By Chris Larsen
Pursuing wild turkeys is one of the most rewarding hunting experiences. It’s typically done on the ground and in close quarters. A line of communication between hunter and hunted often leads to the climax of the hunt. Turkey hunting is truly an in your face sport. While most turkey hunters choose to chase the birds in the spring, fall turkey hunting is gaining popularity. With more people getting into turkey hunting and a booming population, expect fall turkey hunting to continue growing.
The most common strategy for hunting turkeys in the fall s is to walk a given area until birds are spotted. Then walk into the area with arms waving and generally looking like a fool until the turkeys hit the road. At that point, set up somewhere between where they went and where they were and start waiting for them to return. It seems like a good plan but sometimes the turkeys never come back. Personally, I don’t see the purpose in intentionally scaring game away from where they want to be.
A better fall turkey hunting strategy is a hybrid of a typical spring hunt and the above approach. Try to set up within 100 yards of roosted birds early in the morning. They usually begin calling from the treetops twenty minutes before they fly down from the roost depending on the conditions. If you’re not close enough, start moving right away but move quietly and cautiously. Once the birds start calling, mimic their sounds. In the spring the gobblers usually do the talking. In the fall the hens are most vocal. If they are using three note yelps, give them a three note yelp. The goal is to sound as natural as the birds you are pursuing. If there are multiple groups of turkeys around you, get ready. It’s going to be an exciting morning. These birds typically flock up while feeding so they should be responsive to calling.
“Should” is the key word here. Turkeys may be on the move but they often use the same trails to get to where they are going and moving closer to one of those trails may be necessary. It’s important to pack light and stay mobile. Continue to use cuts and yelps as locator calls. Keep low and walk quietly until turkeys are spotted. From there, it’s a stalk hunt. If the birds bust you, revert to the original strategy or start over again by trying to spot and stalk. If hunting multiple days, take note of the trails turkeys used the first day and set up on the same trail the following morning if needed. Learning to scout while hunting is an important skill for any hunter.
Even though the quarry is the same, a different strategy is necessary to bag a bird in the fall. The eager toms of spring no longer come running upon hearing the purr of a hen… or hen call. They are now suspicious. However, most states allow harvesting either sex in the fall thus enhancing a hunter’s opportunity to come home with a bird.