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Thread: Turkey Talk...What does it all mean?

  1. #1

    Default Turkey Talk...What does it all mean?

    Hey T.R.,

    What are the differences and explanations of all the turkey calls we hear out in the woods? At least with myself, there are many calls that I hear and throw out...but what do they really mean?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Vinegar Ridge near Houston, MN.

    Post Turkey Talk`

    Pat,, check this out. You can skip the first link to the sounds.. and just move down to listen to the individual calls and refer to the explanation for info.. Very cool stuff.
    After reading and listening,, I realized that I was over using the movement call while spring hunting.

    Introduce your kids to the outdoors and they will have a friend for life!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Quote Originally Posted by Pat_Admin
    Hey T.R.,

    What are the differences and explanations of all the turkey calls we hear out in the woods? At least with myself, there are many calls that I hear and throw out...but what do they really mean?
    Here is an excerpt from my Turkey Addict's Manual (some of which was published in the N W T F Turkey Call magazine a few years ago).

    I hope it helps.

    Turkey Vocalizations
    An understanding of the different calls that turkeys use to communicate will help when you are trying to call turkeys. Turkey researchers have described as many as 20 different turkey calls in in six basic categories: Agonistic, Alarm, Contact, Flying, Maternal/Neonatal and Advertising/Mating.

    Alarm Call
    When a turkey becomes aware of danger it makes a loud, sharp Alarm Putt of from one to five notes, that is used to warn other birds of danger; TUT, TUT, TUT. The call is a sign that a bird has seen a potential predator, and is usually followed by the bird running or flying away. If you are trying to attract turkeys do not use this call when you are hunting.

    Agonistic Calls
    Turkeys make a number of soft Putts, Purrs, and Whines while they are feeding. These calls are referred to as agonistic (as in agonizing) because they help keep the flock in contact, while keeping them apart when their heads are down and they can't see each other. The birds may be uncomfortable when other birds get too close; thus they are in agony, so to speak. When they make these calls they are saying, "This is my space, don't get to close."The Feeding Whine or Purr sounds like the call made by a feeding chicken, a soft errr. It may be followed by one or more Feeding Putts, a soft contented putt, putt. I use these calls shortly after I use a flydown cackle, to convince a tom that there are hens on the ground and feeding. I also use it on toms that hang up out of range, to calm them down.

    Fighting turkeys use an Aggressive Purr that is louder and more insistent than the Feeding Purr. The sound of the call is often interrupted by the sound of flapping wings, and kicking and neck wrestling. Other turkeys hearing a fight often come running to see which birds are fighting, and which birds win or lose. The loser often drops down in the social hierarchy of the flock, leaving room for the birds beneath it to move up. Any bird that has a chance to move up in the hierarchy will do it. The sound of birds fighting may cause dominant birds and groups of toms, even hens, to come running, so they can see which birds are fighting in their area. I use this call to bring in dominant toms or hens when everything else fails.

    I've heard toms use a churrt - churrt as a threat. This is probably one of the most aggressive forms of an agonistic call.

    Contact and Maternal/Neonatal Calls
    Because the Contact Calls are used most often between the hen and her poults they are basically the same as the Maternal/Neonatal Calls. When turkeys use these calls they are saying "Here I am, where are You?"The contact calls of young turkeys are the Lost Whistle, the Kee-Kee and the Kee-Kee Run. These are all high-pitched calls that change in pitch as the young turkeys grow older; older birds generally have lower pitched calls than younger birds.

    The Lost Whistle is the sound very young birds make. It is a high-pitched whistle; peep, peep, peep, peep. As summer advances the voices of the poults change and the Lost Whistle becomes the Kee-Kee; a lower coarser kee, kee, kee. It usually has three unevenly spaced notes in about a second, with each note .10 to .15 seconds in length. Many callers fail to recreate this call correctly by using only two notes. Maybe the name of the call should be changed to the Kee-Kee-Kee.

    As fall approaches the young turkeys begin to add yelps at the end of the Kee-Kee and produce the Kee-Kee Run. The Kee-Kee Run is the basic Kee-Kee followed by several yelps; kee-kee-kee, chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp. The notes of this call are unevenly spaced, with each note from .05 to .10 seconds in length. All three of these lost calls are used by the young to tell their mother they are lost and to trying to get back together. I use these calls in the fall, after I have scattered a flock.

    Adult turkeys use many different yelps and clucks to keep in contact in different situations. Most Yelps are the same as the "Here I am, where are you?" call of geese and other flocking birds, which is used to keep the birds in contact with each other.

    The Tree Yelp is often the first call the birds use when they wake up. It is a soft, nasal, three to five note call performed while the birds are on the roost before daylight; a soft chirp-chirp-chirp ... chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp, or a variation. There are usually three to four notes per second, with each note being about .08 seconds in length. It is used by a bird telling the others it is awake and asking if there are other birds nearby and awake. This if the first cal I use in the morning, to see if there are toms in the area and still on the roost.

    The Plain Yelp is performed when the turkeys are within seeing distance of each other. It often consists of three to nine notes, all on the same pitch and of the same volume, with three to four notes per second, and each note lasting .08 to .10 seconds; chirp, chirp, chirp. I use this call when toms are up close, or when they are within seeing distance of the decoys.

    The Lost Yelp is much like the Plain Yelp but may contain twenty or more notes and it becomes louder toward the end of the call. The bird's voice may "break" as it tries to make the call as loud as possible, which causes it to have a raspy sound. There may be from three to four notes per second, with each note lasting .10 to .15 seconds.

    The Assembly Yelp is used by the hen in the fall to regroup the young. It usually consists of six to ten or more evenly spaced loud, sharp yelps, with two to four notes per second, and each note lasting from .12 to .20 seconds. I often hear hens make a loud, long series of yelps while they are on the strut during the breeding phase. I am not sure if this is an Assembly Yelp or a Lost Yelp. But, I do know that toms often show up in areas where hens are making this call. I use Lost Yelps and Assembly Yelps to get a tom fired up on the roost, and to keep it coming once it is on the ground.

    The Plain Cluck is used by turkeys to get the visual attention of another bird. It is primarily a close range contact call, again saying "Here am I, where are you?" A bird making this call wants to hear another bird make the same call so they can get together. It is a sharp, short sound, similar to the Alarm Putt but not as loud or as insistent; tut...tut. The notes of the cluck are often separated by as much as three seconds, which distinguishes it from the faster, closely spaced Fast Cutt. I often hear hens use several soft Clucks and Purrs while they are feeding; putt, putt, putt, errr, putt .... putt, putt, putt, errr. I use this call when a tom hangs up nearby, or to stop it for a shot.

    The Fast Cutt, or Cutting, is one turkey using the "Here I am, where are you?" but telling the other bird "If we are going to get together you have to come to me." It is a loud insistent call, and the notes are strung together in bursts of two's and three's, with about a second between bursts. It sounds like TUT...TUT...TUT, TUT. TUT .TUT, TUT...TUT...TUT, TUT...TUT... TUT, TUT... TUT, or any variation of clucks. The rhythm is somewhat like the Flying Cackle, and I have used a Flying Cackle to get a tom to "shock gobble". I also use this call to bring in a tom that hangs up.

    Flying Call
    The Flying Cackle is the sound a turkey uses when it is flying up or down from the roost, or when it flies across ravines. Many hunters have difficulty with the correct tempo of this call. Actually, it's quite easy; the calling of a bird in the air is directly related to the downbeat of its wing strokes, it's when the bird contracts it's chest muscles and exhales, it's the only time the bird can call. If you are trying to imitate this call visualize the action of the turkey as it takes off, first with slow powerful wing beats, then faster, and tapering off slowly before gliding and landing. I often use this call to get a "shock gobble" from a tom before daylight, so I can locate the tree it is in. I also use it to get a tom to come off the roost in my direction.

    Advertising/Mating Calls
    Tom turkeys Gobble to express social status, telling the other males they are ready to fight to prove their dominance, and to attract hens. The Gobble is most often heard while the toms are on the roost early in the morning. Studies show that most gobbling occurs from about a forty-five minutes before to forty-five minutes after sunrise. Individual toms also call most frequently at this time. Gobbling is a means of long distance communication, therefore the tom may expect the hen to come to him, if she is ready to breed. However, I often see toms arrive at the strut where the hens were already calling. Whether the toms are responding to the calling of the hens or not, I am not sure. You should use a gobble only when you are sure there are no other hunters in the area, because they may mistake you for a turkey, and begin stalking or hunting you.

    Hens in the presence of a tom may use a Whine, causing the tom to begin strutting. The medium-pitched single, drawn out errr of the Whine or Purr may be used by the hen to get the male to prove how large, colorful and healthy it is. I use this call when toms are close, to convince them there is a hen nearby. It has been said that hens make a whut churr - whut churr when they are ready to breed, and a prrrt - prrrt while being bred.

    God bless and good hunting,


    Here is a tom I photoed and and videoed last week, at 2-30 yards.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Here is the rest of the excerpt.

    Advertising/Mating Sounds
    Once the tom is near the hen it spends more time strutting than gobbling; by displaying its colorful head, fluffed up body, and it's spread tail to impress the hen. When hens are within visual distance of the tom the less audible sounds of the Spit and Drum can be heard and used to attract them. It's believed that both the Spit and Drum are vocalizations. However, after watching toms snap their wings open on gravel, and hearing a sound like a Spit at the exact same moment, I believe that at least some of the sounds that hunters refer to as a Spit may be the sound of the wing tips snapping open or hitting the ground.

    Many hunters and turkey researchers have reported that a turkey's tail vibrates when the turkey drums. When pea****s display (by fanning their tail feathers) they make a sound by vibrating the feather shafts of the tail together in what is called a "harmonic rustle." This made me wonder if the drum of a turkey is produced by some movement of the tail feathers vibrating together. When I asked turkey researcher Lovett Williams about this he told me he had heard an Ocellated turkey without a tail perform the drum, which suggests that the drum is not produced by the vibration of tail feathers. He was not sure how the bird produced the Drum, or whether the Spit and Drum are in fact vocalizations.

    On April 14, 2000, I had the opportunity to observe two domestic penned toms, and to solve the mystery of how these two sounds are produced. Luckily the two domestic birds were extremely tame and allowed me to get close enough to hear both the Spit and the Drum as close as six inches away. As I sat near the toms I could hear them inhaling and exhaling deeply, and noted that when the Spit was performed the bird opened it's mouth and expelled air. The Spit is the sound of the tom exhaling after it has inhaled several times. The Spit was often followed by the Drum, which was a low volume, deep pitched humming sound.

    As I watched one of the toms I noticed that its body, especially the tail, vibrated when the drum was produced. When I put my hand on the bird's body I found that the chest (not the lungs) was inflated, suggesting that the birds have large air sacs beneath the skin of the chest region. This area was warm to the touch and I could feel it vibrate when the drum was produced. As a result of this I suspect that the Drum is produced by movement of the air within the sacs of the bird's chest. Because the Drum may be produced in the same way as the "booming" of a Prairie Chicken (by the movement of air in air sacks), the Drum of a turkey may eventually have to be renamed the "Boom."

    Groups of toms, and dominant toms, may respond to the Spit and Drum of other toms out of dominance. But, subdominant toms and jakes may be scared off, because they are afraid of being attacked by a dominant.

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