Turkey hunting is a popular pastime in America. With so much in-the-field action, and tasty wild game meat for the table, who wouldn’t like it? But, if you’re going to hunt turkeys, you need to know the complete wild turkey vernacular. These are the words of the turkey woods.
General Words and Terms
There’s a lot to the turkey hunting world. Gear, tactics, hunters and the wild game itself leads to a list of words commonly said and heard in turkey hunting discussions. Here is but a small list of popular words.
Assembly: A call used by hens to regroup the flock, especially their young.
Bag Limit: The number of turkeys you can tag in a day or season.
Beard: A cluster of long strands — that are actually a different form of feather material — that protrudes from a turkey’s chest. Generally, only male birds have these, but up to 10% of females can, too.
Blind: A pop-up tent-like item that conceals hunters from game.
Blind Calling: Calling to potential nearby birds that you have not seen or heard yet.
Box Call: A turkey call in the shape of a box. An attached paddle creates friction with the edge of the box.
Brood: A hen’s group of young turkeys.
Bust: This can mean a hunt is over, or it can mean scaring a group of turkeys.
Camouflage: Clothing that helps conceal hunters from turkeys.
Calling: Using special-made items to mimic turkey vocalizations.
Caruncles (Major and Minor): Knots and wrinkles that appear on a turkey’s head and neck. These change colors as the turkey’s mood alters.
Chufa: A food source that is heralded as the king of turkey food plots.
Cluck: A short-noted vocalization turkeys make when casually communicating.
Clutch: A hen’s grouping of eggs within a nest.
Crop and Craw: The crop compartment temporarily stores food before passing it on to the craw. Hunters often inspect the upper digestive system to determine what turkeys ate prior to the harvest.
Cutt: A series of frequent high-pitched vocalization notes that signify excitement.
Decoys: Lifeless, unmoving replications of turkeys that help lure in live birds.
Dewlap: The skin flap below the beak at the top of a turkey’s neck.
Diaphragm Call: Also known as a mouth call, this is a turkey call that is operated with air and tongue pressure from inside of a hunter’s mouth.
Drumming: A sound a tom makes while strutting.
Dusting: When a turkey throws dirt and dust on itself as a means to deal with mites and other pests.
Dust Bowl: An area of exposed soil that turkeys will dust in.
Eastern Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkeys located mostly in the eastern half of the country.
Fan: The tail feathers on a turkey.
Fighting Purr: A series of rapid purrs that signifies aggression between fighting turkeys.
Flock: A group of turkeys.
Fly-Down: Descending from a roost site.
Fly-Down Cackle: A series of cuts, cackles and yelps vocalized as a turkey ascends or descends a roost site.
Fly-Up: Ascending to a roost site.
Friction Call: A turkey call that uses friction to emanate vocalizations.
Gobble: The primary sound toms are known for.
Gobbler: Another term for an adult male turkey.
Gould’s Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkey located in the Southwest.
Hen: An adult female wild turkey.
Jake: A juvenile male wild turkey.
Jenny: A juvenile female wild turkey.
Kee-Kee: A series of high-pitched notes that are usually emanated by lost turkeys, or those trying to regroup the flock.
License (and Tags): Permits sold by state agencies that are oftentimes needed to hunt wild turkeys.
Locator Call: A non-turkey-related vocalization used to provoke male turkeys to shock gobble. The most commonly used ones are crow, owl and peacock calls.
Longbeard: Another term for an adult male wild turkey.
Merriam’s Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkey located in some western states.
National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF): A conservation organization that strives to conserve wild turkeys, as well as to recruit and retain turkey hunters. https://www.nwtf.org/
Nesting: The term used when hens are creating their nest or already laying eggs.
Ocellated Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkey located in Central America.
Osceola Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkey located in the peninsula of Florida.
Pattern: The act of determining how a group of turkeys use a given property.
Plumage: The coloration of a wild turkey’s feathers.
Poult: A young wild turkey.
Purr: A series of rapid, low-pitched vocalizations that signify comfort and contentment.
Push-Pull Call: A type of friction call that is operated with a mere push of a button.
Putt: A single or series of high-pitched single notes that signal(s) alarm and danger.
Rio Grande Turkey: A subspecies of wild turkey located in some western states.
Roost: A tree limb where a turkey spends the night.
Shock Gobble: When a male turkey immediately responds to a locator call.
Sign: Droppings, feathers, tracks and other clues that turkeys might be nearby.
Slate Call: A friction call that uses a striker (peg) and piece of slate material. Sometimes, slate is substituted with glass material.
Snood: A small protuberance located above the beak of a turkey.
Spitting: A clicking sound male turkeys make while strutting.
Spurs: Sharp, pointed objects located on the sides of turkeys’ legs just above their feet. Used when fighting or defending.
Striker: A peg-like object that is used in conjunction with slate and glass turkey calls.
Strut: When a wild turkey flexes and displays its feathers.
Strutter: Another term for an adult male turkey that is strutting.
Strut Marks: Parallel lines on the ground that form as a strutting turkey’s wings drag against it.
Tom: An adult male wild turkey.
Tracks: Footprints left behind by wild turkeys.
Tube Call: A tubular device used to mimic turkey vocalizations.
Turkeys for Tomorrow: A conservation organization that strives to conserve wild turkeys and turkey hunting. https://www.turkeysfortomorrow.org/
Vest: A garment worn that helps hold and store hunting gear.
Vocalizations: Sounds that wild turkeys use to communicate with.
Wing Bone Call: A type of turkey call constructed from three different bones within a wild turkey’s wing.
Yelp: The primary vocalization male and female turkeys use to communicate with.
Slang Words and Phrases
Turkey hunters are good at generating a vernacular all their own. Throughout the years, it’s led to a list of words and phrases that are now commonplace. These are some of those.
BBD: In the turkey hunting community, this is an acronym for “big bird down.”
BTD: Likewise, this is an acronym for “big tom down.”
Boss Tom: The biggest, oldest turkey on the farm.
Call Shy: Turkeys that are seemingly unresponsive to turkey calls and vocalizations.
Can’t Stop the Flop: Coined by Bone Collector, this is a term used by turkey hunters to signify their passion for their turkey hunting heritage.
Courtesy Gobble: When a turkey responds once, but only once.
Grand Slam: The act of tagging an Eastern, Merriam’s, Osceola and Rio Grande turkey.
Ground Dragger: When a turkey’s beard is so long it drags the ground.
Henned Up: When a tom is accompanied by one or more hens.
Hung Up: When a turkey refuses to come any closer to a hunter’s setup. This can be caused by numerous things.
Flop: When a turkey is shot, and it begins to flop.
Limb Hanger: A reference made when a male turkey’s spurs are really long.
Lock Jaw: When a turkey refuses to gobble or vocally respond to a hunter’s calling.
Mossback: A common reference to really old and wise turkeys.
Paint Brush: A turkey with a girthy beard.
Periscoping (or Rubbernecking): When a turkey has its neck stuck well up into the air, and is trying to see whatever it’s looking at (or for).
Put One to Bed: A common synonym for roosting a turkey, otherwise described as seeing where they fly up at dark.
Roosted Ain’t Roasted: This is a common saying by those who roost a turkey, as doing so doesn’t automatically ensure success the following morning.
Royal Slam: The act of achieving a Grand Slam plus tagging a Gould’s turkey.
Run and Gun: A term hunters use for an aggressive turkey hunting tactic. They don’t sit in one place for long, and are constantly on the move in search of a receptive gobbler.
Super Slam: The act of tagging a wild turkey in every state except Alaska.
Thunder Chicken: A common replacement term for a tom, gobbler, longbeard or strutter.
World Slam: The act of achieving a Royal Slam plus tagging an Ocellated turkey.
There you have it! The most comprehensive look at the turkey vocabulary and behavior you’ll find anywhere. Now, there’s no excuse for looking like a fool this spring when the talk turns to turkey around hunting camp.
What about you? Are you familiar with all these terms? What are some things that didn’t make our list? Comment below and let us know what turkey talk we might have missed.