By: Michael Turbyfill
There are many important sounds in the spring turkey woods and this list could certainly be longer than five. But if you hear, know and understand these five sounds, you will be more successful and kill more turkeys.
1. Hen Yelp
Turkey hens make many sounds. And turkey hunters have varying opinions of what sounds are most effective at luring toms into range. If you can produce the correct two-note, high and low sound of a yelp on a mouth call or friction call, with the correct cadence and rhythm, you will call up and take many toms by just yelping. Yelping is typically done by hens who are purposefully speaking to other turkeys. Think of a yelping hen saying things like “Come here,” “Where are you?,“ and “I’m lonely and want to hang out.” This is music to a hot gobbler’s ears, and it’s often enough to attract him into gun range for a peek.
2. Tree Call
If you’re hunting a roosted gobbler at sunrise, often, half the battle is getting him to fly your direction. This is best accomplished by tree calling like a roosted hen. I like a sweet slate call for this. I use a hickory striker to pop soft clucks and hollow-sounding, quiet tree yelps that sound super realistic. I pin the call against my leg and cup my hand over the sound chamber to muffle the call and give it a hollow, soft tone. I also work the call in the middle (as opposed to the outside 1/3) to achieve a hollower tone. This slate and hickory combo is perfect to achieve this.
Most of the time, I only call a few times if a roosted gobbler is responding. I want to pique his curiosity and that requires as much silence as it does calling. Once I’m sure he’s clearly heard my tree call several times, I usually put the call down and get my gun up.
Even when roosted with hens, my experience is that gobblers often fly down first. They begin strutting and gobbling and a few minutes later, roosted hens fly to the gobbler. That few-minute window is your chance to tree call and lure him into range. Whether roosted solo or with hens, if you can get within 125 yards of his tree and softly tree call, many times he’ll fly toward you. If you’re close, he only has a short distance to walk until he’s in gun range.
If you hear spittin’-n-drummin’, you automatically know several key pieces of information:
You’re hearing a mature gobbler 95% of the time (as opposed to a jake). Hens don’t spit-n-drum at all.
You’re hearing a gobbler that’s strutting. Gobblers spit-n-drum as part of their strutting routine. If he’s strutting, he’s usually calm and unaware that a hunter is in the area.
You’re close! If you hear spittin’-n-drummin’ before daylight, you’re hearing a roosted gobbler in a tree close to you...and you need to get set up before daylight breaks. If you’re hearing it any time in broad daylight, you need to get into position for a shot.
Like a gobble, you can track a gobbler’s movement by the sound of spittin’-n-drummin’. Many times, my gun barrel follows the sound of spittin’-n’-drummin’ until I see a head pop up and then it’s all she wrote.
Spittin’-n-drummin’ is typically a softer, low-frequency sound that can be difficult to hear if you’re new to turkey hunting, or if you have hearing damage or deterioration. We have many reports of hunters who couldn’t hear spittin’-n-drummin’ at all until trying Turkey AmpPods, and now it’s clearly audible. It’s a sound that’s both exhilarating and key to being ready in the moment of truth.
4. Locator Call
Locator calls like owl hoots, crow calls or coyote howls are important tools in the turkey hunter’s toolbelt. The first reason is that locator calls make a turkey gobble without attracting the turkey to your position. If a gobbler is answering a locator call, he’s giving you the opportunity to slip into a prime spot to set up before ever making a hen call. The second reason is that you can use locator calls to find a gobbler in the late evening, and return the next morning to hunt him.
My favorite locator call - because I hunt primarily Easterns - is an owl hoot. I do it with my natural voice and can get very loud and animated. Owl hooting can make a turkey gobble in the darkness of morning or evening, and in the middle of the day.
One time in Florida, I was hunting with my pal, Ryan Kirby. I killed a gobbler and while we were celebrating, another sounded off. The second gobbler ended up answering dozens of my owl hoots as I stayed back while Kirby crawled towards the sound of his gobble and he ended up shooting him at 7 steps without ever making a turkey call. Owl hooting kept him talking and allowed Kirby to make his move. Pictured below are both our gobblers on an old couch we found in the swampy woods. You can see by the head on Kirby’s gobbler (or what's left of it) that it was a close shot!
Turkey hunting wouldn’t be the thrill that it is without the thunderous sound of a gobble. It’s the sound that makes the sport what it is, and attracts millions of hunters to the woods each spring. Beyond the hair-raising, exhilarating emotions that a gobble stirs within us, the gobble is important to us for several reasons.
The first is that you can use gobbles to find turkeys when you’re not hunting. Whether before season or during, if you’re finding the sounds of gobbles, you’re finding turkeys to hunt.
When you’re hunting, you can use the sound of gobbles to predict the mood of a gobbler and the situation you’re dealing with. A loud, hard-gobbling turkey on the roost that flies down and gets quiet, is likely henned up. An afternoon gobbler that is sounding off frequently is likely lonely and very callable. A tom that stands in the same place gobbling and won’t budge is likely hung up on an obstacle or you need to make a move to get him to budge.
There’s lots of info you can glean from the sound of a gobble and experienced turkey hunters typically can hear a longbeard gobble a few times and quickly form a strategy based on the sound.
If You Can't Hear All These Sounds
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