A while back, I saw a friend that I'd not seen in a few years. He could hardly wait to tell me that he'd tried fall turkey hunting for the first time. The next thing he said was "...and it will be my last fall hunt. I'll stick to hunting turkeys in the spring from now on."
Now I should tell you that this man is quite
a sportsman. He's spent many years in the woods and on some of the best
lakes and streams in his part of the country.
When spring turkey hunting came to his county in Illinois, he was right there to give it a try. and he was successful.
Unfortunately, I find his attitude toward fall hunting to be somewhat common, even among experienced hunters. Why is that?
Fall turkey hunting is unlike spring hunting. First Turkeys don't mate in the fall. There's little if any gobbling. For many, that's the way turkeys are located in the spring and the mating urge is what allows a hunter to call a gobbler to the gun.
So, if turkeys aren't mating, what's going on?
In the fall, when it starts to get cooler,
turkeys like to "flock-up" and we often see flocks of up
to a hundred or more. There are lots of juvenile turkeys in those
flocks along with lots of hens.
You'll also find smaller flocks of
jakes and occasionally a much smaller flock or mature gobblers. Since
they're not competing for a mate, they seem to prefer
being together. That's probably for protection from predators.
I've often seen more turkeys in
one large flock in the fall than I've seen all spring.
So, if there
are such large flocks of turkeys, why don't we see them and why wouldn't everyone want to hunt
them in the fall?
The easy answer is, they can be really concentrated you must find them. To hunt turkeys in the fall, you need to
either scout, have a good friend who scouts, talk to the rural mail carrier, talk
to the UPS driver/school bus driver, etc. and find out where the turkeys are hanging out.
Some good questions to ask: Where have you been seeing flocks of turkeys? What time of day have you been seeing them? Where were they going? Have you seen them there every day?
In the fall, it's a matter of locating the flocks and being where they are. It's just hard to call a flock of turkeys to your location if they're a mile away from you.
What happens when you've located that flock of turkeys? Well, if they've coming your way, you don't necessarily need to do anything. You can wait until they get close enough and you can pick one out, if you can safely shoot him without endangering the others, and it's done. Simple, right? Okay, so it hardly ever works that way.
If you see a large flock of
turkeys and they haven't seen you, there is a tried and true method for
hunting them. I know it sounds strange but it works.
First make certain
that your gun is in a safe mode and then run at the birds, screaming,
barking or whatever the loudest sound you can make is. The idea is to
frighten the birds and cause them to fly/run in all directions. "Bust" the flock. (If
they all go the same way, you're out of luck so you need to be really
Next, sit down close to the "bust" site, wait a few minutes and then start to call.
is where you must put
some personality into your call. You can kee-kee, lost call,
yelp...whatever works for you but you must sound lost! Imagine that
you've just been separated from all of your buddies and you don't want
to face the woods alone at night.
Eventually, if you've had good bust, sometimes minutes, sometimes longer, turkeys will start to respond to your call and start to come to the bust site. Be prepared! They may come very quickly. Some may come quietly. They may come 2-3 at a time or singly. They may come from your back, side or another direction.Remember, you're hunting. Be prepared to take the shot.
One last note. The fall is a great time to take a friend turkey hunting. This is one time that several pairs of eyes, ears and legs is very beneficial. It's also a great time to take a kid hunting. There's so much more opportunity to move and see lots of country and wildlife in the fall and keep a youngster interested and occupied.Fall turkey hunting has actually become my favorite season. Try it and it may become yours