The fall turkey season is underway and I had a question poised to me by a reader earlier this week. The question was, “Do you call turkeys in the fall?” The answer is YES. Calling is a very effective technique, but you need to know how to “speak turkey” and use the right calls for the fall.
In the fall, the majority of turkeys you find will be the juveniles that were hatched last spring. Think of them as teenagers in the world of turkeys. Have you ever heard a group of teenagers be quiet? These birds are calling and chattering all the time.
The mature hens, the “moms” of these younger birds are constantly trying to maintain order and keep track of their brood. Another analogy I use is, imagine a mom with a group of youngsters in the mall. What is the mom doing? She is continually calling for the kids…come back here, don’t go there, leave that alone…it is the same way with a mother turkey.
I asked Jeff Rawlinson, a legitimate turkey hunting expert with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, his thoughts on calling turkeys in the fall. Here is what he had to say:
“Yes, calling is effective in the fall. Fall calling can appeal to their desire to be social and generally I will try to use a long deeper yelp to appeal to toms ‘man to man’ and hope they are looking for more buddies to hang out with,” Rawlinson said. “You will hear turkeys cluck, yelp, gobble and run the full range of calls in the fall.”
“Another fall call favorite of mine is the kee-kee-run call. This is the maturing whistle of a lost young turkey prevalent in the fall,” stated Rawlinson. “When other turkeys hear this call, they will often move that direction to find the lost turkey or call to it and give away their location. It can work well for calling birds and locating birds. It is easiest call to make using the diaphragm call.”
“One final tip, in the fall, the key is to do your scouting and know where birds are roosting, travel areas to and from the roost and to set up where birds naturally want to be,” Rawlinson continued. “From there, calling will be most effective as you are bringing birds to where they are comfortable and naturally located.”
As Rawlinson suggested, understanding “turkey talk” is vital in order to know how to call turkeys in the fall. One of easiest calls to master with various types of calls for fall hunting is the kee-kee-kee call. If you could translate this into English it would be, “Here I am! Where are you?” It is the standard answer of a young bird to the calls of a hen. The call is 3-4 notes in rapid succession.
I use a variation of the kee-kee-run call that Rawlinson mentioned. It sounds like, kee-kee-kee, yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp and happens in the length of a couple seconds. It is saying, “Hey! I think I’m lost! Where is everybody?” This is a very effective call if you manage to scare and scatter a flock of birds.
In order to keep this mini-biology/turkey linguistics lesson short and simple, I’ll offer one more call to consider…the Lost Yelp call. This is a common call used by adult birds in the fall. It may be a single yelp, or a long string of yelps together is quick succession. Each yelp gets progressively louder with each note and is often quite raspy. This raspy sound occurs because the bird's voice breaks as it tries to make the call as loud as possible. It may be used by jakes, toms and hens to get back together. You can just imagine the bird yelling, “Where is everybody?”
Good luck on your turkey hunts this fall! I hope you are successful and enjoy yopur time afield.