Many folks may ask the question to you or me, "how do you know how to do that, or who taught you that?" They may make the comments like "that sounds real, or that's pretty good!" What I'm referring to is calling wildlife; this may be calling predators, turkey, deer, ducks, crows, etc. In a nutshell I think all of us can agree that to become good at something it takes practice. If you look at past world champion callers, you will most likely find the same answer. They will undoubtedly say practice is the key to success.
As a young pup, back in the day, I was always intrigued as to how my father made perfect, realistic sounds with his turkey and duck calls. There was something unique about reproducing sounds with hand calls that always captivated me. Of course, I couldn't wait until Dad went to work so I could sneak into the old turkey vest and try a few calls for myself. I have to pity my Mom and wonder how she put up with three boys and hunting. It seemed that if Dad wasn't making animal sounds, one of the three boys were sure to be found honing their skills with Dad's calls when he wasn't around. At that age, I'm sure most people in the neighborhood would have thought my turkey and waterfowl rituals sounded more like a distressed bird, than a realistic animal sound. However, I didn't let that discourage me; I knew that if I just kept trying I would get it figured out at some point. As I became older, I started to realize that mastering calling techniques wasn't the only important thing in trying to call in wildlife. Calling wildlife was much more complicated than I had expected, but with determination I pursued onward and hoped for the best.
With help from someone who knew the ropes, I felt I could master this calling situation. My mentor was an avid outdoorsman who had gained a lot of respect from other fellow hunters. Even they would ask what his thoughts were on how to fool an old gobbler into gun range. His experience at that time had spanned over 25 years of calling and hunting. This master-outdoorsman was Dad. With an open mind, I pledged to absorb any and all tricks about calling wildlife from Dad. While hunting with Dad over the next several years, I learned the basics of hunting and calling. What I've learned has been extremely advantageous each and every time I head to the field. No matter whether I'm calling turkey, ducks, or predators, it always seems that I remind myself of the same three topics when calling wildlife.
I feel the three most important points or topics to consider while calling wildlife would be woodsmanship, animal behavior, and general calling techniques. I believe if you have a clear and vivid understanding of these three topics, it will allow you to approach your next calling scenario with confidence. Without confidence you will struggle to ensure the right steps in being successful in the field. In these next three paragraphs you will have a better understanding as to what I'm referring to.
One of the most important things I was taught was woodsmanship. Having the knowledge, experience, and understanding of how animals and creatures move and operate in the wild can be one of the most beneficial resources for calling in wildlife. My Dad was good at this; he understood that he could only teach me so much, and that the real lessons would come from learning on my own. When I talk about woodsmanship it comes from experience in the field, there are certain things that you pick up on that others may simply overlook because of not knowing. I learned quickly that these small details can make or break the situation for me as a caller. Here is a quick synopsis of what I'm talking about. I have called in and harvested a fair share of animals, and I would have to say a bunch of them have come from knowing the terrain in which I hunt. Knowing where the hollows run, where the humps on the mountains are, where the creeks lead, where the food sources, and nesting areas are located. All these things add up quickly and you start to use that information to your advantage. Here's a hint for you, the next time you're working an old gobbler and he shuts up on you, and you know he is within 100 yards, start to listen for other song birds to scream out, or especially when squirrels start barking. I have noticed that squirrels can be the biggest tattle-tales in the woods, especially with turkey, deer and predators. If you're not careful they can also bust you too. These small details are just some of the things involved in having a comprehension of woodsmanship.
The second part of being a successful caller is attributed to knowing the routines, patterns, and instinct of your quarry. This can also be referred to as animal behavior. During any calling scenario, when the quarry is approaching you they make distinct sounds, sudden movements or rituals that can alert you to make your next move. I have become diligent in watching these types of behaviors to increase my success while in the field. Here's an example of being able to read the body language of the animal you are hunting and how it can help you your next time in the field. Let's say I'm calling on a stand for predators during the day. A coyote approaches my stand and I see him coming from a long way off. Now we all know that coyotes can see, smell, and hear very well. Some people may get hung up here and don't know when to pull up the gun. Hopefully you already have the gun on the shooting sticks beforehand. The window of opportunity to get a bead on the coyote is small, what you should remember is this. Whenever an animal is moving, running, or walking, all other surrounding objects in that animal's peripheral vision are also moving. Thus, this gives you the opportunity to pull up the gun, get your bead on him, and put some fur on the ground.
The third topic I refer to is general calling techniques. This is the part that many of us enjoy the most for a variety of reasons. Mike Dillon said to me once, that the reason some folks like hand calling so much is because you accomplish a sense of pride and satisfaction. I totally believe that that same pride and satisfaction is what keeps me pushing forward and continuing to keep hunting and calling. My Dad often said the reason he enjoyed calling so much is because he felt like he had some sense of control over the quarry. Almost as if you are some sort of a puppeteer over the animal. The calling part is definitely the most rewarding part for me. This part of the equation is where I feel you can be most creative. If there is any way that you think you can add realism to your next calling scenario, definitely try it. Here are a variety of ways that I like to add realism no matter what type of prey I am calling. For instance, if I'm calling ducks and a flock of greenheads (mallards) fly over, I'll do some feeding chuckles, greeting calls, and drake whistles to get their attention. Most of the time they circle five or six times before they finally commit to the decoys. If I add some movement to the decoy spread, like throwing a few rocks in the water while they fly over, it makes the ducks feel like the decoys are more lively and realistic. There are many ways to add more realism to your next calling scenario. They can be as simple as changing the volume of the call from loud to soft, rustling the leaves to sound like a hen feeding while working a gobbler, or doing an owl hoot at night while on stand while hunting predators. Often times you will hear owls move in while hunting at night. Fox and other predators get over anxious and will rush in to get the screaming rabbit before the owl swoops in for an easy midnight snack.
I will never claim to be a professional hunter or caller, because I believe the professionals are the quarry that I enjoy pursuing so much. The quarry are the pros, not us, they live and die by their instinctive nature, curiousness, reproductive habits, food, and water. The important thing to remember is to head afield with an open mind, humbling yourself to learn all there is to learn about your quarries home and behavior, .and then call'em in and shoot'em!
God Bless and Keep calling!