Hear More Gobbles While Turkey Hunting


Sharpen Your Listening Skills and Tag More Toms

The gobble of the wild turkey is one of the most unique sounds in nature. To the experienced turkey hunter, there is no other sound like it. To the novice, it can be hard to discern, especially at a distance. Even harder to detect are the more subtle sounds made by turkeys such as drumming, purrs, whines, yelps and scratching in leaves. These sounds tell you that turkeys are near.

There are three places turkeys make sounds — when they are in the tree, when they are flying into or out of the tree, and when they are on the ground. Turkeys gobble, yelp, cackle and drum in the tree and on the ground. Turkey hens often cackle when flying up to or down from the roost. The thump of wings is another distinct sound made by turkeys. In most cases a gobble in the tree has a different sound than a gobble made on the ground. It is clearer and less muffled. As a general rule a gobble made in a tree can be heard twice as far as a ground gobble. That same “twice-as-far” rule applies to all other turkey sounds.

Hearing Turkeys

Hearing a turkey sound and identifying it is an important first step to successful turkey hunting. Proficiency at coursing turkey sounds and judging their distance are key also. You must know turkey sounds, and their direction and distance, to plan a strategy and hunt effectively.

The first step to hearing more turkeys is to know what turkeys sound like. Experience and exposure to turkeys can teach you what to listen for. A better way is to watch other hunters. Videos, audio files and DVDs put you in the woods with experienced hunters. Learn how turkeys sound in the wild from your living room. Some companies offer instructional videos or audio files of wild turkey sounds exclusively.

(Click through this feature gallery for tips to hear more gobbles while turkey hunting.)

Sound AdviceSound AdviceSound AdviceSound AdviceSound Advice

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1 | Sound Advice

Most successful turkey hunts begin with hearing, coursing and getting into position on a gobbler. Start on high ground. From there you can hear more country. At daybreak you are listening for sounds turkeys make in the tree. You are primarily listening for a gobble, but other sounds can disclose a turkey’s location. If you hear hens tree yelping, cutting or plain yelping, you know where a flock is located. You hope to hear a gobble, but if you do not you should assume a gobbler is near. If you do not hear a gobble at another location, go to the hens and hope a gobbler will fire up after the flock flies down. At least you know you are near turkeys.

There are times when you do not hear turkeys on the roost. Time to change tactics. Go to an area where turkeys frequent and slow way down. Move a few yards and stop to listen. Slip to near the top of a ridge where you can hear into the next hollow. Use the ridge to keep turkeys from seeing your approach.

Listen for sounds other than gobbles, the distinct swish, swish, swish of turkeys scratching in leaves or a gobbler drumming. Turkeys are constantly making soft purrs, whines and yelps. This helps keep the flock together but cannot be heard from very far away. Many times if you hear these sounds and listen closely you will hear drumming. When you hear any of these sounds set up right there. The turkeys are close.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Common SenseCommon SenseCommon SenseCommon SenseCommon Sense

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2 | Common Sense

If possible, never listen near running water, traffic or construction. Avoid any foreign noise that competes with your ability to hear turkeys.

Distance yourself from your hunting buddy’s walking noises five yards or so when moving through your hunting area.

Be aware of the time of day. Turkeys generally fly up to roost near sundown and fly down from their roost as soon as they can see the ground. It is important to know if a turkey is on the ground or in a tree because a gobble from the roost can be heard farther than a gobble on the ground.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Isolate and ConcentrateIsolate and ConcentrateIsolate and ConcentrateIsolate and ConcentrateIsolate and Concentrate

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3 | Isolate and Concentrate

Use available cover to get in position to listen for turkeys.

Choose a listening place where you can stand, or sit motionless and be comfortable. I like to rest my back against a tree or sit on a log. I do not shuffle my feet in the leaves and I do not tinker with gear. I focus on hearing turkeys.

You probably think I am talking only about hearing a gobble, and that is true for the most part, but eliminating any distracting noise applies when you are listening for turkey sounds in general.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)


Enhanced HearingEnhanced HearingEnhanced HearingEnhanced HearingEnhanced Hearing

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4 | Enhanced Hearing

Mechanical hearing devices greatly improve your ability to hear turkey sounds.

My wife, Tes, suffers from hearing loss and uses mechanical hearing devices such as Walker’s Game Ear and E.A.R., Inc.

“I put them in before I leave in the morning and take them out when my hunt is over,” said Tes. “I cannot do without them.

“Coursing and judging distance were challenging, but in time it all came together. It really helped to go with someone who could hear well and compare what I thought I was hearing to what that person was hearing. After only a few outings I gained confidence in my ability to hear, course and judge the distance to that sound. I never go hunting without them,” said Tes.

There are other ways to enhance the ability to hear more turkeys. 

Open your mouth while listening. This opens the ear canal and allows sound into the ear.

Slow your breathing. Take shallow breaths with your mouth open. This reduces the sound of air moving in and out of your lungs and eliminates some of the nasal noise.

Close your eyes. This helps you concentrate on hearing and eliminates the visual distractions going on around you.

Avoid direct contact with the wind if at all possible. On windy days listen from the downwind side of a ridge or hill. Face into the wind and allow the wind to bring sound to you.

Bonus Video: Turkey Hunting in the Wind

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Listening TipsListening TipsListening TipsListening TipsListening Tips

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5 | Listening Tips

If you are listening with a hunting partner, distance yourself from your partner. This will eliminate any distracting sounds he or she makes, or the temptation to talk.

Cup your hands behind your ears to gather more sound into your ears. You will be able to hear better in the direction you are facing but not as well in other directions.

Turn your body to listen in all directions.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)


Roost to GroundRoost to GroundRoost to GroundRoost to GroundRoost to Ground

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6 | Roost to Ground

And remember again, gobbles on the roost typically carry farther and sound louder than those made by birds on the ground.

Very few turkey hunts end with a turkey in your vest that did not start by first hearing turkeys. 

More resources:

Real Turkeys — a collection of DVDs that offer solid advice concerning turkey behavior, hunting tactics, learning turkey sounds and what they mean. Go here.

Sounds of the Wild Turkey — from gathering poults to finding a mate, wild turkeys make a vast array of sounds. Listen to the twelve most common turkey sounds online.  

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

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