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Fall Hunting Techniques


Droppings Under a Gobbler's Roost
Fall turkey hunting can be just as exciting as spring. Having a flock of jakes stampeding into your fighting purrs will get the heart pumping as much as a close range strutting spring gobbler. Fall is a very busy time for most hunters and fall turkey hunting often takes a back seat to deer, waterfowl and upland hunting. What does this mean? Well, often you will have the woods to yourself if you're a dedicated fall turkey hunter. This is good for many reasons but perhaps most importantly it gives you plenty of time for fall hunting which is necessary if you're planning on taking a fall gobbler. Which brings us to the most important aspect of fall hunting, patience.

Patience, while important in spring hunting, is at least twice as important if you plan on hunting for a fall gobbler. Busting up a flock of hens and poults and calling them back in can sometimes be over in a couple of minutes. Gobblers, however are a completely different story altogether. In the fall, gobblers could care less about hens and are only somewhat inclined to flock together with other gobblers. Fall gobblers usually cannot be called in using hen yelps, cutts or cackles. Instead, you have to sound like a gobbler to call in a gobbler in the fall. This means using low clucks, gobbler yelps, fighting purrs and even gobbles to attract a fall tom.

The techniques consistent from spring to fall are good scouting, woodsmanship and correct calling. I've found the most important part of fall turkey hunting is spending a lot of time scouting birds. If you can find a flock of either hens & poults or gobblers and pattern their movements, it's much easier to succeed using any of the fall techniques. It's always easier to call a turkey to a location he wants to go to anyway.

Let's say you have a flock of turkeys located. Now, how do you hunt these birds? Generally, fall hunting techniques include:

Scatter and call back-

The most popular method for hunting fall turkeys is to scatter a drove and try to call individual turkeys back. The idea is to scout out and get as close as possible to a flock of turkeys and then run towards them yelling and whooping to try and get them to break up as much as possible. Running with a loaded gun is never a good idea so put down your gun and run like a mad man at the flock. I've heard barking like a dog can help scatter them better. I've never tried this I guess because of the fear someone not familiar with fall turkey hunting would see me and assume I was crazy. One warning though, know your terrain before you take off running. The first time I tried busting a flock in the fall, I was walking the top of a steep ridge when I saw a flock out in front of me. I ran screaming and waving my arms at the flock. Everything was going good until I stepped on a round rock and took a spill. I eventually ended up about 30 feet below on the edge of the creek. Evidently, cursing while tumbling down a rocky slope is not a good scatter technique since I had no luck calling in these turkeys.

Ideally, the flock will scatter in all directions or at least split up in two groups because this will give you the best opportunity to call them back to the flush site. Hopefully, there are a lot of lonely turkeys after the scatter but many times they do not scatter well at all. If they all fly off together your only real choice is to try and scatter them again.

Terrain can be a big factor here as well. I do most of my turkey hunting in Kansas and our typical terrain doesn't have mile after mile of woods. I am usually hunting a fairly narrow strip of woods either along a wooded gulley or a single ridge along a creek bottom. Trying to scatter turkeys in a 50 yard strip of trees can be very trying because the birds will generally just go in one bunch and it will take multiple scatters to finally get some turkeys separated. One good tactic to help you out here is to scatter from both sides with a hunting partner. By coming in from both directions, the turkeys are more likely to get a good scatter.

If the turkeys seem to scatter fairly well but all go in the same general direction, walk 100 to 200 yards in that direction before you set up to begin calling. Sometimes you will not get a good scatter and the turkeys will re-flock immediately before you have a chance to call in any loners.

There are several other variations to the scatter technique which can be even more successful. If possible, get out the evening before the hunt and locate a flock going up to roost. Wait until it's good and dark and then go underneath their roost tree(s) and start yelling and banging on the trees with a dead limb to make the branches shake. If there are vines hanging from the tree, shake them also and wave your flashlight around. This should scatter them really well and they will not regroup until the next morning when it is light. The next morning, get to the roost site early to get in the middle of the regrouping flock.

Some people say to wait 30 to 45 minutes after the flush to start calling and that is probably true for a gobbler flock especially. However, typically you find a flock of hens and poults and the poults will often start calling immediately after the flush. You'll just have to play it by ear most of the time. As soon as you hear some other turkeys start calling, you better begin yourself. One of the best tactics is to just repeat the call you hear. If a young turkey starts kee-keeing give him one right back. If you hear hen yelps, yelp right back at her because you don't want her out-calling you and getting the flock to come to her. Many times if the old boss hen is close to you and begins calling, it is best to just get up and scare her away.

If you do happen to find a flock of fall gobblers and try this technique, you better have a lot of patience. Gobblers are not really social in the fall and when scattered it may take them anywhere from a few hours to a few days to get back together. If you want to call in a gobbler in the fall, you have to learn to talk like one. Gobblers have no interest in hens at this time of the year so they will no respond to hen yelps or clucks. You'll need to learn to make gobbler yelps and clucks which generally are harsher and deeper sounding and also are slower paced than hen calls.

Turkey Dogs -

Another tactic used by many to get good scatters is a turkey dog. These dogs can find and then flush a flock of turkeys and then sometimes flush them again to get them really scattered. The dogs are taught to stop and bay at the flush site to allow the hunter to catch up and constrain the dog before beginning calling. Generally, these dogs are Boykin Spaniels but some other breeds have been trained to do the same thing.

For more Info on turkey dogs see - Turkey Dog News

Intercept and Call-

Many people prefer to try and call in the whole turkey flock instead of scattering them. This is the general method I prefer to always try first. If I cannot call the flock in I will then try and scatter them and try to call in an individual bird. My feelings are if you have turkeys close to you, why not try and call them in as a group before spooking them. It works well some of the time and gives you two chances for success.

Locating a flock of turkeys can be done by either viewing a flock and maneuvering to get closer or by using your ears and finding a flock scratching or calling amongst themselves. Once you have a flock located, try and judge where they are traveling and get in front of them before setting up. Start out by giving a few yelps or clucks. If you get a response copy that turkey's call.

Another good tactic in this situation is to use a fighting purr. All turkeys, especially young ones, are really active fighting in the fall and they love to come running when they hear a fight going on. Turkeys are constantly fighting in the fall as they try and establish the flock's pecking order. They make a lot of noise when they fight so I do too when I'm trying to call them in. I've had the best luck while hunting with a buddy and having both of us calling like crazy. It's also a good idea to use a wing or hat to beat on the ground or trees around you. A turkey fight is loud with lots of wingbeats, purring, cutts and clucks and more. If you can get close to copying all of these sounds, you will sound more realistic and be more effective. Getting charged by a group of 20 young jakes in the fall can be a lot more intense than even calling in an old longbeard in the spring.

Random Calling-

If you cannot locate a drove or flock of turkeys, it is possible to just move around in areas known to have turkeys and call like in the spring to try and get turkeys to respond. Once again, start out by giving a few yelps or clucks. If you get a response copy that turkey's call. Lost calls work well in this situation also.

Still Hunting and Stalking-

Truth be known, there are a lot more turkeys killed in the fall by deer hunters sitting in their stands than most people think. Many deer bowhunters will also buy a turkey tag just in case a flock of turkeys wanders by their stand. Other hunters that go after turkeys exclusively and scout out a particular bunch of birds to pursue will also use the still hunting technique. If you can pattern a flock and find out when and where they enter a feed field, cross a creek or river, or travel to and from their roost, sitting in a blind near their path can be the most effective hunting tactic of all. It may not bring the satisfaction of calling a bird in but if you are looking for a Thanksgiving bird, it may not matter to you at all.

Whatever technique you choose, killing a mature longbeard in the fall is no simple task.




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