October 13, 2015
For most hunters, fall turkey hunting is somewhat of an afterthought. Since turkeys are available, and occasionally walk by our treestands, we pick up a tag and hope for a chance encounter. A few of us get after it a bit harder, however.
Personally, I lived in the first category for quite a while. Then one day while killing time, I bumbled into a flock of birds feeding on an oak flat. I rushed in to bust them up and discovered a world of turkey hunting that I didn't know existed.
Now I hunt fall turkeys every chance I can, with both bow or shotgun, and every time I do I feel a twinge of regret over not taking the sport more seriously in my younger years. Few pursuits are as pure fun as fall turkey.
Following are several ways to get your fix when fall turkey hunting.
Into The Mix
Busting a flock is exactly how it sounds, and if you've never done it you're missing out. The goal is simple - find a naturally feeding flock and charge into them.
This is easier said than done because if you start your rush from too far out, all of the birds will scatter in the same direction, which is no bueno.
If you can crawl to within 100 yards or so and then start to run, you'll catch them off guard and they'll run and fly erratically. Watch for the loner or duo that takes off in the opposite direction of the majority of birds.
They'll be the first to return and offer a shot.
If you happen to bust a flock of gobblers, get ready to sit for a while. They'll meet up again, it just might take an hour or more.
Mimic The Masses
"Fall turkeys don't vocalize," is a myth on par with the October Lull in the whitetail woods. Fall turkeys will make every sound they can when you call to them in the right situation. From gobbles to purrs and yelps, they'll sound off.
This is why I carry a litany of calls with me when I plan to set up and try to lure in a group of birds. The more calls the better. Oftentimes I'll run two or three mouth calls and several slates or box calls.
To be successful while fall turkey hunting, make sure you sound like a whole flock is spouting off turkey nonsense and you'll call in the real thing. Don't forget kee kees and scratching in the leaf litter to further sell your ruse.
Turkeys Are Jerks
We've all seen spring toms stomp their recently departed buddies in the spring, but did you know fall birds are world-class a-holes too? In fact, it's not just the toms that will exact revenge on their fallen comrades. Hens will too.
Birds in general can be pretty territorial, and since fall turkeys are locked onto food sources, they are usually quick to defend their turf.
This is one of the reasons I almost always use a lone hen decoy when fall turkey hunting. A solo decoy positioned where a flock wants to feed won't be tolerated, and they'll charge in to chest-bump the interloper into the next county.
This goes for hens as well as toms, and is a blast especially if you're keen on bow-bagging a fall bird.
If you're having trouble filling your fall tag, consider ambushing a flock. It's not as exciting as other hunting methods, but is very reliable. If you see a group of gobblers feeding in a cornfield today, they'll be there tomorrow.
Ditto for hens and poults in a wooded pasture snacking on acorns. Set up there the next day and get ready because few critters are as patternable as fall turkeys.
One of the best parts about fall turkey hunting is that you can hunt the young-of-the-year birds, which are not in the running for any intelligence awards. The chicken-sized turkeys that are freshly hatched are easily duped, and a lot of fun to call in.
Since there are no trophy turkeys (at least in this writer's humble opinion) a seven-pounder with a little eggshell still stuck to his back is just fine and if you're not a world-champion caller, poults will make you feel like you are. Who doesn't like a little self-esteem boost in the woods?
Find some youngsters and you're on to something that might just lead to a filled tag. At the very least, you'll have a fighting chance of having some mighty fine meat to throw on the grill one evening in October while fall turkey hunting amongst family and friends.