Photo Courtesy of Kluk Custom Calls
Diaphragm Calls are the Best for Hands-Free Turkey Calling
The mouth call is the best choice for turkey hunters looking to keep their hands free while continuing to coax those mature toms in close.
Turkey hunting is one of the fastest-growing wild game hunts in the US over the past several years and only the second overall wild game hunting to whitetail deer across the country.
Where other species and hunter numbers have seen a decline, the popularity of turkey hunting has been ever-growing.
What has caused this growth? Some speculate Covid-19 and the lockdowns and work-from-home environment in 2020 and 2021 were one of the main reasons we have seen an increase in turkey hunting popularity in the last few years. Additionally, serious hunters are looking for other opportunities and animals to hunt. The turkey is a popular species to get first-time hunters interested in the outdoors and we are seeing more kids and spouses being introduced to the sport giving more popularity amongst families.
The thrill of calling in a gobbler and outsmarting one of nature's most wary birds is a unique experience that hunters relish.
While there are many calls available to hunters, using a mouth diaphragm call is a highly effective method to call without the use of one's hands.
The mouth call requires skill, practice, and patience, but with the right technique, it can produce some of the most realistic turkey sounds. The downfall of the diaphragm call is the difficulty many hunters face trying to get the right sounds out of their call. If, once you buy a mouth call, you find yourself struggling to get the right sounds, we suggest picking up a friction call before the season starts. There are 3 turkey call types that every hunter should own and master before hunting season starts. The pot or box call can be easier calls to get to get started with and the push-button calls are the ultimate easiest turkey call to use.
This article is your guide to hunting turkeys using a diaphragm call. Our team at Shaggy Outdoors has selected the top 7 best mouth calls for turkey hunters, but we won't stop there. We'll also cover the fundamentals of using a diaphragm call and offer tips on how to extend the life of your call.
Plus as a bonus, we'll share expert insights on how to incorporate decoys with your calling to help you become a successful turkey hunter this season.
Shaggy Outdoors "Best Of" Turkey Mouth Calls to get you started.
Best Overall Mouth Call - The Woodhaven Custom Calls Stinger Pro Series
Best Mouth Call For Beginners - ESH Turkey Mouth Calls - Foolproof Diaphragm Calls
Best Turkey Call for Smaller Mouths / Palate - Woodhaven Custom Calls Small Frame Diaphragm Turkey Call
Best Turkey Combo Diaphragm Call - FOXPRO Crooked Spur Mouth Call Combo
While these choices fall into our "Best Of" category. There are several other calls we believe will do well for you and your hunt. Check out all the options below and remember the reeds have different cuts and therefore produce different sounds. Therefore, you may want to pick up a few different options to get started.
4 Parts Make up a Diaphragm Turkey Call
The construction of the mouth call consists of four parts. But the design and the cut of the reeds make for the varying turkey sounds. You may need to use several calls to get the gobblers to approach. When all portions of the call are assembled, the sounds of a hen are created by the air moving through the reeds.
Frame – The frame is the area folded around the reeds for the rigidity of the call. Frames can be made of aluminum (standard in the industry) or synthetic materials. Many frames are constructed to bend and form to the roof of your mouth. Calls will come prepackaged and flat, once you have your call place it in your mouth to form.
Reeds – Often described as the latex rubber part of the call. The call could have a single reed, double reed, or even a triple reed. The sounds coming from the call are based on the reeds. Reeds can have different cuts and each cut combination will help callers make a unique sound. Understanding the different reed thicknesses, materials, cuts, and number of reeds in a call before purchase will give you a starting point for making specific calling sounds. The fewer the reeds and the thinner the material the easier to blow air through and make sounds.Tape – The tape is the top portion of the call that you can see with your eyes. The tape is over the frame and helps the frame keep the reeds in place. There are different thicknesses of tape and many calls come with added tape to allow for trimming for individual mouth comfort. Once you open your need call package place the call in your mouth and try to form the frame. If there is too much tape, pull it out and use scissors to cut away the material of the tape that is giving you discomfort. Don't over-trim the tape and don't cut the reed. The tape also prohibits the air from entering the back of the call, so don't over-trim.
Tab - The tab is the little know part of the diaphragm call that is used to stretch the reed and place the tension necessary to keep the reeds taut. It is also used to determine the top and bottom of the call for placement in the mouth of the hunter.
What Sounds Can Be Made Using a Mouth Call
Yelps - this is the first and most important sound to make with your call. Tone and volume are based on air passing through and pressure on the call inside your mouth.
Kee Kee - this sound is best in the fall season for those lost chicks.
Gobbles - mature male gobblers respond to hens. Used for letting Jakes and other Toms know he is the boss.
Clucks - use in conjunction with your yelps and purrs.
Cutting - used for loud calling to reach out and receive a response from gobblers you don't see.
Purrs - are the sounds content turkeys make when "content" and have no concerns when feeding or traveling in a flock.
7 Best Mouth Calls For Hands-Free Calling
The Team at Shaggy Outdoors has put together the seven calls we know will get you great sound and fantastic responses from both hens and gobblers.
Make sure you know your bird before pulling the trigger. Check out our blog on Turkey Hunter's Guide to Seeing the Difference between Jakes and Toms.
The following diaphragm calls will get the birds closer than you imagine for a good view and humane shot.
Best Overall Mouth Call
Woodhaven Custom Calls Stinger Pro Series
The Stringer Pro Series Red Wasp Mouth Call is a three-reed system with a V-cut top red reed and two straight prophylactic reeds. The call produces sharp crisp cutts and raspy yelps. Call soft and get clucks and purrs as realistically as possible from a call.
Best Mouth Call For Beginners
ESH Foolproof Diaphragm Calls - 3 Pack
An excellent pack of calls for beginners and advanced hunters alike. The three-pack of calls includes EHS signature Batwing, React, and Long Spur. With these calls, you will get excellent volume and soft tones to allow a variety of calling options. Bag an old mature tom using this signature series designed to sound like the best hen in the flock.
Best Turkey Call for Smaller Mouths/Palate
Woodhaven Custom Calls Small Frame Diaphragm Turkey Call - 3 Pack
Woodhaven has the youth hunter and smaller palate adults in mind when they designed this series. All mouth calls when constructed can be trimmed to customize for each hunter's mouth. But this series gets you closer right out of the pack. Three calls in this pack. The Mini Red Scorpion is great for yelping, cutting, kees, and clucks. The Yellow Ghost gives great kees and mellow yelps with a touch of raspy. The Green "V" cut is a great all-around call.
Best Turkey Combo Mouth Call Package
FOXPRO Crooked Spur Mouth Call Combo
Get a wide range of tone, pitch, and realism with the Crooked Spur Combo 3-pack. The prophylactic reed material is stretched properly to get the most realistic sounds from your diaphragm call. The package comes with:
- Crooked Spur Black V-cut
- Crooked Spur Orange Batwing
- Crooked Spur Gray Double
Proudly made in the USA, these calls are handmade to ensure a perfect call every time out.
Primos Hunting Calls
Primos Hunting Hook Hunter Long Hook Upper Cut Turkey Mouth Call
The Long Hook Upper Cut is designed to get advanced hunters those raspy yelps they have always wanted. Reviews indicate immediate positive response right out of the package. With practice, a hunter can get great raspy sounds including yelps, clucks, and soft tree calls.
Phelps Game Calls
MEATEATER Easy Clucker Turkey Diaphragm Call
Phelps Game Calls joined forces with the Meateater crew to design a series of calls for those beginners and hunters struggling with mouth calls. This call is an entry-level call used to get medium-range raspy tones and kee-kees. This is a soft to medium volume call.
Houndstooth Game Calls
Houndstooth 3-Pack Turkey Call Combo
These are great all-around game calls for loud cutting and yelps. The package comes with:
- "V" Cut 3-Reed
- Batwing 3-Reed
- Combo Cut 3-Reed
Proudly made in the USA, these calls are custom-built by hand on a competition press to produce the exact tension needed on the mouth calls. No production presses are used. handmade to ensure a perfect call every time out.
How to Properly Store and Care for Your Diaphragm Mouth Call
If you are anything like me it's important to keep your hunting gear in top shape. I understand gear will eventually wear out and I will need to replace items, but as long as I care for my gear there is a chance I can get several uses before it goes bad.
My mouth calls are no different. I try to do my best to keep my calls in top condition for multiple hunts in a turkey season. Here are a couple of tips to keep your diaphragm mouth call in top condition.
- Always rinse the call with cold water after use, and allow it to air dry completely. Avoid using hot water or soap, as this can damage the latex and affect the sound quality. Many calls come with a separator for multi-reed calls. Use the separator after each use to help the reeds dry. If you lost your reed separators here are a couple of alternative options. Break off the tips of a plastic fork and use one or two by placing them between the reeds. Or, use a toothpick by breaking off the end and placing it between the reeds.
- Store the call in a clean, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. A plastic bag or use the hard plastic clam case the call came with to store the call between uses. The container can help protect it from dust and moisture. Many forums discuss the storage of the turkey diaphragm call in the refrigerator or freezer between uses. Just keep out of the heat to keep the latex reeds from drying out.
By following these simple steps, you can ensure your diaphragm mouth call remains in top condition for the turkey season. And maybe you will use the call next year too.
3 Diaphragm Call Organizers Every Caller Needs
Overall Rating: 4.0/5
Need to store away your clip quickly or even have a second one to grab. The hat clip works great for all-mouth calls. Mount on your hat or anywhere for easy access.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Excellent caddy to keep mouth calls handy. The pouch is made of silicon and is easy to squeeze open. Lanyard quickly connects to the caddy with a metal swivel hook. 100% polyester material
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Need to organize more calls? This Phelps organizer holds 8 calls for easy access. Need to dry out your call between uses. The organizer separates and keeps calls at your fingertips.
Best Practices to Get Great Sound from Your Mouth Call
For the beginner looking to get started with mouth calls begin with a simple and inexpensive single or double reed call like the HS Strut Raspy Old Hen. You can work on getting used to the call in your mouth, speaking with the call in your mouth, and even overcoming some gag reflexes that first-time users of a mouth call tend to have.
Once you get over the initial phases of having a call in your mouth, now you can start working on the comfort of the call and your calling. This section is a quick guide to getting the best results from a mouth call for turkey hunting. We have a comprehensive Beginners Guide to Using a Mouth Diaphragm Call guide for those looking for the basics to advanced calling information.
To begin make sure your call is placed in your mouth correctly. The open reeds must be facing forward or out of the mouth. The call will likely be flat when you pull it out of the packaging, therefore once you have it in your mouth, form the call with your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The aluminum frame material should allow a slight bend of the call to form on the roof of your mouth.
How does it feel? The purpose of starting with an inexpensive call is so you can work with the call to get comfortable and purchase a few in case you over-trim or need to modify the call for comfort. You may need to trim some of the tape from the edges or off the back of the call for better comfort and fit.
Diaphragm Calling Basics
To start the best call to make initially is a Yelp. Mitchell Johnston the owner of Dead End Game Calls and a national and state turkey-calling champion, recommends starting your calling with the Yelp sound. In an article by Dave Hurteau at Field and Stream, Mr. Johnston says "the best way to understand the yelping sound is that hens open and close their mouth when making each note". To get started say the word 'yelp' while huffing air over the call. This will remind you to open and close your mouth while the air passes over the call.
Clucking is a tricky call but effective for pulling in those toms. The cluck comes from practice using words such as "pock" or "puck" as you blow. Cutting sounds are typically several clucks that sound fast.
A purring sound can be made using a fluttering sound from your throat or tongue as air passes across the reeds.
Remember turkeys are using multiple tones and rhythms for their calling. The many parts of a turkeys call must be followed to have the right conversation. But, sometimes hunters can get lucky just focusing on one main call, the "yelp".
When practicing your call listen to the sounds of turkeys here on the NWTF website. They have a comprehensive list of turkey sounds that you can listen to while practicing your call.
The mouth call is not one you want to pick up on the way to the hunt. You want to practice your calling for weeks or months ahead of time.
To get a little more detailed explanation check out this video by Michael Waddell. He shows you a few tricks and explains the details of how to call using a mouth call for turkey hunting.
How to Incorporate Turkey Decoys with Turkey Calling
Turkey decoys are excellent distractors when calling turkeys. The turkey has excellent eyesight and hearing. Hunters often can get the attention of a turkey across the field but struggle to get the bird within shooting range.
You can get a single tom or a flock of turkeys within 40 yards by using a turkey decoy. You are making the right calls, and you sound great, but those birds just won't come close because they don't see who's calling. This is where the decoys come in handy.
No matter if you are a run-and-gun hunter hitting the wide open spaces of public land or a farm hunter in a blind, a turkey decoy will get the attention of other birds and take the attention away from you when calling.
When hunting in the open, put the decoys 20-25 yards from your position. If you can get in a good spot before the tom starts strutting in, place them away from your shooting hand so you can continue to call while setting up for the shot.
Blind hunters should put their birds 15-20 yards from the blind out in front of where they want to shoot. You want to get those gobblers within shooting range and with a shotgun that's approximately 40 yards and with a bow 15-25 yards is ideal.
If you place the decoys too far from your location, there is a chance they won't come close enough to investigate. Many times toms will hold up just outside of the shooting range if they are unsure of a situation. Take a look at our review of the Montana Decoy Turkey Decoys where we provide you with information on the decoys but also some additional tactics for hunting with decoys.
Final Thoughts on Diaphragm Turkey Calls
No turkey hunter should be out hunting without a mouth call. The basics of the call can be made when using simple turkey call-designed calls, single or double reeds are the easiest and best way to start. When starting out turkey calling, you can work your magic when the toms are out of sight using a friction-style call, but when they get close you will want to keep the action going using a mouth call.
Not the easiest call to use and get used to. But keep working at it and you will get good enough to implement this call type into your repertoire. Use the mouth call along with your other calls including a locator call, box friction call, or pot friction call you will achieve the most success.
Don't forget to incorporate your other gear into your next turkey hunt. The Shaggy Outdoor Team produced a comprehensive gear guide for turkey hunters. Check out The Ultimate Gear Guide for Turkey Hunters where we review additional products and give hunters all the information they need to be ready for this season's hunt.
The only way for you to become a better caller is to work at your skill. Every hunter struggles in the beginning. You need to practice to become the best turkey hunter possible and you need to have the right gear.
Get out there and put your efforts to the test! Happy Hunting...