Here are 5 things you need to know before you to start fall turkey hunting.
As the days get shorter and nights get cooler, hunters tune their bows and sight in their rifles. Most hunters are dreaming of big whitetail bucks and plotting strategies for stand placement, but hardcore turkey hunters like me are dreaming of shooting turkeys. If you've never chased turkeys in the fall, you are missing out on a lot of fun. Fall turkey hunting seasons are long and most states allow hunters to harvest both toms and hens. Here's everything you need to know to get started with fall turkey hunting.
1. Fall turkey hunting means hunting 'real' turkeys
Wild turkeys make the same vocalizations in the fall as they do in the spring, but they do so for different reasons. Spring turkeys are heavily influenced by their desire to breed, whereas fall turkeys are more interested in maintaining their place in their flock's pecking order. Hunters should keep this in mind while attempting to call in a fall turkey.
2. Know the different types of fall turkey flocks
Fall turkeys typically run in flocks based on sex and age. The most common types of flocks include:
- Family flocks. These groups consist of one or more brooding hens and their juvenile offspring. Family flocks are considered the easiest flocks to hunt.
- Jake-Only Flocks. As juvenile males mature, they become dominant in their family flocks and form flocks of their own. These birds will eventually join groups of more mature male turkeys.
- Broodless hens. Hens that have failed to successfully breed or have lost their poults will run together. Besides mature gobblers, broodless hens may be the toughest fall turkey to hunt.
- Mature gobbler gangs. After the spring breeding season is over, mature gobblers will form their own flocks. Experienced fall turkey hunters know that gobblers will strut and gobble to assert their place in the flocks pecking order. Without the driving urge to breed, mature gobblers are the toughest turkey in the autumn woods.
3. Master the scatter and recall method
The traditional hunting method for fall turkeys is the scatter and recall. This technique involves finding and flushing a flock of turkeys, then setting up near the flush location and calling in birds as they regroup.
The key to the scatter and recall is getting a good scatter. If you flush a flock and all the birds fly in the same direction, you've done nothing but scare the turkeys.
To ensure a good scatter, hunters should use terrain and cover to get as close as possible to the flock before making the flush. When you go for the flush, go hard. Run into the flock clapping, yelling, and waving your arms. Try to get as close to the middle of the flock as possible and make the turkeys go in different directions.
After a successful scatter, set up near the flush site and wait for turkeys to begin calling. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on how far the turkeys flew and what type of flock you are dealing with. Family flocks typically start calling the soonest, while gobbler gangs may take several hours or even days to get back together.
When you hear a turkey begin calling, mimic the bird while trying to add more feeling. Continue mimicking the turkey until it is in your effective range.
4. Master fall turkey calls
Turkeys are a gregarious bunch, calling to one another every day of their lives. Just like in the spring, hunters can use this to lure a turkey in for a shot. Here are some of the most important fall turkey calls:
- The lost yelp. When a turkey gets seperated from its flock, it will make this call, yelping up to 20 to 30 times in a row. Make sure you add as much pleading emotion to the call as possible. Use it to locate turkeys or draw them in after a flush.
- Kee-Kees. This call is made by juvenile turkeys and can be productive in recalling family flocks. It consists of three ascending high pitched notes and is often followed with yelps to make a kee-kee run.
- Clucks. The cluck is one of the easiest calls to reproduce on any kind of turkey call. It can be effective in finding silent turkeys because when a turkey clucks, it is saying, "Where are you?"
- Gobbler Yelps. Gobbler yelps are slower and raspier than those of hens. Use this call when attempting to lure in mature gobblers. Make sure you go slow and emphasize the two notes of the yelp creating the distinctive "Yowp, Yowp, Yowp" of a mature gobbler.
- Fighting Purr. Wild turkeys love of fight. This call, which can be combined with scratching in the leaves or beating your hat on your leg to simulate flogging turkeys, is the equivalent of a high school boy yelling "Fight!" down the school house halls. Turkeys may come in looking to join in the ruckus or just to see what is going on.
5. Look for their food source, and choose the right weapon
Here are some more important tips to consider:
- Like all hunting, hunters who put in some time scouting will be more likely to find turkeys while hunting. Look for fall turkeys in fields or find where they have been scratching in the leaves for food. When the time comes to hunt, key on areas your scouting has proven likely to produce.
- Hunters can shoot fall turkeys with a shotgun, bow, and, in some locations, a rifle. Whatever weapon you choose, preseason practice is a must.
If you've never tried a fall turkey hunt, I urge you to do so. You'll forget all about deer season when a group of turkeys gathers around your position, calling from all directions. Besides, a 25 pound gobbler is a heck of a lot easier to tote out of the woods than a deer.
Will you be hunting fall turkeys this year? Let us know by commenting below.