Fall turkeys may not be as popular to hunt as their spring counterparts, but hunting turkeys in the fall is an American tradition. Here is a Hunter’s Turkey Guide Part 1.
Look at the images of Thanksgiving, what’s front and center? The turkey of course! Why? Turkeys are large birds that can feed quite a few family and friends, and by the way, wild birds taste better than anything you can buy from a farm or a grocery store.
So why doesn’t fall turkey hunting get more press coverage like spring turkey hunting does? Many believe fall birds are less vocal than they are in the spring, though gobblers will still gobble in the fall. Fall turkeys can actually be more vocal than in the spring, once you are near a flock you will be amazed at the sounds they make. Another reason many hunters do not hunt the fall because they are hesitant about shooting a young turkey or a hen.
To those that feel fall turkey hunting lacks the action of spring, try matching wits with a fall gobbler or having a flock of hens converge on your calling all at once with twenty pairs of eyes looking for the source. Both will get your heart racing and challenge your skills. As for those against harvesting a young bird or a hen, you are missing out on a true epicurean delight.
Hunting fall birds is vastly different than hunting spring love-struck toms. Fall birds are all about survival and consuming much-needed calories to get them through the long winter that lies ahead. But fall tactics for hunting turkey are a bit different than in the spring.
Find the Food
If you can find where turkeys want to feed, you will find the birds. It can be a picked cornfield or an oak flat still full of acorns. The key is finding where they are feeding now. Just because you found signs of them in a field or an oak flat a week, or even a few days ago, doesn’t mean they are still there.
Turkeys in the fall can and will move if they have been pressured off of a feeding location or have picked it clean already. Keep scouting while you are hunting. Scout while you drive to and from work, or ask fellow hunters what they are seeing. Many deer hunters will encounter flocks of turkeys while they are hunting and will usually share the information more readily than in the spring.
Roost Them and Roust Them
Fall flocks can be quite large and will make some noise each night as they go to bed or as they get up in the morning. The larger flocks help them detect danger; all of those eyes are harder for a coyote or fox to get by. Also, the hens will still generally have their brood from this spring with them. If you can find where they fly up at night to roost, you are half way to tagging a fall turkey.
Get in close to their roost, just as light is breaking and bust them up by running and shouting and scattering the birds. This tactic will also work if you find a flock feeding. The key is to get them to scatter in all directions. To do this, you need to get as close as possible without being noticed.
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Once you have them scattered, find a place close by to set up. Wait until you start to hear some turkey chatter then start in with the lost yelps and clucks. Keep your eyes moving because you will have some come in very quickly and silently on you. If you haven’t heard any turkeys after a half-hour of waiting, you may not have broken the flock up that well. The main hen may also have started calling and pulled them away from you.
Go for the King
The love-struck toms have completely changed since spring, they are now loners of the ridges. Some will flock up, but you are just as likely to find a lone tom as you are a small flock of three or four. Scattering a flock of fall toms rarely works since they are content to be alone and sometimes will take days to reunite. To harvest a fall tom you need to sound like a tom.
Hoarse, low-volume yelps in a slow cadence are what you’ll hear from toms this time of year, though gobbles are not that rare either. Turkeys fight all year long; so don’t be shocked if you find one that challenges you. If you get a gobbler to start answering your calls, jump right back on him in the same cadence. Get him fired up and let him find out who the boss of the woods really is.
If you hunt deer in the fall and turkeys in the spring, you already have everything you need to tag your fall turkey. Pick your favorite fall camouflage, your trusty turkey calls, your favorite shotgun and go to it. Learn the fall calls as well, you’re more likely to hear kee-kees, kee-kee runs and lost yelps now than you will in the spring, so be sure your turkey talk is up to snuff.
Tagging a fall turkey may not have the appeal of tagging a spring turkey, but the reward of knowing you matched wits with a fall bird will be better trophy than any longbeard you tag in the spring.