Can You Make These Essential Turkey Sounds?
If you’ve been turkey hunting long enough, you’ve probably been in a situation where the birds just didn’t want to cooperate. Even if the conditions were perfect, your decoys were ultra-realistic, and your turkey calling was flawless, sometimes gobblers are just too smart or more stubborn than we would prefer. On the other hand, sometimes we still get the upper hand. If you know what the various turkey sounds mean and how to replicate them with good turkey calls, you have a very good chance of enticing them to come closer. With a little luck, they’ll hopefully get within shooting range and allow you to make a shot. Here are some of the basic turkey sounds that you’ll hear in the woods, as well as what they mean and how we can use them to get the best of that old longbeard.
Four Basic Turkey Sounds
Some people downplay wild turkeys, calling them bird-brained and foolish. And they may be a bit naïve in areas where they haven’t been hunted much in the past. But if you’ve hunted pressured gobblers before (i.e., the southeast), you know that’s not the case. They seem to have almost a sixth sense that warns them when hunters are trying to kill them. And that can be really frustrating.
While nearly everyone knows about the turkey gobble, these birds regularly produce a huge range of turkey sounds and can communicate very different meanings with different turkey calls. Many of them sound very similar to us, but changing the inflection of one note might mean something very different to a turkey. That being said, here are the four most common turkey vocalizations that they make in the wild and what they mean. Also, we’ll discuss how you can use them to keep gobblers interested and hopefully help you seal the deal.
A turkey cluck is probably the most basic turkey sound out there. It involves only a single, short note or it can be delivered in a three-note series. Turkeys usually cluck at one another to get their attention and reassure that they notice each other.
How to Use Them:
Turkey clucks are very useful in your bag of hunting tricks because it is such an easy call to master, yet it can do a lot for you for enticing a gobbler to come in. With call-shy birds, you can stealthily let out a few soft clucks with a turkey mouth call to reassure a gobbler without overcalling and spooking them. They also don’t take much effort on a box call or slate call because the movement is so minimal.
A turkey yelp is one of the most basic turkey sounds, and one of the most produced and effective turkey hunting calls as well. Turkeys use it to communicate many different things, depending on how the call is delivered. Basically, turkey yelping consists of a single note but can be combined in a short or long series of notes. Gobblers tend to use lower-pitched, drawn-out notes in their yelps, while hens will often yelp in a series of shorter, higher-pitched notes. Louder yelps spaced close together generally mean that a turkey is excited about something – it’s not an alarm call, but it might mean they are angry about an intruding bird or something to that effect. In the fall, hens will often use an assembly call of sorts, which sounds more like a “yawp” than a yelp. After getting separated, a hen will usually use this call to get all of her brood back together again.
How to Use Them:
There are a few ways you can use this turkey call in a hunting scenario and they belong in any essential turkey calling guide. In the spring when gobblers are chasing hens around, softer yelps and fewer of them can imitate a lone hen. In the fall, gobbler calls attract other gobblers while hen calls attract other hens. Try using lower-pitched, drawn-out yelps to attract a tom. Or as mentioned above, you can also use assembly “yawps” to bring other hens into range, since you can usually legally shoot hens in the fall. This is really useful when you run in and bust up a flock, and then quickly set up and use the assembly call to bring them back in.
A turkey cutt is essentially a really loud, excited, sharply-delivered cluck. It is forceful, agitated, and very noticeable. Many people think that a cutt is a turkey in distress sound because that is honestly what it sounds like. But turkeys cutt when they are excited or angry, not usually when they are alarmed. Hens may use it when fighting with each other or when they are stressed.
How to Use Them:
Cutting is definitely one of those turkey sounds that can be very useful in certain tricky hunting situations. For example, when a gobbler is hung up out of range with another hen, it can be nearly impossible to draw him away from her. But when you cutt at them, the hen may feel threatened and want to fight with the intruding hen (aka, you). This is especially true with boss hens on your property. When you hear another hen cutting at you, you can use those same excited, loud cutts or yelps to cut her off, which might be enough to draw her into range and therefore drag the gobbler with.
Most people don’t realize that birds can purr, but turkeys absolutely do. It is a short, staccato rolling of soft notes, often paired with a cluck. As far as female turkey sounds go, hens usually purr when they are content and feeding. Purrs can be used as they move through a woodlot, for example, just to keep in touch. Gobblers also produce a fighting purr, but this is very different sounding and has a definitely different meaning. Fighting purrs are usually very loud and agitated sounding and used when two toms are sizing each other up or sparring.
How to Use Them:
When you have some hen decoys out, especially those in a feeding position, the cluck and purr can add a lot of realism to your decoy set. It is a soft, reassuring sound for a gobbler to hear, and it might be the thing he needs to finally commit and come into shooting range. The best turkey calls to make a purr depend a lot on your own calling skills. Many hunters can use a diaphragm call to quietly roll a purring sound with no problem, while others like to use a slate call/pot call.
Regardless of where you prefer to hunt turkeys, knowing these four basic turkey sounds will help you tremendously. Know what they mean, how to perfectly make them, and when to use them for the best shot this spring.