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A Turkey Calling Primer: Context is Critical

Making the right call in the proper context is critical to successfully using the turkey’s vocabulary in hunting. Here’s a primer on the 13 calls used and frequently heard in hunting and the contexts to which they pertain.


The kee-kee develops in summer from the lost whistle of the young poult. It’s useful in fall hunting when dealing with scattered family flocks and will call in either sex of young turkeys looking for flockmates.

Kee-Kee Run

The kee-kee run is merely a kee-kee with yelping at the end. It’s the lost call of young fall turkeys as they assemble and the most important call in fall hunting for young turkeys.

Tree Yelp

The tree yelp is a three- to five-note series of soft yelps uttered as a flock awakens on the morning roost. The call has a nasal quality because turkeys make it with their breaks closed or nearly so. The message is, “I’m here, are you still there?”

Plain Yelp

The plain yelp is longer and louder than a tree yelp and not nasal. Typical examples are not raspy. The notes are evenly separated and at the same pitch and intensity. Longer, louder examples might approach the lost yelp in length and intensity. A plain hen yelp is typically higher pitched than a gobbler yelp, but not always.

Lost Yelp

A typical lost yelp has 15 or more notes and is often raspy because the turkey’s voice breaks when it attempts to call loudly. The louder and longer notes sometimes give the impression of desperation. Lost yelping by an adult gobbler is typically slower, lower-pitched and often has a hollow acoustical character.

Plain Cluck

The plain cluck is one loud staccato note used by turkeys to attract the attention of another turkey.

Alarm Putt

The alarm putt is a loud, sharp note acoustically similar to the plain cluck. An alarmed turkey normally putts loudly and few times and departs the scene, but if it realizes that a perceived danger is not real, it will stay put, and each successive putt will be weaker, until the sound fades as the turkey resumes its previous activity.


Cutting is a sequence of harsh, closely spaced clucks (or cutts) in short, nonrhythmic bursts. There’s often a period of silence followed by a new burst of cutting. The rapid part of a typical cutting series resembles a flying cackle.

Plain Purr

Plain purring consists of short, fluttering, low-volume phrases issued repeatedly by turkeys in a moving flock in close contact.

Flying Cackle

The flying cackle is an arrhythmic series of loud, harsh, putt-like notes used by a turkey when it’s on the wing. Turkeys don’t make the call every time they fly, however. The individual notes vary in number, pitch and volume, and the call is sometimes only one note that sounds like a loud plain cluck or alarm putt.


This call consists of soft putts alternating with brief purrs and indicates mild irritation. Increasing volume indicates a sense of rising concern or sense of anger. Turkeys often approach closer to the object of concern while sounding the putt-purr.

Fighting Rattle

The loudest form of purring, this is sometimes called aggressive purring. However, that label is ambiguous, because any purring louder than plain purring indicates a turkey is in an aggressive mood.


The wide range of tonal pitch imparts carrying power to the sound; high sounds travel far through open air, and lower pitches penetrate low vegetation. The purpose of gobbling is to announce the location and mating readiness of a gobbler, which is why the gobble is also acoustically designed for coursing direction.

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