How to Call Turkeys Using Owl Hooters, Crow Calls, and Friction Calls (Episode 377 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: Missouri’s deer season recently ended and I’m always a little sad this time of year cause I love deer hunting. But one thing that cheers me up is knowing turkey season is just around the corner.

GRANT: Seeing the occasional tom strut already in food plots makes me know turkey season will be here really soon.

GRANT: You got him.

GRANT: Some of my favorite memories have occurred during turkey season. I think I enjoy turkey hunting so much because it’s a very interactive sport. Making calls, changing positions, popping up decoys – all while that turkey is gobbling just over the ridge and trying to cut the distance to get him in range.

GRANT: This time of year between deer and turkey season is a great time to practice turkey calls. I don’t have a musical ear. So, I struggle a little bit when I’m practicing knowing if I’m hitting the notes right. That’s where helpful hints from a good friend like James Harrison can really help me and you with our turkey calling techniques. James happens to be the multi-time world champion locater turkey caller.

GRANT: So, when you started making the hooter – I mean just, you know, how did you come up with that design? How’d you even get something like that?

JAMES: You know, I started – you know, what spurred it was I, I competition called for years with my natural voice. And so I just started slowly building and designing an owl hooter. You know, I had four years in the design and development of this one, so, I’ve thrown probably hundreds, if not, a thousand of ‘em away – different designs that I didn’t like. I’d take them to contests, blow ‘em, practice a little bit. Be like, “Nope. That’s not the sound.” And then once I got the design – it actually came to me laying in bed, I jumped up, wrote it down cause I was, like, “I don’t want to forget this in the morning.” Wrote it down, went to work, put it all together and that was it.

JAMES: So, I had four years into that. But then, once I got a design and went to the contest hitting it, running it, liking it, I thought, “You know, this is a call that I could produce and sell to the general public.” So guys could, you know, have a good quality owl hooter out there.

JAMES: Usually, the way I look at it, you get one really good design in your lifetime on a call and I think the crow call – I mean the owl hooter was it. But then, last year when we started messing with the deer grunters, I think we – I think I’ve been blessed enough to get two of ‘em out of the deal there. You know?

GRANT: James invented and is known for his Hoot’n Stick. So, there’s no better guy to teach us how to run that call than James Harrison.

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GRANT: Cold and cloudy today. It really doesn’t feel like turkey hunting weather, but my good friend, James Harrison stopped by. World champion owl hooter; great turkey hunter. So, I want to pick his brain and give us some set ups here at The Proving Grounds. James, thanks for coming by.

JAMES: Hey, thanks for having me out today.

GRANT: So, it’s unlikely I’d let a turkey killer like you on The Proving Grounds during turkey season. But just say you did come by during turkey season. We’d probably start right here.

JAMES: Right.

GRANT: And I wanted you just share with me – you know, we’re here before daylight and it’s kind of getting about right. What would you do to locate a tom from here?

JAMES: First, I’m just gonna ease in there. I’m gonna do some soft owl hooting. You don’t want to get real aggressive right off the roost because you may have birds just right off the hill and you don’t want to – turkeys – they’re, they live in the woods 24/7. They know what an owl sounds like. So, if you get in there and blast ‘em, you may spook them and they may not say a word to you. So, I’m gonna start off with just some soft hoots.

GRANT: Sounds awesome, man.

JAMES: And just let you listen. I’ll get you back away from me about 15 yards. That way if a bird does gobble, you can pinpoint his direction.

GRANT: Yeah. A lot of times that bird will “cut the call” as we call it or gobble while the call is still going on. And if you’re blowing you’re obviously not gonna hear that. That’s what I like to do when I’m hunting is say, “Hey, James, I didn’t hear anything, but I’m gonna step over the ridge here a little bit.” And I go kill the turkey while you’re still up here calling.

JAMES: That’s right. (Laughter) That happens all the time. I’ve seen it.

GRANT: Oh, man. Yeah. Yeah.

GRANT: Okay. It’s a little slow. I’ve tried to gar hole ya and put you where there’s no turkeys at. But you’re thinking, “Man, I’m gonna reach out and get another turkey to fire up somewhere.” What are you gonna do next?

JAMES: Well, on the lines of the owl hooter, I’m gonna pick it up and I’m gonna be a little more aggressive with it. I really want to get loud and get that bird to, attention and get him to gobble. So, I’ll…

JAMES: I’ll get real aggressive. Start laughing, doing a lot of excited laughs and stuff like owls do when they’re coming together to try to get that bird to shot gobble back at me.

GRANT: Man, that sounded awesome. So, James is a little bit modest. But James actually built this call. He’s multi-time world champion owl hooter and he builds the Harrison Hoot’n Stick. So, tell me a little bit about how you’re using that. How you’re running it.

JAMES: Okay.

GRANT: Because, I mean, you’re the master of it.

JAMES: All right. Well, basic, simple. I like, I like to hold the call like I’m saying the word – just “okay”.


JAMES: And then I lay my three fingers down here like this. And my bottom hand, I’m just cupping it.

GRANT: Okay.

JAMES: Just like that.


JAMES: I’m not holding it tight. I always kind of figure it’s like you’re holding a baby chicken. You don’t want to squish it. You just want to hold him. And then, I’m just huffing into the call.

JAMES: I had the back pressure built in the call with the two exit holes so you don’t have to blow as hard.

GRANT: Gotcha.

JAMES: A lot of guys overblow the call and they try to put too much air through it and they try to choke it off. That’s your two things. I tell people a lot when they’re hunting…

GRANT: Yeah.

JAMES: …and practicing – just start with this. And once you get the pressure right, then add your hand.

GRANT: Oh that sounds good. And easy.

JAMES: Easy. Just…

GRANT: I’ve had some owl hooters in the past that, you know, you had to get your body in contortions and do everything and try to get a sound out of it. That’s looking good.

JAMES: Thank you.

GRANT: Again, when you open it up a little bit, you’re getting a lot more volume.

JAMES: Yes. And when you open it up, you can actually do the laugh. When you see me doing my laughs, I’m opening it up and I’m putting a little more pressure to get the high pitch sound so you can.

GRANT: You know, James. I’m kind of a basic owl hooter type guy. But I’ve always been envious of you. I wanta do that roll at the end. How do you get that roll sound?

JAMES: Okay. The, the roll is for me – I – you can – there’s two ways you can do it. You can either roll your tongue and go hrrrrrr. Or you can roll your throat. Almost like you’re gargling.

JAMES: Now, I roll my throat to slow it down a little bit so ya. So, basically, I’m going rrrrrrrrr into the call. If you would do it with your tongue, you go.

GRANT: It’s faster. I noticed that.

JAMES: A little faster. Yeah. Your tongue is gonna be faster than your throat because your tongue is hard to slow down at that speed.

GRANT: Let’s just say we didn’t strike anything here. We’ve got another plot over here on a ridge top like this we call North Boom. Y’all have seen it a bunch of times. We’re gonna get in the buggy and scoot around over there. Maybe take 30 minutes; do a little prospecting when we get over there. Now, it’s daylight. You still gonna blow the hooter?

JAMES: Yes. Yes. I will still hit the hooter. I’ll get out. A hooter is a subtle call so if there’s a bird in close, we ain’t gonna spook him. Owls hoot all day long, so I’ll get out. If that doesn’t fire him up, then I’ll get more aggressive, start a few laughs and then I can switch over to a crow call or something from there.

GRANT: Okay. Crow call. That’s the tool I use a lot.

JAMES: Okay.

GRANT: Tell me about crow calling. How do you do crow calling?

JAMES: Crow calling. Basically, I – it’s kind of the same way with owl hooting. You don’t want to start out over aggressive. You just want to start out blowing it. Try to get that bird to gobble. And there’s, there’s some logic behind not calling too much with a crow call ‘cause I may need to locate him two or three times if he’s in a different spot. So, I don’t want to overblow it and spook him on it. So, I just.

GRANT: So that call is loud. I’m standing here – I, it’s loud, folks. What makes that call so loud?

JAMES: Well, on the, on the Harrison Crow Call, when I cut and designed it, I opened up the inside chambers and opened up the bells in back, so you’re getting more air through the call so you can push a call and get it loud.

GRANT: Because I was noticing, you weren’t like, you know, blowing your cheeks out, getting the frog look or something like that. (Laughter) You were just putting a little bit of pressure, but it had a lot of, lot of noise coming out of there.

JAMES: Right. A little pressure and then – I built it that way because most guys for crow calls, they want to locate birds and we want to reach as far as we can. So, loud. You can call soft on this call and you can get aggressive on it. So, if you want to hit it soft, you get. Want to get a little louder? I’ll.

GRANT: Pretty good chance you’ll see James and I hunting together this spring. Clearly, he’s a lot better caller than me, so I feel obligated to carry the shotgun and let James carry the calls.

JAMES: Sounds good to me.

GRANT: All right.

JAMES: That’s a deal.

GRANT: Hey, if you’d like some more instruction from James, you can go to the Hook’s Custom Call website and he’s got some YouTube videos on there about how to run the calls or order the calls right there at that site. There’s no doubt James is an exceptionally skilled woodsman and an expert turkey hunter.

GRANT: If you’d like to visit with James, he’ll be at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

GRANT: Once you’ve located a gobbler, you’ve got to close that distance by striking up a conversation. It’s time to get out the calls.

GRANT: Another friend of mine, world friction call champion Steve Morgenstern, stopped by The Proving Grounds to share some of his tips with us.

GRANT: So, Steve, let’s just start with, how do we take care of a call? I mean, if we don’t take care of it, it’s not gonna sound good out in the woods.

STEVE: Right. The problem we get is people throwing ‘em, getting in a hurry, throwing ‘em up on the dashboard of their truck. What happens there – that sunlight or heat that generates in a vehicle is hard on ‘em.

GRANT: It could actually change the shape slightly or the sound of the call.

STEVE: It, it, it actually could. And the, the moisture in the air, the heat, the cold. Otherwise, you know, I just make sure it’s in, in a good cool, dry place that’s not gonna have a lot of heat or a lot of cold. And, uh, kind of a room temperature…

GRANT: Okay.

STEVE: …is what I look for.

GRANT: So, off season keep it in your closet or somewhere like that where the humidity is controlled.

STEVE: Yeah. Just take care of it.

GRANT: Steve also spent some time sharing how he conditions his call to make sure it works perfectly.

GRANT: Steve, I – you know, some of my buddies have told me to scratch a call sideways or only up and down or use 80 grit sandpaper or never use 80 grit sandpaper. How do you condition your call?

STEVE: On a glass call, what I – I like a, a stone is what they call it. It’s, it’s like a sharpening stone. They have conditioning sticks. Everybody, you know, finds or comes up with conditioning sticks. And as far as back and forth, up and down. You know, I’ve played with ‘em for 20 plus years. I go back and forth from side to side and that’s what I use on all my glass or crystal type calls.

STEVE: Just take that stone and just moderate pressure back and forth across that. And then you’ve got your grooves when you’re playing the call that goes.

GRANT: Okay. So, when you’ve done that, you wipe it on your pants or something to take that dust off there?

STEVE: Usually what I do is blow on it.

GRANT: Okay.

STEVE: Just blow that dust off.

GRANT: Do you want to keep the dust off the end of your peg?

STEVE: Dust off the end of the peg. What I normally do is have a little Scotch-Brite pad. I don’t sand my pegs normally – the ends of ‘em. Because eventually, you will sand the length of it down and it’ll change sounds.

GRANT: Okay.

STEVE: So, what I normally do is just take a Scotch-Brite pad and take the, take the dust off of the end of the peg.

GRANT: Once it’s conditioned, it’s time to make some calls. But before that striker ever hits the call, you need to think about how you’re holding the pot to get the optimum sound.

STEVE: What I do is I get that call up on my fingertips. That gives you a little bit of a chamber underneath for that sound to come out and kind of work out. Plus, you can take and, and move that up and down to change that pitch and tone that you’re getting out of that call.

STEVE: The peg wise – get it like you would a pencil. You have to have an angle. Put your angle on there. You can rest your hand right on that call.

GRANT: Okay.

STEVE: It’s not gonna make any difference. Don’t, don’t be afraid and think you have to hold it up here and not touch it. Because it won’t change.

GRANT: Okay.

STEVE: Rest it to where you can be solid, get your angle right and you’ll be good.

GRANT: Start us with some basic calls. What’s the, what’s the first basic sound a guy ought to really know how to do on a pot call?

STEVE: That’s gonna be a cluck and a yelp. Okay. Your cluck – what you’re gonna do is you’ve got the call up on your fingertips, your hand rested. Lay that down. That call – or that peg has to be at a angle to where it will grip the surface of the call. Okay?

STEVE: Then all’s you’re gonna do is you’re gonna pop that peg. That’s all your doing is just popping it. Now when you bring that peg back, don’t lift it up. Okay? Don’t. ‘Cause you’re getting a click. You’re getting an extra sound. Leave it right on the surface. Just pop it and bring it right back to where you start with. Pop it. Right back to where you start with.

GRANT: And turkeys – you know, you’re calling, so they’re super sensitive already. That click could be the difference between the tom coming in and standing out there 80 yards, saying, “What the heck is going on?”

GRANT: So, that’s our basic cluck. Now, take us another step in the cluck world.

STEVE: Okay. When you get into a little more excitement, you know, and you want to really start firing birds up and you get into the cutting part. Cutting is nothing more than clucks put into a rhythm. A little more of a excited rhythm. Okay? Same principle. You start, pop it, bring it back, pop it. But what you’re doing is that bird is more excited. You’re trying to generate excitement. You want to speed those clucks up and vary ‘em a little bit.

STEVE: So, here’s what you have – cluck.

GRANT: Man, that sounds good.

STEVE: It’s just – yeah, it, it’s, it’s a rhythm. The cutting rhythm, but it still goes back to a basic cluck.

STEVE: Your yelps – you’re still not gonna pick your, your striker up. You’re gonna leave it on there. Yelp consists of – to simply put it – a high and a low note. Okay?

GRANT: Two notes.

STEVE: Two notes. But, if you start by going in like an oval or a circle. Okay? You get your high note coming across and a low note when you come down.

GRANT: So, do a little calling for us now. And what I want to do here – we’re just gonna run some footage, so you can replay this part and practice at home. So, start simple and just give us a couple of calls here.

STEVE: Okay. So, I’m just gonna basic cluck. Here’s what we’re doing. Clucking.

STEVE: Okay. Now, I’m gonna throw in some clucks and yelps. Just putting the two together.

STEVE: And when you’re gonna get a little more excited, you’re just speeding stuff up. Just remember you have to play with the pressure that you use and play with the speed of the – of the, of your rhythm. The more excited you get, the more pressure you’re probably gonna put on it; the more you need to speed it up, what have ya. But get a little more excited.

STEVE: Still basics. You’re clucking and yelping. Then when you’re – if you’re locating birds, cutting is a good deal to locate also, besides just firing ‘em up. But get to cutting.

STEVE: Throw some yelps.

GRANT: Man, that sounds good.

STEVE: There it is.

GRANT: Steve’s been building calls, literally, for a long time. He’s on the Hook’s Custom Call Pro Staff – known as “The Friction Guy”. Obviously, the world champion. So, I asked Steve to build us a call that was simple to run. Can run it under pressure, but sounded great. Clearly, this call sounds great. Steve, tell me about what you got there.

STEVE: Okay. What we did is – we wanted to take an extra step; go another step above a basic wood pot. So, what we did is we laminated some different choice woods together – different hardwoods to make – come up with a combination for the pot or the cup. Then, we put a crystal surface in it with an aluminum sound board, adjusted things, played with it until we got the sound that we wanted. The aluminum kind of brings some life to it; the crystal brings that pleating high end to it. And then you adjust things to where it makes it easy for everybody to play.

STEVE: And there’s absolutely a difference in, you know, in a high end call versus, say, a low end call. Nothing wrong with the low ends. But there’s stuff that you can do and, and accomplish with a high end wood pot turkey call that is just above and beyond what you expect. And a response from turkeys, you know, with the sounds that you get out of ‘em is, is pretty amazing.

GRANT: Hey, you know, I only have a few days to turkey hunt, so when I’m out there, I’ll, I need to make sure I can do as good a job of attracting toms as I can.

STEVE: Absolutely.

GRANT: I’m gonna be scratching on that call in south Florida where it’s gonna be a whole lot warmer in about a month.

GRANT: I’m extra excited this year because there are quite a few turkeys to chase here at The Proving Grounds. We’ve had several good hatches during the past couple years, even with some weather conditions that weren’t all that favorable. Certainly, the average number of poults per hen is above the average for the state of Missouri. And I think a big part of this is due to our intensive trapping program.

DANIEL: Well, it’s a great day here at The Proving Grounds and we got another coyote in the Duke #4. This location had a lot of things going for it. Of course, we had our Reconyx camera on a small hidey hole food plot just out in front of us. A lot of coyotes we’ve seen have been cutting across the food plot, coming around in the corner and coming right down the road.

DANIEL: It was an intersection of the food plot, the road and another added factor. This time of year, we have a lot of north winds. Of course, north is right here. North wind, blowing scent right across the road. Right where coyotes are traveling and it’s no surprise we got a coyote in this trap.

DANIEL: Well, this is our third coyote of the year. We’ve got about a week left of Missouri’s trapping season. So, we’re gonna reset this Duke and, hopefully, another coyote will be in it soon.

GRANT: Unfortunately, Missouri’s trapping season ends relatively early compared to other states. But I was thrilled to see another coyote be removed from The Proving Grounds during the last couple of days.

GRANT: Recently, I’d shared that I’d found the carcass of a hit list buck we called Peaches.

GRANT: Yesterday, I saw two immature bald eagles in a tree right over here. And they kept coming and going. So, I knew something was dead below it, but I didn’t have time to go check it out. I found Peaches.

GRANT: My daughter, Rae, actually shot at Peaches during the muzzleloader season and nicked him. But I knew from the footage, it wasn’t a mortal wound. Peaches, obviously, had a very non-typical antler on his right side.

GRANT: Once our taxidermist, Pete, had cleaned Peaches’ skull, it was obvious my assumptions were correct. It looked like someone took a bottle of acid and poured around the antler base. You can actually see daylight through the skull where the brain abscess had created so much acid, it eroded away some of the skull bones. Before I recovered Peaches, I assumed this malformed rack was caused by a brain abscess.

GRANT: Brain abscesses are rarely fast acting. In fact, bucks will typically grow one or two sets that have normal antlers on one side – or maybe even both – depending on the location of the brain abscess.

GRANT: I am glad those eagles were circling and I found Peaches so we could put some closure to this story versus just not seeing him next year and wondering what happened.

GRANT: If there’s a buck on your property that has a very non-typical rack on one side and you see him for a couple of years and all of a sudden, he just disappears, there’s a chance that buck died from a brain abscess.

GRANT: Hey, if you’re itching to learn more about deer hunting or management techniques, or you want some hands-on practice with turkey locater calls, both Daniel and James will be giving seminars at the Bucks+Beards+Bass Expo in Cape Girardeau, Missouri March 3rd and 4th. Stop by, visit with those boys and get ready for the best season of your life.

GRANT: Hey, whether you’re still running your trap line or practicing your turkey call, each day take time to enjoy Creation. But most importantly, slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.