Hunting Turkey Hunting

The Ultimate Guide to Wild Turkey Sounds

These are the sounds and vocalizations that all turkey hunters should know
turkey sounds

One of the greatest sounds of spring is the thunderous gobble of a wild tom. Honeycutt Creative

We’re all familiar with a raspy hen yelp and a thundering tom gobble. But wild hens and gobblers make many turkey sounds beyond these two vocalizations. Each of these sounds express specific meanings. As turkey hunters, understanding each call helps us decipher what turkeys are saying, and what we should say back to them. But even if you’re not a turkey hunter, it’s fun to be able to identify these sounds in the turkey woods.

Here are the most common turkey sounds that gobblers, hens, jakes, and jennies make. While we can’t guarantee the exact meaning of every vocalization, these are the perceived interpretations based on lots of field observation.

Common Turkey Sounds

Gobble

The wild turkey gobble is the flagship turkey sound. It’s commonly made by male turkeys (longbeards and jakes). However, hens can gobble, too. This vocalization is a long-range call that announces the presence of the turkey that sounds it out. It’s used to challenge other birds, give hens their location, and more. Likely translation: “I’m right here. Come and get me!”

Hen Yelp

The plain hen yelp is the primary vocalization for female turkeys. Oftentimes, this is a series of soft, moderate, or loud notes. Each yelp begins with a high-pitched front end and finishes with a raspy back end. These sounds can be emitted singularly, or in series of two, three, four, or more notes. The yelp is most likely a call that announces a turkey’s general presence. It’s the general turkey sound for urging other turkeys to approach their position. Likely translation: “Here I am. Where are you? Come over here!”

Assembly

The wild turkey assembly call is a long series of hen yelps. Think of it as regular yelps on steroids. Generally, these are among the loudest yelps heard in the turkey woods. This call is primarily used by hens to bring turkeys back together, locate lost flock members, and more. It’s especially common among boss hens calling their young, or subdominant hens, back together. Likely translation: “Everyone, come back here right now!”

Cluck

The cluck is most often a single note. Sometimes, it becomes a series of short notes. This turkey sound is emitted in moderate volume and can be heard from about 80 to 100 yards away. Usually, this soft social vocalization is emitted by hens that are feeding and communicating with nearby birds. It’s a social call that acknowledges approaching turkeys. Likely translation: “What’s up! How you been? All good here.”

Read Next: Turkey Calling Tips

Cluck and Purr

The cluck and purr create a combination call. It combines clucking and purring into the same series of turkey talk. This is a common social contact call. It also signals contentment and safety. This reassures other turkeys that all is well. Likely translation: “Everything is swell here. The coast is clear, and the grub is good!”

Cutt

Cutting is a series of aggressive clucks. These are short but loud notes. Oftentimes, these are emitted as a fast-paced series of three, or more notes. Sometimes, yelps cap off the back end of cutting. Hens that emit this turkey sound are excited. They are actively reaching out to other turkeys. They might be communicating to hens, or it could be gobblers. But they’re seeking the attention of other turkeys. Likely translation: “Where are you? Get your butt over here right now! I want a piece of you!”

Fighting Purrs

Fighting purrs are aggressive, erratic purrs. These are vocalized by male birds, they  are quite loud, and they can be heard from much farther away than typical purrs, which are mostly emitted by hens. Generally, this sound is used by male turkeys as they fight. In short, this is a display of aggression toward other turkeys. Likely translation: “I’m going to give you a whoopin.”

Fly-Down Cackle

The fly-down cackle is typically vocalized as a hen turkey ascends to or descends from its roost limb (but mostly the latter). The fly-down cackle is mostly a signal that lets other turkeys know where they are at the beginning of the day. In addition to roost limb activity, it’s even associated with when a turkey flies down from a high ridge, across a creek, etc. (regardless of time of day). Likely translation: “I’m here, but I’m fixing to go over there!”

Jake Yelp

Jakes (young male birds) yelp, too. It sounds similar to a hen yelp. However, it’s different in tone and is raspier and not as clean as a hen yelp. Jakes use this sound more than any other while communicating with other turkeys. Likely translation: “Yo! It’s me. What’s up?”

Tom Yelp

Toms can yelp, too. This turkey sound is a deep, raspy, three-noted call. Oftentimes, this is a turkey sound that toms use to communicate with other male turkeys. It’s especially common outside of the spring breeding season. Likely translation: “Hey, dude. What’s up?”

Kee-Kee and Kee-Kee Run

The kee-kee and kee-kee run are calls used to bring turkeys back together. Turkeys also use this sound to find nearby turkeys they lost. It’s especially common among younger turkeys. Likely translation: “Where are you? I’m trying to find you. Come back here!”

Read Next: How to Use a Turkey Mouth Call

Purr

The purr is a series of quiet notes made by hens (similar to the purring a cat makes). It’s difficult to hear unless you’re close. Oftentimes, it’s audible inside 30 to 40 yards. Generally, hens vocalize this sound when they are calm and content. It’s often made by a turkey that’s feeding or casually walking along. Likely translation: “It’s good times in the turkey crib. And the bugs over here aren’t bad, either.”

Putt

The putt is an alarm vocalization. This turkey sound is sharp and high-pitched. It can be singular but is usually strung together with other putts with short spacing between them. Of course, the putt is the most dreaded sound in the turkey woods (for turkeys and turkey hunters). It’s a signal of alarm, and the vocalization underscores imminent danger. Likely translation: “Something isn’t right. Let’s skedaddle!” 

Tree Yelp (Tree Call)

The tree yelp (also referred to as the tree call) is a series of soft yelps. This sound is emitted by roosted turkeys. It’s usually heard early in the morning as daylight nears, and during the minutes leading up to fly-down. This turkey sound is like the quieter version of the primary yelp. It’s a method for hens to alert other turkeys to their presence. Likely translation: “Here is my location. After fly-down, let’s hang out!”

Spit-and-Drum

The spit-and-drum isn’t a traditional vocalization, but it is an audible sound that male turkeys make while strutting. It’s only emitted as the turkey flows from half-strut to peak strut. Generally, it’s impossible to hear unless inside of 50 yards of the tom. Sometimes you “feel” drumming more than actually hear it. Biologists are unsure exactly how gobblers spit-and-drum, but it seems to come from their chest and throat. This is not a vocalization to use as a hunter, but it’s certainly one to listen for in the field. If you hear it, a tom is close. Likely translation: “Come over here — I’m ready for you, baby!”

Whines (Do-Whit)

Finally, the whine (a.k.a. “do-whit) is a vocalization that hens often use in conjunction with clucks, purrs, and yelps. It’s a subtle sound that can easily go overlooked, simply because it’s less common and difficult to mimic on a turkey call. Generally, this call is a social, contact-based communication between turkeys. It’s a call type that adds another layer to the overall message sent via soft yelps, clucks, and purrs. Likely translation: “All is well. Good to see you!”

Read Next: Best Turkey Calls

Final Thoughts on Turkey Sounds

Now you know all the important turkey sounds and what they mean. Start practicing the most useful vocalizations with a mouth call. Once in the field, it’s time to focus on making sweet turkey sounds, and opening those ears to hear responses. 

To do that, try to ignore all other ambient noises. Get away from roads and noisy running rivers. The best time to hear turkeys is during a still spring morning. Once you do hear that distant gobble, march forth and bring home that treasured longbeard.