circle you are making or increase the pressure change through your circle. You can increase the volume of the yelp by increasing both the pressure and size of the circle.
The Cluck or Cut – The cluck or cut, is a single sharp fast note. The single note is made by flicking the striker tip across the friction surface. Position the pot, and grip the striker. Apply moderate striker to friction surface pressure. Push the striker across the surface until it jumps. This jump creates the cluck. Without lifting the striker, slide the tip back to the starting position, and repeat the clucking process. You can increase the volume of the cluck by increasing the downward pressure.
The Purr – The purr is a multi-note chatter sound. The purr is a lower volume call. Position the pot, and grip the striker shaft a little closer to the striker head. Moving your grip higher allows the striker tip to grab the friction surface easier. With light pressure, draw the striker in a slow steady straight line. This will cause the striker to chatter across the friction surface creating the purr.
The Tree Yelp – The tree yelp is a slight variation of the standard yelp. The tree yelp is created the same way as the yelp but uses a different striker position and pressure. Position the pot, and grip the striker slightly towards the tip. This allows the striker to slide across the friction surface easier. Use a lighter striker to friction surface pressure, and create smaller counter-clockwise circles.
The Cackle – The cackle is a multi-note variation of the cluck. You make the cackle with the same grip, pressure, and motion as the cluck, but you increase the rhythm. The cackle begins with three to five fast notes, then a decrease in the rhythm, and completes the cackle with a total of around twelve notes.
The Kee-Kee – The kee-kee is a multi-note call created by three or four signal note sounds. Position the turkey call pot and grip the striker closer towards the tip. With your thumb, apply pressure to the striker shaft. The heavier grip pressure creates the higher note. Use a light to moderate striker to friction surface pressure. Maintain a steady pressure and move the striker in an arc to create the “kee” note of a yelp. Repeat the motion three or four times to create the “kee-kee” sound.
This article was written as a primer for a turkey caller, who is just starting to learn. With any type of game call, practice and experimentation are vital to becoming a proficient turkey caller. The above turkey calling techniques are simply a road map to your own destination. The more time and energy you spend traveling this road, the more you will enjoy the destination when you arrive.