As you head to the turkey woods this spring, it's a good idea to remember that turkeys communicate using a reasonably complicated vocabulary. Using the right calls to sweet talk that wary Old Tom into range is essential as a hunter. And, it can mean the difference between celebrating with a great-tasting dinner or walking home empty-handed.
There are 11 common turkey vocalizations that the turkey hunter should become intimately familiar with:
1. The Gobble
- This is the sound we're all after in the spring turkey woods.
- Male turkeys use this call to attract females, repel competing males, and let competitors know that they're the boss.
2. The Plain Yelp
This is thought of commonly as a call that the hen will make when looking for a Tom. However, both sexes of turkeys yelp.
- Effectively, it means, "Where are you?" In the flock, it will often be used any time turkeys are separated from one another.
- As a turkey hunter, this call can be made to a gobbler at just about any time when hunting.
3. The Tree Yelp
- The Tree Yelp is a reassuring call. It's meant to communicate with other turkeys roosted nearby. It essentially means, "Good morning. We're over here."
- Given by both sexes in all seasons from the roost.
- Excellent to use with a roosted gobbler at first light. But, remember, a gobbler may not answer might just fall all the way to the source of the call - so be ready!
4. The Lost Yelp
- Adults of both sexes can make this call as they attempt to find one another after being scattered.
- The yelp commonly increases in urgency from note to note, with a perceptible rise in pitch.
5. The Assembly Yelp
- Poults (newly born turkeys) become familiar with the sound of this call within the first two days after hatching.
- Using this raspy call loudly is an excellent tool for working gobblers in the early season - especially if they haven't been pressured.
6. Fly Down / Fly Up Cackle
- These 10 to 15 irregularly-spaced notes are often given as turkeys fly down from the roost.
- It can also be heard when turkeys of either sex cross streams or fly over fences.
7. The Purr
- These soft sounds are made by members of the flock as they travel and feed.
- These soft calls are used to maintain contact with the flock.
- Loud and rapid purring may signal aggression as turkeys battle for dominance.
8. The Plain Cluck
- This is a median pitch call usually given singly or in a short series of two or three at a time.
- Both hens and gobblers use these calls to signal "come here" to other turkeys.
9. The Alarm Putt
- Communicates a message of alarm to other nearby turkeys.
- Sharp clucks followed by purrs are not as serious of a warning as putts followed by silence.
10. Kee Kee / Kee Kee Run
- High pitched whistling notes.
- Most commonly used when scattered or lost young turkeys seek to regroup.
- The woot/woot/woot of the Kee Kee followed by a yelp is widely referred to as the Kee Kee Run.
11. Spitting & Drumming
- Least well-understood of the wild turkey vocalizations.
- It can be challenging for humans to hear beyond 100 yards, even in the best conditions.
- Gobbler's beak opens slightly, giving a brief "tick" or "pffft" sound.
- The body feathers audibly shudder as the bird emits a low-pitched "duuuum," or drum sound that begins low and increases in both tone and volume at the end.
- Many hunters fail to hear or recognize these three sounds even when a bird is close.