Steve Huettl shows off a nice tom he shot in Wisconsin last May, while hunting with the author.
There’s plenty of snow on the ground, and it looks like more shoveling lies ahead, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the upcoming turkey hunting season. The truth is, now is an important time for getting ready to chase gobblers in April and May.
I will be hunting in both Minnesota and Wisconsin this spring, as usual. Lottery results for both states have been available for weeks. I was picked for Season D in Wisconsin, and plan to buy a license over the counter for Minnesota’s Season E (only the first four seasons, A through D, are by lottery). Back in January, I made calls to landowners to secure permission to hunt properties in both states.
If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to make those calls. The longer you wait, the more risk you run of having others get permission before you do. Then, you’ll have to scramble to find other properties to hunt.
Pick up those calls
With that accomplished, turned to another important task – practicing my turkey calling. Much to the chagrin of my wife and kids, I have been sounding off for several weeks now. I’ve been turkey hunting nearly three decades, and I have become proficient at several types of calls – box, slate, mouth and push-button.
It’s not a task I need to spend hours on, but I don’t want to neglect it entirely. What I have learned is that when a turkey is gobbling and coming in, I tend to get nervous. My mouth gets dry and my hands tremble a bit. So, calling can get more challenging. That’s why I like to keep my calling simple, and go for the easiest calls to use during those tense moments.
My go-to call for pulling a gobbler those finals steps into gun range has been A Pushpin Pro Yelper by Quaker Boy. It’s a pushbutton-style friction call that is very easy to use. I have called in several birds with it, including a nice mature tom in Minnesota last year. This call works!
Yet, I felt I needed to add something more, something hands free. The obvious thing is a mouth diaphragm call. I have used them over the years, but they can be stiff and tricky to operate. I wanted something that is easy to use and can produce the soft calls – clucks and purrs – that I like to use when a gobbler is close but not visible or in gun range.
How to tease toms
I found a call recently that fits the bill. The company is called Tom Teasers and what caught my eye was the name of one of its mouth calls – Butt Naked Hen. When I ran across this name while surfing the Internet, I just had to go to the website and check it out.
I discovered that the calls are hand made, not mass produced. What’s more, each call has a short video demo that you can click on to hear what it sounds like. So, there’s no guesswork.
That was what really sold me on the calls, and I called the company to get my hands on one. I ended up talking to the founder and owner, Tommy Walton, whose company is located in Georgia. How often is it that you can get on the phone with the guy in charge?
Interestingly, the only other time that happened was when I contacted another Georgia company, Comp-N-Choke. The owner took my order back in 2009, and I have been very happy with the results. I have made shots from beyond 50 yards, and it’s highly unlikely I will ever switch to another choke.
Turns out, Tommy Walton knows about Comp-N-Choke and knows the owner. I had a great turkey chat with Tommy, and he graciously agreed to send me some samples. I waited eagerly for them to show up in my mail box, which they did less than a week later.
To my delight, the Butt Naked Hen was among the samples Tommy sent. I have tried three of the five and like them all, but I especially like the Butt Naked Hen for the soft calls. It makes great clucks and purrs, and I’m sure this call will be with me when I hit the woods in May.
I noticed two things about these calls right away – they’re very easy to use, and they work great right out of the box. So often, I have found, mouth calls are stiff right out of the box and require a break-in period. That’s not the case with Tom Teasers.
On one of the calls, the tape came loose, and I called Tommy to let him know. Very graciously, he sent me a replacement call that arrived just a few days later. He also told me that he has since discovered a flaw in some of the tape he buys to make the calls. He is aware of the problem, and says all mouth call manufacturers are experiencing it, as the tape company sells to a lot of different call manufacturing companies.
So, anyone buying a mouth call should be aware of this, and be prepared to contact the call company if there’s a problem. Tommy said he will replace any call with this problem free of charge. I did not have this problem with the other four calls he sent me, and the replacement call has worked fine.
How good is good enough?
I will be the first to admit that I do not sound nearly as good with a mouth call as Tommy and the other guy who does the demos on the Tom Teasers website. But, the good news is, I don’t have to. It’s all about cadence and rhythm when it comes to producing hen sounds. If you get that right, you’re good to go, especially up here in the Midwest, where birds aren’t pressured nearly as heavily as they are down south.
Tommy told me that, down in the south, birds are hunted hard and can become call shy. So, hunters need to sound as realistic as possible. He added that any bird you get in the south is well earned.
My turkey hunt begins May 1. That’s only a month and a half away. As always, I’m optimistic about the season. Looks like the breeding could happen later this year, like it did two years ago. That’s one reason why I like to hunt in May. It’s very rare that there’s cold and snow then. In fact, two years ago, the weather was great, despite the late spring.
As I wait for the snow to melt, I’ll keep practicing my calling. Who knows? Maybe I can become almost as good on a mouth call as Tommy Walton. Then again, maybe the birds up here can’t tell the difference!