What Does a Turkey Say?

Turkeys communicate using a complex vocabulary. Saying the right thing at the right time may mean the difference between securing the main course for dinner and going home empty handed.

Let’s examine 11 of the more common turkey calls and what they mean.

1. Gobble

  • The sound turkey hunters want to hear in the woods
  • Designed to attract females and repel competing males

2. Spit and drum

  • The least understood turkey call

3. Plain yelp

a.k.a. the lonesome hen yelp, even though it is given by both sexes

  • It means “Where are you” and can be used any time turkeys are separated
  • Can be made to a gobbler at any time when hunting

4. Tree yelp

  • Given by both sexes in all seasons from the roost
  • This is a reassuring call, meant to communicate with other turkeys roosted nearby
  • Excellent to use with a roosted gobbler at first light, but a gobbler may not answer and instead fall all the way to the source of the call

5. Lost yelp

  • Both sex adults give this call as they attempt to reassemble after being scattered
  • The yelp increases in urgency from note to note, with a perceptible rise in pitch

6. Assembly yelp

  • Raspy call poults become familiar with within the first two days after hatching
  • Loud assembly yelping in early season is very good on unseasoned gobblers

7. Cackle

  • 10-15 irregularly spaced notes given as turkeys fly down from roost, cross stems or fly over fences

8. Purrs

  • A soft sound made by members of the flock as they travel and feed
  • Used to maintain contact with the flock
  • Loud and rapid purrs may signal aggression as turkeys battle for dominance

9. Plain cluck

  • A median pitch call usually given singly or in a short series of two or three
  • Both hens and gobblers use these to signal “come here” to other turkeys

10. Alarm putt

  • Sharp clucks followed by purrs are not as serious of a warning as putts followed by silence
  • Denotes alarm and communicates the message to other turkeys

11. Kee Kee

  • High pitched whistling notes
  • Most commonly used when lost or scattered young turkeys seek to regroup
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