The Woodsman Magazine

Leave a Wake Up Call! Shock Calling Toms

By Bob & Ginny Riege        

            Imitating the voice of a wild turkey is the essence of turkey hunting.  You cannot consistently stalk a wild turkey you have to make him come to you.  That is fine, but what happens if the tom that you are hunting has been hunted before, or disturbed enough by human presence that he has decided to have a case of lockjaw and will not respond?

            Every turkey hunter should be able to imitate the plain yelp, lost yelp and the cluck.  These three calls are used in the spring and the fall to locate turkeys.  One call that very few hunters have perfected is the "shock call."  The shock call is a unique sound that gets that old tom "fired up" enough to call back and reveal his location.  The shock call is something that a turkey hunter should start thinking about especially if you are not hunting the first day of the first season for turkeys.

            Shock call was first introduced to me by accident.  A couple of years ago my hunting partner, Gary and I, put some turkeys to bed one evening and we planned on returning to this area to set up the next morning, before the predawn fly down of the turkeys.  That evening we studied maps and listened to the latest turkey tapes and tried to perfect our calls to sound like the ones coming from the stereo system in Gary's motor home.

            The next morning we awoke to a pouring rain and poor visibility.  The only good thing was that the rain would keep the noise we made coming into these turkeys at a minimum.  As we started for our positions, suddenly the rain stopped and the woods became so still that it could have been used for a T.V. commercial for the latest phone company.  I made my way to a predetermined position just below a ridge where we figured the turkeys roosted.  I didn't want to start calling like a hen right away, but I needed to know where those turkeys were located.

            As I sat, there at the base of the oak tree, I let out my best owl hoot.  The response from the ridge was total silence.  In fact, I almost apologized for waking up the rest of the woods with my hoot.  I waited, for about five minutes and then repeated my call.  Still no response.  Then as the light of dawn started to make it's way into the forest, I heard a cackle of a rooster pheasant.  Almost immediately in response to the pheasant a big Tom on the roost gobbled back in defiance at this upland intruder.

            I was really amazed, because this Tom was only about 25 feet ahead of where I was sitting.  This was probably one of the best lessons I learned that day.  Shock calling, did work.  Many times a hunter will try to sound like an owl or a crow to get the turkeys to respond, but I didn't realize that they responded to pheasant cackles.  With a little research on this topic, I discovered that turkeys have been known to call back at even the sound of a car door slamming.  Although I don't profess that when you are out turkey hunting that you try this, but you might listen during your scouting trips to the environment that you will be hunting.

            The second time I was introduced to this was a few years ago while hunting turkeys in Eastern Wisconsin.  I was hunting with Ron Gehrke who runs a guide service called Spurs of Wisconsin out of Coon Valley, WI.  We had hiked up a bluff in the pre dawn morning and as we set up he began to call.  He tried a number of techniques including a "Fly down" call that I can honestly say scared me to death, especially when he was located right behind me and I didn't know what he was doing. 

            We had tried just about every thing and the forest started to become light, still no response from some toms that we knew were roosting nearby.  Ron motioned to me and then he picked up a large branch from the forest floor and smacked it across a large oak that was standing.  The loud crack was quickly responded to by an extra loud gobble from the roost area.  The toms were just where they were the night before.  After the initial "shock call" a couple more turkeys became more vocal in the woods.

            If you are going to be hunting in an area that has had some pressure from turkey hunters.  Or if the environment in this area has other animals that turkeys seem to respond to such as a mallard duck, a woodpecker, or the pheasant, then utilize these calls as locator calls rather than the old stand-by owl or crow calls.

            Calling practice is required, but turkeys are less critical of your calling than are other hunters.  The best thing to do though is listen.  You will learn more by listening in the woods and trying to duplicate the call, especially if you have to "shock call " one.


Photo Caption:  To get a response from a turkey you might resort to a “shock call”.  Photo submitted by Ginny Riege

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