Yelping is a generic turkey call of the wild turkey. The three best-known yelping calls are the tree yelp, lost yelp and plain yelp. We can separate and name those yelping calls based on their functions, but there are a few yelping examples we cannot distinguish by sound alone. The difference is only because of the context in which they are used. Tree yelps are soft yelps made on the roost as turkeys awaken in the morning.
The lost yelp is a loud yelping call used for assembly by turkeys separated from their flocks. A plain yelp is usually louder than a tree yelp but not as loud as a lost yelp. Tree yelp: The tree yelp is the briefest of the yelping calls; a three- to five-note series of yelps given as a flock awakens in the morning on the roost. The call has a nasal quality because it is made with the turkey's bill closed or nearly so.
The message conveyed by a tree yelp is, “I'm here, are you still there?” Sometimes, every turkey in the flock will answer the roll call with a brief, soft yelp. Bona fide tree yelps cannot be heard far beyond the roosting area, but when tree yelping gives way to louder yelping, much of the vocabulary of the wild turkey can be heard at the roost before the flock flies down. You can hear those calls if you listen closely.
Lost yelp: The typical lost yelp is longer than a plain yelp, with one to 20 or more notes. Lost yelping by hens is often raspy. The louder and longer notes and the greater volume and longer calling series sometimes give the impression of desperation by the caller. A good model would be six to 10 very loud yelps at the same pitch in a steady rhythm. Lost yelping by an adult gobbler is lower-pitched and of slower rhythm than lost yelping by a hen.
The gobbler's yelping has a hollow character and is seldom raspy. Lost yelping has excellent direction-finding qualities and is used by adult and older young turkeys to assemble after being separated from the flock. The call is useful in fall hunting to call turkeys after a flock has been scattered or to attract the interest of any turkey in the woods that's seeking company. It's equally useful in spring hunting because loud calling can be heard farther than softer calls, and gobblers consider lost hens as sexually appealing as they do hens that aren't lost.
Plain yelp: The plain yelp of the hen has been referred to as a love call, but the implication that it's a mating call is not correct. The plain yelp is used during all seasons, by both genders and all turkey age classes except poults. In the rules of turkey courtship, a sexually receptive hen goes to a gobbling male.
The notes of a typical plain yelp are evenly separated and are usually at the same pitch and intensity. A good model is four or five quick notes at moderate volume, even rhythm and reasonably high pitch. Gobblers yelp slightly slower and lower and sometimes with a hollow tonal quality. However, adult gobblers can also make very high-pitched plain yelps. Hunters should expect to hear an array of plain yelping variations, including longer renditions that begin with one or two clucks.