Jake and gobbler yelps: When and why during spring

Sometimes, vocalizations from male turkeys produce results when hen talk doesn’t. Learn how and when to produce these critical sounds.

Turkey callers fixate on the sounds of spring, obsessively practicing yelps, cutting, cackles and other hen vocalizations. Yet we sometimes forget about the less romantic calls of male turkeys, including jake and gobbler yelps.

And that can be a mistake.

Using jake and gobbler yelps during spring makes sense. After all, gobblers don’t always respond to hen talk, and they hear vocalizations from other male turkeys year-round. Some days or in specific situations, they might respond better to sounds from another male turkey, whether those calls trigger an aggressive response or a simple social interaction.

“I’d say it’s turned into a go-to call,” said Scott Ellis, of Mulberry, Florida, who has made 12 consecutive NWTF Grand National Calling Contest Senior Finals appearances and notched four top-five finishes, and is also a three-time GNCC Head-to-Head champion.

Ellis, who said he only learned the effectiveness of the call in the last few years, uses jake and gobbler yelps in several easily identified hunting situations.

“I jake or gobbler yelp almost any time when a gobbler hangs up and my best hen stuff isn’t working,” he said. “And honestly, I’ll use them if I notice I’m working a flock of gobblers. What I’m trying to accomplish is to make the gobbler or gobblers think a jake has slipped in the back door by his girlfriend or is possibly just trying to elicit a friendship in a bachelor group.”

Some callers might be uneasy about using jake or gobbler yelps afield, as most folks don’t practice those sounds as much as hen chatter. However, Ellis said the technique is easy.

“Slow your cadence down to where you almost feel like the yelping is half speed of what a hen would yelp,” he said, adding that his Turkey Tech app features a complete instruction for gobbler yelps. “The general rule of thumb is to also try to get a deeper ‘honking’ yelp. Go very light on the paddle of a box to achieve the deeper tone. Call in the center of any pot call, which will create that deeper sound. As for mouth calls, just drop all pressure off the call, and you can attain the proper pitch.”

Ellis is several rungs higher than me in calling knowledge and skill, but I’ve also used jake and gobbler yelps in critical situations. During a Wisconsin hunt years ago, I’d hen-yelped, cutt and clucked and purred at a henned-up longbeard for a couple of hours but hadn’t budged him. Frustrated, I began jake-yelping on a slate and combined it with excited hen yelps from a mouth call, hoping to spark a jealousy reaction. Almost immediately, the gobbler became vocal and started to drift toward me. And minutes later, he broke and walked to within easy shotgun range.

Would another tactic have worked in that situation? Maybe. But that day, jake/gobbler yelping saved the hunt. The sounds of male turkeys might let you experience similar success this season

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