turkey locating tips

If you’re planning to be a successful Turkey Hunter, you must have a solid strategy for locating your quarry. This sounds pretty obvious but “if you can’t find em’, you can’t kill em”. It is mandatory that every hunter develop or adopt methods for locating turkeys for any given situation and time of day. At times, even in the dark! However, the dark stuff is an advanced subject that I’ll discuss with you later in my book.

Calls for locating turkeys

Killer Locator Calls!

– The Right Locator Call for the Right Situation!

If you were just paying attention, you picked up on my above reference to “different situations and times”. There is a “Best Locator Call” for any given situation but it can most easily be broken down by time of day. As far as locator calls are concerned, You will need calls to cover three periods of the day:


#1 – Before daylight, up to fly down.


#2 – The times between fly down and fly up.


#3 – Fly up to hard dark.


Locating Turkeys on the Roost.

Early Morning Owling!

Before I give you the short answer I need to state that there can be several calls that can be employed for each of these periods. There are even some calls that may work a little better than others depending on where you are hunting and the amount of pressure the birds have experiences. For example, if you hunting public land, you can expect that the gobblers are getting hammered with crow calls during the day. It would be a good idea to carry a hawk call or even a more off the wall locator call.

O.K., Here is the meat and potatoes. For before light, up to about fly down….The “Owl Call” reins supreme! After fly down until about fly up the “Crow Call” is the call that will produce the most responses from a gobbler. Once he is back on his roost limb, you need to be back to the Owl call.

If you have not already, your going to read all kinds of opinions and claims from others about how their favorite call works so good. Your going to hear about everything from coyote calls to pileated woodpecker calls but the Owl and the Crow calls do all the heavy lifting! The proof is in the pudding as they say and you don’t kill as many turkeys as I have without being damn good at locating them! Have a look at my Turkey harvest photo section, your eye’s will go cross before you get to the end of them.


– The Must Have Locator Call!

I have hunted many different places, the call that I use to locate 95% of turkeys I hear is the Owl call. I do all my Owling naturally but I do carry a back up Owl call for times when my throat gets a little soar from calling. You don’t have to be “contest ready” to be effective at natural owl calling either. I would rate myself no better than average. It’s knowing where and when that’s more important. 

If I had to pick one thing that I like best about hunting turkeys I would have to say it’s roosting! In fact I consider roosting the one most important thing that a turkey hunter can do to increase his chances for success. Roosting is my greatest “Secrete Weapon for Success” and the corner stone of my Turkey hunting book. Others might argue that mastering turkey calling may be number one but a skilled turkey hunter can be more effective than you could believe at killing turkeys without the aid of a turkey call. Have a look at a few of my self filmed videos to see how it’s done!

 Another thing to keep in mind is, an Owl makes a variety of sounds. I have found there are certain Owl calls that out perform others for enticing a gobble and will discuss this in greater depth in my Book as well.


 – Why the Owl Call Reigns Supreme!

Here’s something to keep in mind. The Barred Owl is going to be the first creature to start calling in the Morning and will be about the only one calling at last light after the gobbler is back on the roost! As darkness approaches all the hawks, crows, blue herons, etc. go silent. A gobbler has heard this routine, every single day of his life! He is hard wired to gobble at an Owl!


– The Call You’ll Use More Than Anything Else and why!

O.K., it’s no secrete that the Owl is my favorite locator call but there is a call that could actually get more use than the Owl if you don’t take advantage of roosting. I rarely hunt without having roosted the evening before so most of the time I have a bird put to bed for the mornings hunt. Therefore, I don’t normally do much late morning or afternoon hunting. As a rule, Toms will not gobble much at these times and if he don’t gobble, I’m not to interested. For me, Spring Gobbler Hunting is all about hunting a gobbling bird off the mornings roost. Everything else pales.

 The primary call your going to want to use for this is the “Crow Call”. In all the places I’ve hunted, the crow is the most commonly heard, loud call you will hear throughout the day. Turkeys love to gobble at a crow up in the morning and this call will out perform all others during this time, right up until just after he’s back on the roost. Again, when hunting in high pressure areas, you need to have a good backup call as the birds are likely getting crowed to death but the crow will still probably out perform all other calls. In this situation I would make a call with one locator call and if no response,wait a couple minutes and call with your backup.

 From my experience a Hawk scream would be my backup call choice and I typically have one in “my turkey vest.”

Osceola Gobbler Standing at Attention!

Osceola Gobbler!

 - The Hail Mary Call, What to do When All Else Fails!

This is another topic that falls into the advanced subject matter category but I will touch on it briefly. Many times I have slipped in to a place expecting to hear a gobble after fly up but gotten no response despite my best owl calls. As a last resort, and this is usually almost in the dark, I will wait a couple minutes after my last owl and then do either a hen fly up cackle or a cut. I prefer the cackle!  He may only gobble one time at it but that’s all I need. I have literally seen them gobble in the dark at this. It will not work all the time but It’s worth remembering as it will work at times when nothing else will! I have dragged gobbles out of birds even in the hard dark, many times. Have a listen to the above video of a flock of birds gobbling, cutting and putting at me cackling and cutting at them in the dark,  This was a flock of about 10-12 birds with two gobblers and the rest made up of jakes and hens. Don’t make the mistake of thinging a tom won’t gobble in the dark!

 One last tip to remember. If you try this and your by yourself, keep the call short. If he gobbles and cuts your call (gobbles before you finish your call) you may not be able to course him!

 Best of hunts!

 Larry Stephens


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