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  • by Steve Sorensen | The Everyday Hunter®

Tips on Turkey Hunting — #11: CALL THREE TIMES, OR TWENTY-THREE!

We covered this matter to some extent in Tip #3, so here we simply expand on it a bit. Turkeys don’t count the number of times they yelp, so why should you? We’ve moved beyond those days thirty or forty years ago when hunters thought we should call three times and then shut up and wait. (If someone gives you that advice, be polite but don’t use it.)

I came close to applying that old rule on the first gobbler I ever called in. Why? Because I was mostly afraid to do much calling. It apparently worked out to my advantage, because my diaphragm yelps on an old single-reed diaphragm were coy enough to coax him into range of my dad's old Ithaca double barrel. I don't know whether luck exists or not, but if it does a lot of it went into that hunt as I kept offering him just one sound, and not much of it.

The truth is that turkeys make all sorts of sounds. Their large vocabulary mostly consists of variations on the yelp, the cluck, and the purr. Often, when a hen turkey is yelping, the cadence will change or an odd note will be slipped in. Yelping can be accompanied by a few cutts, or a couple of clucks. The yelps might rise or fall in pitch. They might issue three yelps, or twenty-tree. So the old “Call three times, then shut up and wait!” idea is as obsolete as a rotary phone. No one who always calls three times and then waits ever becomes an accomplished turkey hunter.

If you want to hear how turkeys really sound, go to and get “Tree Top Turkeys,” or go to and get his recordings called “Real Turkeys.” You can also find plenty of quality turkey recordings on YouTube. Better yet, you can locate turkeys in the woods in the early spring and just listen. Turkeys make lots of wild sounds (maybe that’s why they’re called wild turkeys), so here’s another thing I’ll bet: you’ll never hear a live hen yelp three times, shut up, and wait.

I’ll be posting more “Tips on Turkey Hunting” as often as I can until the end of May. I don’t claim to be the best turkey hunter around, but I’ll share what I know. It might be helpful to those who pursue America’s greatest game bird. While you're at it, check out my gobbler-killin' Northern Scratchbox turkey call at It's full of deadly sounds.

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