The Kee-Kee Run in Spring Turkey Hunting

Not just a fall hunting call, the kee-kee run will bring gobblers to the bag in the spring, too. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

An opening-weekend gobbler had wandered down a pine ridge, out of range and ignoring my decoys, when he first had the chance to make a beeline at them.

He gobbled at everything, though, including the usual assortment of yelps and clucks. This early in the year, my educated guess was he’d flocked-up with hens I either hadn’t noticed, or that he regularly bumped into hens nearby and was in a hurry to meet them.

He lingered close by but out of sight, gobbling at crows, owls, tweety birds, and a distant truck horn on the highway. Desperate for a change in luck, I threw a kee-kee run cadence at him. Right on cue, a boss hen responded, topping the ridge in front of me within moments, her 20-hen entourage and the tom close behind.

The kee-kee is a three-note, high-pitched whistle, an assembly vocalization utilized mostly by jakes and jennies to stay in touch with the adults in the group. They develop this call within a few weeks of hatching. The kee-kee run takes those three notes and tacks on a series of yelps as the animals mature. These calls are commonly used by fall turkey hunters in combination with busting up a flock and calling them to the shotgun in states where such things are legal. However, the kee-kee and kee-kee run have their place in the spring, too.

Replicating this noise is relatively easy, especially with sturdy two- and three-reed mouth calls without too many cuts in the latex. The caller should apply a bit more pressure with the tongue than normal when making a yelp, and repeat “pea-pea-pea” followed by a half-dozen yelps. Friction calls require a bit more practice to perfect based on the quality of the call and surface type.

The kee-kee is a three-note, high-pitched whistle, an assembly vocalization utilized mostly by jakes and jennies to stay in touch with the adults in the group.

Metallic surfaces and glass surfaces generally produce a more-realistic sound than slate calls, but with a little investment in pot-and-peg time, just about all of them will create some enthusiastic semblance of these sounds. Dozens of tutorial YouTube videos exist in cyberspace to educate turkey hunters about this sound, no matter the type of factory call.

For spring turkey hunters, the kee-kee run is successful in scenarios when gobblers are trailing hens early in the season.

The call is more for the purpose of attracting that dominant female than the tom, but when they’re playing follow-the-leader, this is a solid strategy. Of course, curious jakes and sometimes pairs of two-year-old satellite males have no qualms investigating the sound. These are also fine locator calls, as that high-pitch refrain will shock-gobble toms.

Last season, I had a trophy gobbler strutting with hens 200 yards at the end of a field. I’d crawled through an irrigation ditch and placed a jake strutter decoy in front of me.

The morning stillness was giving way to a breeze. The gobbler paid no attention until I hit that kee-kee run on the mouth call. He half-strutted, half-gobbled, trotting all the way across the field until he died at 20 yards. Not sure if he didn’t hear the other calls or didn’t care, but the kee-kee run/jake decoy combination worked, and my trophy room is one mounted gobbler stronger as a result.

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