If you’re new to turkey hunting, have been at it a while but need a little refresher, or, if you’re simply interested in learning more about the wild turkey in general, then this blog and video are for you, as we’ll be talking turkey. Wild turkeys can be quite vocal and they definitely speak a distinct language. In this article (and accompanying video) we’ll take a look, and have a listen, to the different sounds that turkeys make and learn about what they mean, including the plain yelp, assembly call, excited yelp, tree call, cut, cluck, purr, cluck and purr, putt, kee kee run, fly down and fly up cackle, and the gobble.
Wild turkeys make many different vocalizations and each sound has a distinct meaning. Learning what these sounds are and what they mean is critical for developing your turkey calling skills. And even if you’re not a hunter, it’s still a lot of fun to be able to decipher what the birds are saying to each other when you’re out in the woods.
Let’s start with one of the most common sounds, the plain yelp of a hen turkey. This simple sound is executed in a series of single notes. The yelp can have different meanings depending on the situation, but’s it’s basically an identification call which lets other birds know that she’s around. It’s a very easy sound to replicate with a wide variety of turkey calling devices and in many cases is the only call you’ll need.
A slight variation of the plain yelp is what’s known as the assembly call. This is a series of loud yelps made by an adult hen which is a little louder and longer than a plain yelp. It’s used by the mature hen to gather together the rest of the flock or her young poults. This is a very effective call when a group of turkeys gets scattered, either by you or by something else in the woods that disturbs them.
Another similar sound to the yelp is what’s commonly referred to as the excited yelp. The only main difference between this and the plain yelp is that is done at a faster pace and with much more enthusiasm. This isn’t used as an alarm or warning sound, but rather is simply an indication that the turkey is very excited about something, or, is making a desperate plea for attention.
Yet another variation of the yelp, is what’s known as the tree call. This is a series of soft, sleeping-sounding yelps that the birds make while they’re still up in their roosting tree early in the morning before they fly down. It’s basically a way of letting each other know who’s around and where they are. It’s also effective as a hunting call as a means of announcing your presence to a gobbler in hopes of drawing him in as soon as he flys off the roost.
Along with the excited yelp, another call that communicates great excitement is what’s called a cutt. Cutting is often used in conjunction with excited yelps and it can be very effective at making a gobbler sound off and come closer to investigate, or even calling in a dominate hen.
The cluck is another short, staccato-sounding note. Similar to a chicken, turkeys will often cluck in sequences of two or three notes. Turkeys commonly use this clucking sound as a more relaxed way to get each other’s attention and it’s also often used by hens to let a gobbler know that she is nearby and patiently waiting for him.
The purr is a rather soft, rolling sound that turkeys make when they are relaxed. It’s commonly heard when the birds are feeding contently as it helps them to stay close together and keep track of the rest of the flock.
The cluck & purr commonly go together and again is a sign of contentment, especially while feeding together as a group. When used in conjunction with the sound of scratching around in the leaves, this can be one of the deadliest turkey calls of all, at least in my experience. This is also something I made a recent video about that you can check out here.
Similar to the cut, the putt is a sharp, quick note. Sometimes turkeys just make one single loud putt, and at other times they’ll make several putts in quick succession. Either way, the putt is an alarm sound that they make for indicating danger. If you hear this sound when you’re turkey hunting, it’s usually a sign that you’re hunt is about to be over, as the birds generally disperse very quickly after putting.
The kee kee run is the sound of a lost young turkey. It’s typically a call that consists of three notes and lasts a few short seconds and is sometimes followed up with a yelp. Adult birds sometimes make variations of this call as well, and it’s used mostly to reassemble a scattered flock.
The fly down or fly-up cackle is the sound a turkey makes when either flying up into its roosting tree in the evening or flying down in the morning. This vocalization is a series of loud inconsistently spaced notes that gets louder towards the end of the calling sequence. For hunting purposes, this is a great call to use shortly after doing some soft tree yelping first thing in the morning.
And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for and the most popular turkey vocalization of all, the gobble! The gobble is a loud, often aggressive garbling sound made by the male. Male turkeys make this distinct sound to announce their presence to receptive hens during the breeding season as well as way to alert any subdominant, competing males who may be in the area.
If you’d like to see more and have a listen to all of these sounds, check out the video below…