How to Owl Call for Turkey Locating

How to owl call for turkey locating
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If you’re new or unfamiliar with turkey hunting, you may have seen an owl call in the store and thought, “why would anybody want to call in an owl?” It’s against the law to shoot owls!

Even knowing that they are used in turkey hunting, you may wonder why and how. How do you use owl call for turkey hunting? Are turkeys attracted to owls?

Let me answer all these questions for you. Additionally, I’ll share with you the best owl locator calls for turkeys.

Why Do Turkeys Respond to Owl Calls?

When a tom turkey hears an owl call, he may respond back with a gobble. This gobble is known to turkey hunters as a “shock gobble.”

Nobody truly knows why turkeys shock gobble. Many believe that the tom is so “wound up” with hormones at this time of year, that any loud noise causes him to sound off.

Regardless of the reason, turkeys will shock gobble not only to owl calls, but also to crows, coyotes, geese, and woodpeckers. In addition, they will gobble at other sounds, such as car horns, doors slamming, dogs barking, and thunder. Basically, any loud noise may get a turkey to sound off during the spring breeding season.

Toms tend to be more responsive to owl calls when they are still on the limb in the morning. Proximity seems to matter as well. The closer the noise is to the tom, the more likely the tom is to shock gobble after he hears it.

Using an owl call for turkey locating allows the hunter to get the tom to give away his position without attracting the tom or keeping him up in the roost waiting.

How To Use an Owl Call for Turkey Locating

A distinguishing characteristic of turkey hunting is the ability to locate your game by sound. Turkeys can be heard from a long distance. Locator calls prompt the gobbler to give his location away.

Most hunters don’t want a turkey heading toward them when they are not set up and ready for the turkey. Many don’t want to hen call too much to a gobbler roosted in a tree either.

That’s why a call such as an owl call or crow call is so useful. It allows the hunter to get the tom to give away his position without attracting the tom or keeping him up in the roost waiting.

Owl calls work best in the early morning and in the late evening. It can be a useful call when you are trying to roost a gobbler. There are some who believe that an owl call is effective even later in the morning as it surprises the tom.

To locate a turkey using an owl call, use the cadence “who cooks for you, who cooks for ya’ll” to imitate a barred owl. You may want to learn some variations of this including the “laugh.” You can try these variations if the traditional call is not working for you.

In my opinion, you don’t need to worry about being super realistic. As I mentioned earlier, turkeys will shock gobble at all sorts of sounds.

Your first call doesn’t need to be super loud. Start a little bit softer. If you don’t get a response, amp your calling up a bit. If you’re still not hearing anything, blow that call for all you’re worth.

If you don’t locate a turkey from your first calling location, move through the woods blowing your call as you crest a new ridge or travel a hundred yards or so. The idea is to locate the tom before you accidentally walk under his roost tree.

When you are hunting with a partner, have him stand about 15 or 20 yards behind you. He will be able to hear a gobbler responding to your owl call easier because the owl call is not polluting his hearing as much.

What is the Best Owl Locator Call for Turkeys?

1) Real Owls

I don’t like owls. I have had bad experiences with them. I once had an owl hit me in the head with his talons when I was running in the early morning.

Another time, I was turkey hunting. I sat down under a tree and pulled out my favorite pot call. At about that time, an owl decided to relieve himself right on the aluminum surface of my call.

While these experiences have left a bad taste for owls in my mouth, I have to admit that they can be helpful when hunting. In locations where there are a lot of owls, I will let them do the locating calls for me.

If I hear an owl hooting, I will stop and listen closely. Often, a gobbler will answer right back.

It turns out, that real owls can make really good owl sounds. Therefore, I suggest letting them do the calling if they’re so inclined.

2) Your Natural Voice

There are a lot of guys who can hoot with just their natural voices. Making an owl call for turkey locating with just your mouth is great because you don’t have to carry another call with you.

You’ve probably already got a box call, a couple of pot calls, and some mouth calls with you. Throw in a crow call or a gobble tube and you’re loaded down. It’s nice to have one less call in the vest.

You can save the money you would’ve spent on the owl call on something else.

3) Hook’s Custom Calls Harrison Hoot’n Stick

If you can’t make a realistic owl sound with your own voice, fret not. The Harrison Hoot’n Stick by Hook’s is easy to use and sounds just like the real thing.

At under 40 dollars, it’s an affordable locator call that gets the job done.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to James Harrison himself playing one in this video.

4) Primos Hunting Hoot Flute

If you’re looking for an economical owl call for turkey hunting, the Hoot Flute by Primos fits the bill.

This thing is so simple and easy to play that you can probably blow it effectively on the first try. You can cover a different number of holes with your hand or finger to generate different tones.

Most importantly, this owl call is loud to generate plenty of shock gobbles for you.


Now you know why and how to use an owl call for turkey hunting. Effective use of locating calls is another tool in the tool bag for the turkey hunter.

There are plenty of good owl calls manufactured that can be purchased at a decent price. However, if you can learn to hoot with your own mouth it will not only save you money and space in your vest but also makes for a great party trick.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like reading my article on using gobble calls.

Ron is a small business owner with a passion for hunting. He has been hunting both public and private land in Georgia all his life. He also travels around the country pursuing big game, waterfowl, and turkeys.