Best Turkey Calls for Beginners

Video best turkey mouth call for beginners

For a new turkey hunter, choosing the right calls can be a daunting task. There are endless options in a variety of styles suited for a variety of skill levels. And while your turkey hunting vest may be able to hold dozens of calls, you really only need a few to get started.

In this article, we explore the best calls for beginner turkey hunters and provide a comprehensive guide to help you select the perfect call for your first or next hunt.

Before we dive into our eight top choices listed below, let’s first take a look at the four main types of turkey calls on the market, their pros, cons, and level of difficulty to learn.

Friction Calls

Photo of two friction turkey calls with the main parts labeled.

I start with friction calls because I believe they are the best call for a new turkey hunter. They are relatively easy to learn, and can accurately recreate all of the important sounds a hen turkey makes. The first few turkeys I killed met their demise as the result of cheap friction calls that I likely picked up at Walmart.

If you aren’t familiar with what a friction turkey call is, they typically consist of two pieces: a pot, or “soundboard”, and a striker. The pot is usually made of wood or plastic, with a calling surface on top. The calling surface may be made of slate, glass, aluminum, copper, or a variety of other materials.

The striker is a small wooden rod typically with some type of enlarged top or cap.

The wide range of materials used for making pots, calling surfaces, and strikers give each call its own unique sound.

How to Use

To use the friction turkey call, the hunter holds the pot in one hand and the striker in the other. By applying pressure and making circular motions with the striker against the calling surface of the pot, the hunter can produce a range of sounds that imitate various turkey vocalizations, including yelps, clucks, purrs and cackles.

The volume and tone of the call can be adjusted by changing the pressure and speed of the striker’s movements.

Push Pin Call

The push pin turkey call is the easiest call for a beginner to learn and use. In fact, they are pretty foolproof. The downside is they are limited in the sounds they can make, and aren’t as realistic as a friction or diaphragm call.

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If you aren’t familiar with them, a push-pin call consists of a small wooden or plastic box with a wooden or plastic spring-loaded peg or “pin” protruding from the side.

While the push-pin call is simple and inexpensive, it can still be very effective at calling in a gobbler. If you’re brand new to turkey hunting, and don’t have the time or desire to learn to use a friction call right away, then the push-pin call is a good option to get you started.

How to Use

The hunter holds the box in the palm of one hand and uses his/her index finger to push the pin in and let the spring return the pin back to its original position. This back-and-forth movement produces a high-pitched, raspy noise that imitates the yelps and clucks of a hen turkey.

The volume and tone of the call can be adjusted by varying the pressure and duration of the pin’s movements.

Box Turkey Call

Photo of the author's hand made box call.

The box turkey call is a close second to the push-pin call in ease of use. There have been a lot of turkeys killed over the years by hunters with nothing more than a box call in their vest.

Box calls are a little more versatile than a push-pin call, but don’t offer the same range of sounds as friction and diaphragm calls. They are especially effective at calling loudly to locate a bird at a distance or on a windy day.

The box call consists of a small rectangular wooden box with a lid that slides back and forth across the top edges of the box, creating turkey sounds through friction.No matter what your skill level, a box call is a great tool to have in your turkey hunting tool box. The volume you can get from the call makes it great to elicit gobbles when nothing else is working. While it wouldn’t be my choice if I could only carry one call, it’s great to have one on-hand to compliment the other calls in your arsenal.

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How to Use

To use the box turkey call, the hunter holds the box with one hand and uses the other hand to slide the lid back and forth. By varying the speed and pressure of the lid’s movements, the hunter can produce a range of turkey vocalizations, such as clucks, yelps, and gobbles. The volume and tone of the call can be adjusted by changing the speed and pressure of the lid’s movements.

Diaphragm Mouth Calls

An assortment of mouth calls for turkey hunting.

Diaphragm turkey calls, also known as mouth calls, are the most versatile of all the turkey calls, but they are also the most difficult to learn. With lots of practice, they can mimic just about any sound a hen turkey can make, and you can do it without having to use your hands.

Diaphragm calls consist of small latex reeds and a small, metal horseshoe-shaped frame covered in tape, that fits up in the roof of your mouth. By using your tongue to put pressure on the reeds and blowing air across them, the call can produce a wide range of turkey vocalizations.

Diaphragm calls come with various numbers of latex reeds with different styles of cuts in one or more of the reeds to produce different sounds. In general, calls with fewer reeds are easier to use and learn. Calls with more reeds can produce a raspier sound, but require more air to work.

The volume and tone of the call can be adjusted by changing the pressure and position of the tongue and the amount of air flow. Diaphragm turkey calls are versatile and allow hunters to produce a range of realistic turkey sounds with practice.

Because of the learning curve involved with using diaphragm turkey calls, I don’t recommend choosing one as the first turkey call you carry to the woods with you. I do, however, recommend going ahead and getting one so you can start learning how to use it.

How to Use

Get a quality double reed call like one of the two recommended below, watch a ton of instructional YouTube videos, and start practicing. You may not be ready to use it this season, but by next season, you should be able to make most of the sounds of a hen turkey and take your turkey hunting to the next level.

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Best Beginner Turkey Calls

Below we highlight our top picks for friction, push-pin, box, and diaphragm turkey calls. Keep in mind there are hundreds of call manufacturers producing thousands of turkey calls. Most all of them are capable of calling in a turkey on any given day.

My favorite may not end up being your favorite. Many times it’s a matter of personal preference, and which call you feel most confident with. But these are all solid options for a new turkey hunter just getting started.

Use these as a starting point, and as you build experience, take time to experiment with other types and brands of calls until you find the ones that give you the most confidence in the field.

Calling Tips for Beginners

  1. Start with simple calls: Begin with the simplest calls, such as the basic yelp and cluck, before progressing to more complex calls. Focus on mastering these calls first, and then move on to others like the purrs, cuts, and cackles.
  2. Listen and imitate: Listen to the sounds of wild turkeys in their natural habitat and try to imitate them as closely as possible. Record your own calling and compare it to the sounds of wild turkeys to identify areas that need improvement.
  3. Practice regularly: Practice your calling regularly, preferably in the field or a similar environment. This will help you to develop a better understanding of the birds’ behavior and improve your calling skills.
  4. Use a variety of calls: Turkeys are vocal birds, so it’s important to use a variety of calls to mimic their natural sounds. A combination of soft and loud calls, as well as different pitches and tones, can make your calling more effective.
  5. Be patient and persistent: Wild turkeys can be elusive and unpredictable, so it’s important to remain patient and persistent when calling them. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a response right away. Keep practicing and experimenting with different calls until you find what works best for you in different situations.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>