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How Toms Pinpoint Your Location

This Turkey Tuesday is about precision – in this case, the precision with which a tom can locate a hunter once they call. As a turkey hunter, have you ever wondered how a tom, who himself may be screaming his head off like the tom in this picture, pinpoints your location? The answer lies in understanding how turkeys use their hearing and vision. One, turkeys lack an external ear, but you can see the ear canal directly behind their eyes. When turkeys hear a sound, each ear detects the sound at different volumes and sends that information to the brain – independent of each other. The brain processes the sounds and determines how far the sound was from the bird and the direction it came from based on these pieces of information. Two, turkeys constantly move their heads, which allows each ear to further obtain information on sounds as they reach the bird, which allows them to pinpoint the precise location of the sound. Three, once a tom starts moving towards the sound, his vision helps him pick apart the path forward. Turkeys have monocular periscopic vision, rather than the binocular vision we have – each eye works like a periscope collecting information in a nearly 360 field of view around the bird. Add on the fact that turkeys have more photoreceptors in their eyes than we do, and you end up with a bird that is able to not only pinpoint sounds with precision, but then approach those sounds almost surgically. The take home is, once a tom hears a hen, he has remarkable tools that allow him to know where the sound originated, and how to reach that location with precision. Those abilities have humbled many a turkey hunter, this one included!

Pic by Matt Addington.

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