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Fall Turkey Hunting
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

Fall turkey hunting is not the same as spring turkey hunting, because the birds are motivated by different needs. To be successful you have to use techniques suited to the needs and habits of the birds at this time of the year. Fall turkeys are not interested in breeding, the toms are not gobbling, and they are beginning to regroup. The hens are interested in security and survival for the young, and finding abundant food sources because of the greater number of birds. If food is scarce the hen flocks may travel more than normal to find food. They flocks are also able to detect danger more easily because there are more eyes and ears. The young are also older and smarter, and their calls have changed, primarily because the birds are older.

Fall turkeys are interested in cover, roosting sites, water and new food sources to fatten them up and get them through the winter. In the fall turkeys search for natural food sources, grapes, cherries, grass seeds, acorns, beechnuts, pine nuts, and other mast. They also look for snails and insects; and grasses that have remained green or recently greened up. In the fall green forage can be found on east facing slopes and in drainage bottoms. Turkeys will also feed on agricultural crops of clover and small grains.

Fall Scouting, Observing, Recording and Patterning

Prior to the fall season you should spend some time and effort locating the food sources. Weather dictates the availability and abundance of natural crops, while weather and the farmer dictate the location of, and the productiveness of the crops. The only way to find the food is to get into the fields and woods. Check out food sources from the spring and previous years, and look for signs of recent use. You may actually see birds while scouting. When you see turkeys take note of the time, place and sex of the birds, and mark the place on a topographical map or aerial photo. Turkeys often use preferred routes and travel at about the same time daily. Try to pattern the birds if you can.

If I discover a pattern I put a blind in the feeding site or travel route to ambush the birds as they come by. Because I hunt private land I often construct blinds of natural materials, or leave a portable blinds in good locations. The birds soon get used to the blinds, and when I use a flock of decoys they often come right in to my calling. This technique takes patience, and many hunters prefer to take a more active role rather than a passive one.

Fall Hunting Techniques

The classic way to hunt turkeys in the fall is to find a flock of birds, often hens and young, get close enough to flush the birds, and scatter them by running into the flock, waving your arms and yelling as you go. Then you set up in the area, wait until the birds begin calling to each other to regroup, then call to get them to come to you. Your calling often gets the lost young to sound off in an effort to find the hen or others of the flock. Once the birds begin calling, others begin calling in return, and the flock eventually gets back together.

Sometimes this works, but the birds may regroup somewhere else. If you set up close to where the birds landed you may end up between two birds calling to each other, and they come right to you. Scattering birds in the fall works but is often unnecessary. If you are close enough to scatter a flock you are usually close enough for a shot, or can get close enough. Wait for a single bird to separate from the flock before shooting, it's very easy to kill more than one turkey when the birds are close together.

When you are hunting toms in the fall, try to locate the birds the night before, by watching or hearing them fly-up to roost at night. Then you go in the next morning, setup as close as you can to the roost trees (50-60 yards), and possibly get between the birds and their morning feeding area. Then you call the birds in, or ambush them when they walk by.

I use more decoys in the fall than I do in the spring because of the larger flocks I encounter. I use up to six decoys and generally use only hen decoys when I am hunting hens, because I am not simulating breeding or dominance behavior. If I'm after toms I use one jake decoy, more than that may scare off a single tom.

For hunting sites I choose semi-open areas like I would for spring hunting, with a tree at my back to break up my outline, and for protection. Then I string some camouflage material up in front of me. When I hunt private land and know I won't be stalked by other hunters I prefer to have cover in front of me. I choose a low bush or fallen tree to sit behind and sit on a portable folding stool/backpack. This method of portable hunting, not needing a tree as a backrest, gives me the opportunity to pick up and move if the area is unproductive. I can set up in more open areas by using a piece of camouflage material stowed in the backpack. There is also room for a half dozen Feather Flex turkey decoys. When I get my bird I put it in the pack along with my decoys and head for the truck.

If you have questions about turkeys log on to the T.R.'s Tips message board. To find out when turkey gobbling peaks in your area click on Peak Turkey Gobbling Dates Chart. If you are interested in more turkey hunting tips, or more biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T.R.'s Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com . If you have questions about turkeys log on to the T.R.'s Tips message board.

This article contains excerpts from the Turkey Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 S&H), by T.R. Michels.

T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, outdoor writer and speaker. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His latest products are the 2003 Revised Edition of the Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2003 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2003 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual.

For a catalog of books and other hunting aids contact:

T.R. Michels
Trinity Mountain Outdoors
PO Box 284
Wanamingo, MN 55983.

Phone: 507-824-3296
E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com
Website: www.TRMichels.com

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