Lots of good theories but I am still partial to at least one of mine, that being that gobblers gobble because they seriously dislike the owl hoots or other noises. I see it as being about the same thing as why a dog barks at some things but not at others. What sets off one dog may not make another dog, even of the same species, bark at all. Some dogs, for instance, pay little attention to a cat walking by where as other dogs bark and go crazy anytime they see any cat. I contend those dogs just flat don't like a cat and behave accordingly. But that does not mean every dog will behave the same way. Neither will every gobbler sound off when they hear an owl hoot or one of the other noises that might make a different gobbler speak up.
I'm not convinced a gobbler is truly "shocked" when they hear an owl hoot. The owls and the gobblers live in the same woods and hear each other's calls all year long. It cannot be a "shock" for a turkey to hear an owl hoot. They probably hear a dozen owl hoots every day that rolls. So how is it a "shock" for them to hear another owl hoot. Why is it any more shocking for them to hear an owl hoot than it is for them to hear a train horn, a helicopter, a siren, or a person sneeze? I've never heard a gobbler respond to any of these kinds of noises that are probably more shocking than any owl hoot. I can see where a surprise clap of thunder might be a shock but the other noises, like truck doors, owls, crows, geese, or similar things are heard by turkeys all the time. It can't be that a turkey gobbles in response to those things because they are startled and completely surprised to hear them. And if that were true, why don't ALL turkey's act the same way?
I am also not convinced all those sorts of noise are mistaken by a gobbler for the sound of a hen. Turkey's have a keen sense of hearing and they definitely should be able to tell the difference between a clap of thunder and a hen! The theory that a gobbler thinks owls, crows, geese, truck doors slamming, and thunder are all hens making noise is just too far fetched for me to believe. Even a love struck gobbler is not that stupid. If they hear that poorly, then they would be gobbling at nearly every loud noise, like at gunshots or other similar things.
There could be some truth to the idea that certain pitch and intensity of noises stimulate the ears of a turkey to the point where he gobbles in an automatic response. That would be about the same thing as a dog howling when a siren blows. I can see a little logic to that theory. But if it is true, then all turkeys should respond all the time to those same sounds and clearly they don't.
The problem with all those theories, from the viewpoint of scientific inquiry is none of them are consistent with the observable facts. And when a theory is inconsistent with the facts, by definiition, it cannot be true. To be true, a theory has to fit the facts and be a valid explanation for the facts in all cases.
I still "don't know" why a turkey will gobble at such noises, but at least all three of my theories fully mesh with the observable factual behavior of gobblers. All three allow for and validly explain why some gobblers respond to some noises and some don't, especially Theory #2. With that theory, the individual personality of the bird, just like the individual personality of a dog, governs whether or not they choose to respond to any given noise.
i wouldnt say they are (shocked) either because they gobble till after a owl hoots etc...a owl might take 2-4 secocnds to stop hooting and everytime i hoot like a owl, the turkeys always wait till i finish making the noise and THEN they gobble......if they were shocked into gobbling it seems like they would gobble before the owl even stops hooting....... so in other words, when they gobble, they are wanting whatever made that noise that they are gobbling at to hear him gobbling if that makes sense....
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.