Picking out the Dominate Gobbler & Basic Calls

January 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Bowhunting Tips, Turkey Tips

Content Provided By: Brian Stephens, StickemArchery.com Pro Staff


When we bowhunt big game such as whitetail deer, we spend endless hours preparing for a shot on a monster mature buck.  We learned how to identify that mature buck by its body type and behavior when in a group of other bucks.  It’s not just about the size of his rack.  The same holds true for us when want to shoot the biggest, oldest gobbler this Spring. The problem is that it can be hard to tell which gobbler this is until you actually have him in hand.  Learning how to calls turkeys and knowing basic turkey calls can help you get this done.

Let’s talk about some of the tell tell signs that may give a turkey hunter insight on picking out the dominant longbeard.  Most of the time, the biggest and/or oldest gobbler is likely to also be the dominant one within a flock.  He can often be identified by the way he acts. When watching a small group of gobblers in the spring as they approach a hen or come to your calling, look for the longbeard that does all or most of the strutting.

The other gobblers around the dominant gobbler will often strut, too, but usually these other birds will not strut as long or as fully fanned. The boss gobbler may not come out of strut, his head is typically pulled in close to his body, and his fan is sticking straight up.

Another clue to identifying pecking order is to watch for attacks from the dominant tom toward other gobblers. The mature dominate turkey may chase the gobblers, or he may just turn their way, causing them to move off or break strut.

Gobbling behavior may also give clues to pecking order. Many times, but not always, the first turkey to gobble on a given morning is the dominant bird. However, on occasions when he doesn’t gobble first, you may note that other gobbling turkeys suddenly fall silent when he finally sounds off.  Another clue is that the hens may yelp back more often and with more excitement to the dominant bird.

Thickets and cover are important to locating Big Bucks like openings and fields are important to locating wild turkeys. In the summer, the majority of the turkey’s food sources are found in open, sunny places. Newly hatched broods may be seen along the edges of fields and other openings, which provide the poults’ (young Turkey) primary meal of insects, as well as a variety of seeds and berries.

Grasses, berries and insects also are the primary foods for adult turkeys during this time of year, with plant material providing more than half of the summer diet for the turkey.  When spring rolls around, fields are also good places to set-up and wait for a feeding longbeard when the birds refuse to gobble.

Basic Turkey Calls

Let’s talk about some of the vocalizations and calls by Turkeys.  Knowing when and how to make these calls can help you see more birds and close the distance to get that gobbler in bow range.  I have hunted my entire life but have not chased Turkeys like I have deer.  It has not been until the last several years that I have become freaky about Turkey hunting. Being a newbie to Turkey hunting I have had to learn these calls from scratch.  It is not only know what call to make but practicing enough to ensure you are producing quality vocalizations.  Take time to practice with a mentor or listen to the DVDs that many of the Turkey Call Companies provide as part of the call packaging.  It can make a big difference in your performance in the field.

Kee Kee Run

The Kee Kee is the lost call of young turkeys and variations made by adult Turkeys. It is typically associated with fall hunting, but can be used with a lot of success during the spring season. The Kee Kee Run is a variation of the Kee Kee, the Kee Kee Run is merely a Kee Kee with a yelp.  Often this is a Jake trying to learn new vocalizations.  This call can many times trigger a gobbler to come in to investigate if he thinks a Jake is moving in on a hen.


Purring is a soft, rolling call turkeys make when content. It can usually be heard by feeding birds. This is not a loud call, but is good for reassuring turkeys as approach your set up or a decoy.  A box call and slate call can produce a high quality Purr sound.  This can trigger a big ole’ gobbler to come to show that hen who may not be paying any attention to him.


The cluck consists of one or more short, staccato notes. The plain cluck, many times, includes two or three single note clucks. It’s generally used by one bird to get the attention of another. It’s a good call to reassure an approaching gobbler that a hen is waiting for him.

Tree Call

The tree call is usually a series of soft muffled yelps given by a roosted bird. Sometimes it picks up in volume as fly down time nears. Maybe accompanied by soft clucking. Generally acknowledged as a call to communicate with others in a flock.

Hen Yelp

This may be one of the most common calls you will hear in the woods. The yelp is often delivered in a series of single note vocalizations and can have different meanings depending on how the hen uses it.  This call can help trigger birds to be vocal whether it is a Gobbler looking for companionship or hens communicating with each other.  Mouth, Box and Slate Calls all produce a variety of high quality Yelp vocalizations.

Cutting of Excited Hen

A series of fast, loud, erratic single notes is referred to as cutting. It’s a modified cluck and is a distinct abrupt call with a somewhat questioning nature. It can be heard at a great distance and is often used by a single turkey looking for companionship.  You can start the cutting with a few different variations of a single cluck sounds then go into a number of  erratic single notes.  Be ready because if that ole’ gobbler is close he is going to come quick.  It can really trigger a gobbler when all else fails.

Fly Down Cackle

The cackle is generally associated with movement. It can be heard when a bird is flying up or down from a roost, flying off a ridge, or flying across a creek. A cackle usually consist of three to 10 irregularly spaced notes. It’s a movement call, so use it sparingly.

Cluck and Purr

The cluck and purr is single note or notes often associated with flock talk or the feeling of contentment. Sometimes amplified. It is a cluck followed by a rolling, almost staccato call.

Owl Hooting or Crow Call

The eight-note hoot of the barred owl is often used as a call to locate gobblers in the early morning or late evening hours. Additionally, a Crow Call can be used to locate gobblers during these same times to help you know where to set up for your next hunt.


The gobble is one of the principal vocalizations of the male wild turkey and is used primarily in the spring to let hens know he is in the area.

Good Luck and Remember “You Won’t Get’em if You Don’t Stick’em“©

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For other Bowhunting Tips in the Archery Blog or Archery Shop check out some of these Archery Podcasts and other articles on Turkey Hunting.

Originally posted 2010-03-11 00:10:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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