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Turkey Communication
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

I'd been hearing a group of turkeys gobbling since a half-hour before daylight. They first responded to my soft tree yelps by gobbling from the trees where they were roosted, and within fifteen minutes I heard them fly down. Once they were on the ground the toms began to gobble again. To try to get the toms to come in my direction I used a Wing Thing flapper call, to simulate the sound of a turkey flying down. Then I blew a Flydown Cackle on my Haydel’s mouth diaphragm. That’s when the fun began, I’d perform the Yelp of a hen turkey and the birds would respond. I’d wait a few minutes, and then I’d yelp again.

At first it seemed like the birds were coming closer, but after an hour of calling I wasn’t so sure. I finally decided to take a chance, and blew a loud series of insistent Cutts. There was an almost immediate response as a tom gobbled back. Minutes later there was another thunderous call, but it didn’t seem any closer. I called to the tom for another fifteen minutes, but it wouldn’t come in. In desperation I tried one more tactic; I began to putt and purr softly, and then I began to rustle the leaves on the ground beside me, like a turkey scratching for food. Five minutes later a big tom came around the corner of the woods, spotted my decoys, and went into a strut.

Hunters sometimes forget that communication among animals is not just sound, it is a combination of sounds, body posture, movement, and in mammals, scent. The difference in the meaning between two calls that sound alike is often the body posture or movement of the animal making the call. When you are calling turkeys you need to understand the meaning of the call, and when it is used. And, unless you are using decoys, it’s difficult for you to recreate the body posture or movement associated with the call you are making.

Movement Sounds

There are sounds other than calling associated with all animals. The movement of the animal alone creates a sound that is associated by other animals as coming from a particular species or sex of animal. Turkeys have a way of walking and feeding that produces a particular sound, walking deer have a different tempo and volume. Along with the calls they make, turkeys make a lot of scratching noises when they feed. If a turkey hears soft putts, purrs and whines along with the sound of soft steps and scratching in the leaves, it thinks a flock of birds is feeding.

When turkeys fly down from the roost they often perform the Flying Cackle, and they also produce a flapping sound with each beat of their wings. A turkey hearing the combination of both wing beats and Cackle thinks another bird has flown down from its roost. A turkey hearing a Fighting Purr expects to hear the other sounds associated with a fight, like the flapping of wings as the birds jump into the air and try to peck or kick and spur each other.

When a turkey struts, it often performs the Spit and Drum. The sounds of these two actions have been described as a chump and a hum, which are probably more fitting names for these sounds. The sound of a turkey's wings dragging on the ground can also be heard at close range when a tom struts.

As you can see it's not just the call, but the other sounds, and the action or posture of the body, in combination with the call, that relay the meaning of the call to other turkeys. You cannot recreate most of these movements and body postures while hunting, but if you know when and why they occur you can produce the calls and sounds at the proper time.

This article is an excerpt from the Turkey Addict's Manual, by T.R. Michels.

T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, and outdoor writer and speaker, who has been studying game animals for several years. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His latest books are the 2002 Revised Edition of the Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2002 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2002 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual.

For a catalog of books and other hunting aids contact:

T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, PO Box 284, Wanamingo, MN 55983.

Phone: 507-824-3296
E-mail: trmichels@yahoo.com
Website: www.TRMichels.com



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