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How Gobbles of Subspecies Differ

This Turkey Tuesday is about gobbles – in this case, how they differ as you move from one subspecies and landscape to another. The Gould’s in this picture is ripping out a sound that is something we turkey hunters cherish. If you’ve turkey hunted different areas of the country, you’ve heard that not all gobbles are created equal – as you move out west, it seems that gobbles aren’t as thunderous. Well, ongoing work by Patrick Wightman who is processing gobbling data shows what our own ears detect. Note the gobble of the Eastern on the left in the 2nd picture, and how pronounced it is on the sonogram. Compare that to the gobble of a tom in Nebraska on the right, and how “quieter” it is – quiet being less pronounced on the sonogram. There are reasons for these differences. Easterns and Osceolas live in mostly forested landscapes, and they often need to project their gobbles through dense vegetation to attract attention. So that gobble needs to be loud – something that pierces through vegetation to travel distances – so loud you can feel it in your chest! But as you move west into more open areas, gobbles become more of an initial attention getter – then toms can display for hens in the open. The result is, gobbles are shorter, less pronounced, and toms take a different strategy as conditions dictate – also note that as you move west, plumage gets showier, tones of brown on Easterns become paler and then white, designed to attract attention when toms are displaying. The take home is, although not all gobbles are the same, they’re what make a turkey hunter’s heart skip a beat no matter where we chase them.

Pic of tom by Stephen Spurlock

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