4 Public Picks For Fall Turkeys In Our State
October 04, 2010
Here are four prime public-land areas to seek fall turkeys in the Commonwealth right now. Is one of these picks near you? (October 2007)
Photo by D. Toby Thompson.
Last year, Kentucky's turkey hunters enjoyed another fantastic fall season. In fact, the number of harvested turkeys was the second-highest ever recorded. An impressive 3,656 birds were taken in the Bluegrass State during last year's fall season!
The only time that number has gone higher is during 2004, when an incredible 6,746 birds were taken. That season was pretty much an anomaly, though, because there was virtually a complete mast failure that year. It caused turkeys to move around more in search of food; hence, more birds came in contact with hunters more often.
Due to the two big years, our fall turkey harvest is now averaging around 3,700 birds per year. The number typically goes up each year, but is still only a fraction of the 27,000 birds taken on average during the spring season. The upward trend for fall should continue to rise with increased hunter participation.
More hunters are participating in the fall turkey seasons. Shotgun hunters claim most of the birds taken in the fall. Last season, however, around 19 percent of the birds taken were attributed to bowhunters.
Some people have questioned whether the harvest of hens in the fall has an impact on the spring season. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) turkey program coordinator Steven Dobey says the impact is negligible because so few birds are taken in the fall.
However, the KDFWR watches all harvests very closely. It will make changes to the regulations if the hen harvest ever becomes detrimental.
We've got a tremendous turkey population right now, and the future looks exceedingly bright. The number of birds has been growing for years, but seems to be stabilizing.
But we have some of the best turkey hunting years yet to come. If you haven't yet tried fall hunting, there may be no better time to get started than this year. Plenty of birds and liberal limits make it very enticing.
Hunters new to fall hunting will find it quite different than the spring season. Although turkeys don't exhibit the gobbling and strutting action of spring breeding, fall can be very exciting, too.
For fall hunting, there are two basic tactics. One is the ambush method, where hunters scout an area to learn the local birds' travel, feeding, and roosting habits. The hunter then sets up near an area where turkeys are expected to travel and waits for the birds to come within shooting range.
Most bowhunters use a hunting blind to conceal their movement when drawing the bow.
The second method requires much more effort than just sitting in a blind and waiting. However, it can be a lot more exciting.
During the fall, turkeys prefer to band together in large groups. It's this desire for togetherness that hunters can exploit. The hunter stalks quietly until a group of turkeys is located, sneaks up close to the group and then charges at them, making as much noise as possible.
The idea is to scatter the flock in all directions. The hunter then sits down nearby, waits until the woods quiet down again and uses soft calling to lure the birds, looking to regroup, back into the area.
Most autumn birds are taken on private ground, but a good number are taken on public ground as well. Here's a look at four wildlife management areas (WMAs) that you may want to target this season.
BEAVER CREEK WMA
Hunters in the southeastern portion of the state may want to try the Beaver Creek WMA in McCreary and Pulaski counties. This property gives turkey chasers some 17,347 acres on which to ply their skills. Plenty of birds inhabit the area, but it takes diligent scouting and legwork to score a fall bird here.
The area is pretty rough to traverse. Steven Dobey describes it as "mountainous, rugged and gorgeous." However, this ruggedness limits the amount of hunter pressure on the area. The absence of competition bodes well for those who are up to the challenge.
Most of Beaver Creek WMA is heavily forested. There are only around 150 acres of open land at the property. A gravel road transects the WMA, providing a jumping-off point for access. Several other dirt trails along the ridges and valleys let hunters who aren't averse to walking to penetrate deep into the property.
Getting away from the roads is the greatest key to success at this WMA.
Dobey says the turkey population at Beaver Creek is in really good shape. The area is open under statewide regulations for both archery and fall gun seasons, but is closed during the quota hunt for deer.
More information is available by visiting the WMA office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or you can contact the office at (606) 376-8083.
STATE FOREST AND TRADEWATER WMA
The western portion of the state has some great turkey hunting. Numerous public lands offer some terrific opportunities. One of these is located near Dawson Springs and easily accessed from either state Route (SR) 109 or the Pennyrile Parkway.
The Pennyrile State Forest and the Tradewater WMA lie adjacent to each other. Together, they offer over 24,000 acres of hunting land. Tradewater WMA is 729 acres in size, while the Pennyrile State Forest consists of around 17,000 acres. The two properties are located in Christian, Caldwell, and Hopkins counties.
This area of western Kentucky is hilly and even somewhat rugged in spots. There are some steep drops and rocky outcroppings in certain sections. Most of the area is forested in pines and hardwoods, such as oaks and hickories. There are a few fields and open areas, but not a lot.
A good many turkeys taken during the fall are actually harvested by bowhunters who started out pursuing white-tailed deer. Those archers may be thrilled to know that these properties have excellent turkey numbers. But last year, the top-scoring buck in the state was taken at the Pennyrile State Forest as well.
There are a good number of turkeys in these two areas, and hunter success is usually quite good. Of course, most of the birds harvested are taken in the spring, but fall numbers have been improving, too. This fall should be another terrific opportunity to score a bird in weste
Both of these properties are governed by the same regulations for fall hunting. They are open under statewide regulations for fall gun season. The fall archery season is also open under statewide regulations, except that there's no hunting during the deer quota hunt.
For more information, the area office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Or you can call (270) 753-6913.
TAYLORSVILLE LAKE WMA
Hunters up in the north-central part of the Bluegrass State have a real gem in the Taylorsville Lake WMA. There is ample access to this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' property, containing some 10,571 acres in Spencer, Anderson, and Nelson counties.
The WMA holds a very good population of turkeys, but this resource is greatly underutilized by fall hunters. This leaves a lot of opportunity out there if you are looking for an un-pressured location to hunt.
A lot of habitat diversity exists at Taylorsville Lake WMA. There are plenty of woodlands with a good mix of hardwoods and mast. Steep ravines, open ridgelines, and open bottomlands are also abundant. There are numerous openings and fields planted with warm- and cool-season grasses, as well as other older fields in various stages of re-growth.
In short, it's got most everything turkeys need to thrive.
Turkeys may be hunted at Taylorsville Lake WMA during the fall archery season under statewide regulations, except that there's no turkey hunting allowed during the firearms quota hunt for deer. Hunters may also hunt turkeys during the fall gun season under statewide regulations, although the dates when one may hunt varies from the statewide dates.
If you're interested in hunting during the fall gun season, check for this year's open dates prior to hunting.
Taylorsville Lake WMA can be easily reached by anyone in the middle part of the state. Access is available off SRs 44 and 248.
An on-location headquarters office is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or call the office at (502) 477-9024.
BEFORE YOU GO
There are lots of places across the state where you can enjoy our great fall turkey hunting. But not all of the numerous WMAs and other public-land opportunities have the same season dates or regulations. Always check with each individual property to make sure you're aware of the regulations governing the area you are hunting.