Before and after fly down, the cluck is a call to one another that everything is okay. As a hen moves off toward her nest, or feeding spot, or spot to pick up grit, she will cluck, telling the gobbler that all is right with the world, and he should follow.
When two hens get too close to each other, you might hear them purring at each other. It is like a warning, “Hey, stay away, I was here first.”
Your “classic turkey hunt” should start with minimal, soft calling within 100 yards of the roost tree. Soft yelps and clucks are referred to as a “tree call”, imitating the hens in the tree when they first wake up.
As the woods lighten up, the boss hen will usually get a little louder, and may cackle as she flies down. Hens will begin to fly down, sometimes after, but usually before the gobblers. Once the boss hen flies, or often almost simultaneously, the gobblers are going to follow. This is when the boss hen will yelp. If there are two or more gobbler groups, this is when you’ll find other gobblers yelping (again an assembly call) telling the other birds to come over and join up. This is the other time you might hear LOUD, coarse yelping from a Tom. Usually the dominant tom will gobble, and the sub-dominant gobbler will yelp to try to convince any uncertain hens to come over to him. What results is a pattern of loud coarse yelping followed by loud gobbling by the dominant tom to let all the birds know who is boss.
So what should the hunter do? Just like early in the morning, soft calling wins the day. Call just often enough to let that bird know you’re still there. If he gobbles 3 or 4 times, you can cluck or soft yelp back to him. Once you think he’s coming your way, shut up, stop all calling, and get your gun up. The tom has you pinpointed and is headed your way, if you’re patient enough.
Only when all else fails, do you finally get loud. Perhaps the birds have moved off a couple hundred yards and won’t respond to soft calling. Or a gobbler has shut up and the boss hen starts talking loudly to you. That’s when you start cutting back to her.
Cutting sounds like a mixture of yelps, and clucks thrown at you loudly. Whatever she says, say it right back to her. She figures she is boss of the hens, and what she says goes. But you as the caller, give it right back to her, make her think you are another boss hen who has come in to challenger her. She will then march right in to give you what’s for. The tom will follow her. This is where the “shoot straight” part fits in. She may come in so hard and fast, that she will march right by a sitting hunter going to the caller who is set up behind the hunter. After 20-30 minutes of fruitless calling, consider talking to the hen. But remember, call loud, hard, and often only as a last resort.