Hunting > Turkeys

The Gobbling Code

Listen for these hidden messages in the language of longbeards. When you learn to crack the gobbling code, you’ll have a better chance of seducing them into range.

Courtesy Gobble 
You cutt and a tom gobbles back 200 or 300 yards away. You get pumped and call again and again, but he doesn’t respond. Your first call shocked that bird into a “courtesy gobble.” It’s like he did it just to make you feel good. The old boy is probably strutting with several hens, and he doesn’t have to roar at you anymore. Move 50 to 75 yards closer and call again. Sometimes if you close the gap, the turkey will start answering your calls more frequently. But if he keeps his beak shut, leave him to his gals and go hunt someplace else. Your chances with this tom are slim.

Cut-Off Gobble
Before you finish yelping, a tom thunders. Make another call immediately; if he cuts you off with another booming gobble, find a good tree, sit down, get your gun up on your knee and be ready. That boy is red-hot and there’s a pretty good chance he’s coming.

Tardy Gobble 
You yelp and perk your ears. Nothing but the sound of songbirds until a tom gobbles 10 to 15 seconds later. Every second or third time you call he gobbles belatedly again. That bird is not very hot, but at least he is interested and curious. His lukewarm gobbles are likely telling you he has hens and he wants you to join him. Well, take him up on it. Sneak closer, sit down in a spot where you can see and shoot well and call awhile. Who knows, the turkey might eventually speed up his gobbles, break strut and come. Or, one of his subdominant buddies with a 9-inch rope might splinter off the flock and come over to check you out (the lesser bird might not gobble, but he’ll drum to beat the band). Listen for that and be ready.

Planted Gobbles 
Every time you call, a turkey gobbles lustily from the same spot, as if his big feet are planted to the ground. There might be a ditch or creek that he won’t cross. Or more likely, he’s once again hanging in one spot with some gals. Sneak closer and cross an obstacle if you see one. Sit down in a nice flat spot and call awhile. I’d give a 20-percent chance of getting this bird to budge; most of the time he’ll just stand there and strut.

Walking Gobbles 
After 30 minutes or so a planted tom might start walking off, his gobbles growing fainter and fainter with each step. Either the “lead hen” has gotten sick of your yelping and is dragging him away from you or he just got bored and is heading for another strut zone to check out some other gals. Either way, you have zero chance of turning that turkey around with more calling. So get up, circle fast, get in front of the bird and try to cut him off. Sit and call on the line he is walking and in the direction he wants to go and you’ve got a pretty decent shot.

“Where You At?” Gobble 
You’ve been sitting awhile, blind calling or yelping to a bird that has gobbled half-heartedly but won’t come. Before you throw in the towel, toss out one more loud, sharp yelping and cutting sequence, because once in a while a turkey will shock you by gobbling closely. He’s been sneaking in quietly and that last gobble is asking, “Where are you at?” Point your 12-gauge in that direction and get ready, but don’t call again. His crinkly white head is apt to pop up anytime. 

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