Choosing the right mouth call for turkey hunting

Posted on: April 8, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Spring turkey season is just about here. Do you have any calls?

Hilarious, I know.

If you’re a serious turkey hunter, the question is not whether you have any calls, it’s whether you have the room to store them all. We tend to collect them.

It’s no wonder, really.

“You go into the store and there’s like five gazillion mouth calls and you don’t know which one to buy because there are so many on the market,” said Ken Hammel, owner of Mountain Hollow Game Calls ( in Potsdam, N.Y., for the last 35 years.

A lot of hunters dabble in buying this one and that one, looking for the best or most effective.

Which that is depends a lot on how and where you’ll be hunting, Hammel said.

Reed totals

All mouth calls have reeds. The number varies, from two to five. The more reeds, the harder they are to get sound out of.

“You want to find out how many reeds that call has. How hard is it going to be to run that call,” Hammel said.

“If I know I’m going to be climbing mountains all day in Pennsylvania, I may want to go with a two-reeder so I don’t have to huff as much. But if I’m hunting in northern New York, where I live, where it’s kind of flat, I can run those three- and four-reeders pretty easily without huffing as much. There’s less air you have to push when you’re trying to get those reeds to vibrate.”


It pays to consider what the call is made of, too.

With mouth calls, that’s either latex or prophylactic material. Latex is more traditional, while prophylactic is newer to the market and easier to blow.

The latter material is what competition callers are most often using these days, Hammel said.

“So if you want to sound a little bit better, a little more realistic, and it be a little easier to blow, buy a prophylactic,” he said.

Just expect to pay more. And know they don’t last as long either.


Consider what kind of turkey you want to sound like, Hammel said. Some are meant to mimic one kind of bird, some another.

The cuts in the reed tell which is which.

“The fewer cuts you have in a call, the higher pitched that call’s going to be. The more cuts you have in that call, the raspier it’s going to be,” Hammel said.

“So if you want to sound like an old rapsy hen, maybe find a call that’s got a V-cut in it, and maybe two slits on the side.”

Proper care

No matter which kind of mouth call you buy, take care of it to get the most from it, Hammel added. He’s got a routine he follows.

Any mouth call thrown in a pocket and left inside a truck all day will start to bake, he said. That leads to shrunken reeds that often stick together and tear when pulled apart.

The trick is to rinse it off the call with cold water while it’s still a bit wet – carrying a bottle of water in the truck is good for that – then rinse it again with mouthwash.

Put it back in its case, then store it in the freezer overnight.

“What’s going to happen is everything is going to freeze. Then when you take it back out it’s already moist and already ready to go,” Hammel said.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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