Calling Turkeys: Translating and Using Calls

Calling turkeys is what makes the sport of turkey hunting exciting, effective, and safe. If you’ve never tried calling turkeys, and have instead relied solely on still hunting them, you are in for a treat.

The turkey language is a simple one to understand and replicate. Knowing it will tell you how the local turkeys feel, which calls to use, and bring a gobbler within range of your weapon.

Calling turkeys
Knowing the turkey language will help you have a successful hunt.

Callling turkeys: What the wild turkeys are saying.

The 5 most important turkey calls for turkey hunting are:

  1. Gobbles. Males use gobbles to attract a hen.
  2. Yelps. Yelps communicate a turkey’s location during the day.
  3. Clucks. Calm, reassuring sounds designed to get another bid’s attention.
  4. Cutts. Excited, dominant calls that elicit a response from another turkey.
  5. Cackles. Made by turkeys to keep track of each other as they leave the roost

Calling turkeys: Understanding gobbles.

Before we begin, remember this: Turkey hunters should never gobble. Gobbling can lead to your being mistaken for a tom by another hunter.

Understanding turkey gobbles can help you gauge the mood and motivations of a tom.

Turkeys gobble for one reason, to let hens know where they are. A gobbler expects any interested hen to come to him. He will only approach the hen if she fails to show up. The gobbler will begin his strut when the hen’s yelp sounds close enough.

If you have been using yelps to bring in this tom, you must be prepared to shoot immediately. The tom hasn’t seen a hen yet and won’t waste time calling what he believes is an uninterested hen. If you are not ideally positioned to take your shot, the gobbler will lose interest and quickly leave.

Related: How to make a turkey food plot.

What to do when a turkey stops gobbling or will not come any closer.

If you’ve been listening to a turkey gobble and gobble, but it doesn’t get any closer, there are two possible reasons.

First, it may be another turkey hunter, and you should carefully consider how effective your camouflage is before proceeding. Second, the gobbler may be unable to get past some unseen barrier. Getting a gobbler that has hung up just out of sight requires a change of tactics like using silence to wait him out or changing calling locations.

When a turkey suddenly stops gobbling, your hunt may just be getting started. While a once loud and insistent gobbler that goes suddenly quiet may have found his hen, it’s also likely he has heard your calls and begun investigating them. The only way to know the truth is to be patient and wait it out.

Assume the gobbler is approaching your calls. He will naturally move slowly, frequently stopping to listen and watch for an interested hen that he believes should be coming to his gobbles. A jake may run straight into your stand, but an adult tom will not be so foolish or desperate.

Sit back, remain motionless, and let nature take its course.

Related: How to find a wounded turkey.

Calling turkeys using turkey yelps.

There are three types of yelps female turkeys make to communicate with each other. The plain yelp when within sight of each other, the lost yelp when separated from the flock, and the assembly yelp used to bring wandering poults back to a mother hen.

The plain yelp can consist of three to ten chirps, all delivered at the same pitch and volume.

The lost yelp can consist of dozens of chirps and has a begging tone to it.

The assembly yelp is used primarily to round up wandering poults, so it is more commonly heard in the fall. It sounds like a fervent version of the plain yelp.

Using turkey yelps to hunt gobblers.

Anytime you use a female turkey call the spring, you aim to lure a gobbler into range or bring in a real hen towing a gobbler behind her.

The plain yelp is the most common call turkey hunters use during the spring mating season. With a tiny bit of practice, a simple push/pull yelper, like the Quaker Boy Easier Yelper, you can quickly call in a gobbler.

A simple calling routine begins with 3-5 low volume, soft calls and then a period of silence lasting 10-15 minutes. As your stand progresses, make your calls louder and more aggressive sounding. If a hen responds, imitate her number of chirps, volume, intensity, and frequency.

If a gobbler responds, continue calling, with periods of 10-15 minutes of silence, until it is clear he is approaching. At that point, stop calling and get ready to shoot.

If you are in the market for a professional turkey call, I recommend visiting Rush Custom Callers.

Related: The best time of day to hunt a turkey.

Calling turkeys with clucks.

Turkey clucks are often made with mouth callers and are used primarily to finish your hunt by bringing a leery gobbler into weapon range. Clucks communicate a safety message, used at low volume and infrequently enough; they work like magic.

This is a wonderful and inexpensive tool, however, it does require a lot of practice to master.

Using turkey cutts to call in a gobbler.

A turkey cutt call, to the untrained ear, sounds like a bird in distress, but it is actually made by an angry or anxious hen.

The best use of a cutt call is when a gobbler has already found a hen (or appears hung up on another obstacle) and will not come within view. Cutting in these situations can make the hen feel like she is being challenged. If you put enough pressure on her, she may become angry enough to come closer to you, even if she has a gobbler already tending to her.

Using turkey cackle calls when turkey hunting.

One of the surest ways to increase the chances of having a successful turkey hunt is to scout for where turkeys will roost the evening before your hunt. Finding a roost requires stealth, but if you spot them and quietly depart before being seen, you can slip in before sunrise the next day and call them right into your bag.

The ”Fly-Down Cackle,” using a slate or mouth call, is made by turkeys as they leave their nightly roost and ”fly down” to the ground. If you haven’t scouted the night before, you can still locate them by listening for the pre-departure tree yelps they make before leaving the roost.

The purpose of using a fly-down cackle is to make the gobbler believe an available hen is already on the ground. To do this, you must wait until the gobbler is already on the ground, lest it waits and tries to lure the hen toward himself. Once you have seen or heard the gobbler leaving its roost, begin your cackle call with a few fast cutts and clucks to imitate a hen preparing to leave the roost, then slow your rhythm and add a few yelps as the hen would after landing.

Related: Is it a jake or a tom?

Some final turkey calling tips.

Always think like a hen. A turkey hen will make as few calls as needed, and only use calls specific to a particular situation.

Understand the sounds a turkey makes and when it will make each sound.

Practice your calls long before you make your first turkey hunting stand.

Remember, you can scare a gobbler away by over-calling. Less is more, as they say.

Related: Turkey nests facts for hunters.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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