When hunters think of turkey hunting, most think of the spring breeding season. Lots of hunters have never pursued these wily game-birds in the fall. However, fall is the traditional time to hunt turkeys and the average spring hunter can learn a lot from the vocalizations they’ll hear in the fall. Here are some tips to help you harvest your Thanksgiving bird this year.
Find a Flock
Turkeys are bunched up in the fall, which makes them harder to find. Glass open fields on rainy days and walk the woods to find turkey scratching before opening day. Focus on food sources like recently harvested agricultural fields or acorns while scouting fall flocks.
Once you have found a preferred food source, try to find the flock’s roosting area, which is typically located nearby.
You want to know where the birds are hanging out and what type of flock you are dealing with. This knowledge will help you when it is time to start hunting.
Determine Flock Composition
Birds will form groups based on sex and age. Family groups are composed of hens and their young of the year. Broodless hens will run in flocks and mature gobblers and last year’s jakes will form gobbler gangs. In early winter, spring born males will form new flocks or join gobbler gangs.
Scatter the Flock
As odd as it sounds, this is the tried and true method of killing fall turkeys. Locate a flock and scatter them with dogs, shotgun blasts (aimed away from out of range birds,) or by rushing the flock, yelling and waving your arms.
Position yourself near the break site and wait for birds to start calling. Family flocks will sometimes start regrouping within 15 minutes of a break, while broodless hens and gobbler gangs may take one or more hours to start calling.
Recall the Flock
After a successful scatter, turkeys will try to regroup. By hanging around the break site you have a good chance to hear them calling to reassemble.
If you know what type of flock you have scattered, you can begin calling before the birds. Otherwise, wait for the turkeys to call and imitate the birds you hear. Try to match the turkey’s vocalization, but add more feeling. For example, if a bird yelps three times, yelp back four times, adding desperation to the tone of your calling as you go.
Make the Shot
Fall turkey hunting’s best and worst trait is the fact that birds can come to calling from any direction. If you scattered the birds well, they will be coming from all directions as they attempt to regroup.
The best strategy is to stay focused on the closest or most vocal bird. Keep your gun ready and DON’T MOVE until you see a turkey and his line of sight is obscured by trees or other vegetation. When the turkey goes behind a tree or other obstruction, make your move. When they reappear, take the shot and land that Thanksgiving bird for the table.