Harvesting Fall Birds Requires Flexiblility
Mention turkey hunting to a sportsman and images of strutting, gobbling birds in green glades with the scent of blooming lilac on the breeze will probably be what comes to mind. Turkey hunting is spring hunting. Or is it? Fall turkey hunting can be just a fulfilling for the senses and the freezer if the hunter maintains a flexible mind and employs flexible tactics.
Changing the Turkey Hunting Mindset
The first item a hunter has to keep in mind is that a fall bird is not a spring bird. Turkeys behave differently in the fall than they do in the spring. In the spring the focus is breeding. Gobblers are seeking hens and hens are nesting. In the fall the focus is on flocking and feeding. So, while a spring hunter looks for places such as strutting zones a fall hunter should be concerned with feeding areas. As with any wild critter, turkeys are where you find them, however, looking for mast producing trees along ridge tops, and agricultural fields close to roosting areas will greatly increase a hunter’s chances of locating a fall flock.
The second item that a hunter needs to keep in mind is that, where it is legal, it is acceptable to shoot a hen. In most states that have a fall turkey season, harvesting hens is legal whereas, with a few exceptions, shooting hens in the spring is unlawful. Harvesting a young hen or even a jake in the fall will provide excellent table fare so go ahead and take revenge on the hen that lured the gobbler away in the spring!
Adaptive Fall Tactics
In the fall hunters should begin by looking for turkey roosting areas. These areas may very well be the same places that turkeys use in the spring. If you are hunting an area without a chance to scout much, enter the woods at first light and use your ears. Fall turkeys are still vocal and the flock will call and make noise while on the roost and after they leave. Once a roosting area is located, remember that area and make a set up in the late afternoon to harvest birds that are returning to roost. Next, locate where birds are feeding and get a setup on the food source. A well placed decoy here can work wonders.
Another successful fall tactic is flock busting. In this situation a hunter locates a flock of birds and runs helter skelter into the flock spooking the birds, preferably, in several different directions. Once the birds are scattered, the hunter sets up at the point of the bust and recalls the flock by using a turkey call. This tactic offers the fall hunter an exciting option. Another dimension of flock busting is, where legal, using a trained dog or dogs to bust the flock. An excellent resource for hunters wanting to learn more about hunting turkeys with dogs is the American Wild Turkey Hunting Dog Association.
Being successful while hunting fall turkeys requires a hunter to realize that fall birds differ from spring birds. Roosting areas and feeding areas are great locations to find and shoot turkeys. Flock busting, with or without a dog, is another a tool that a hunter can use to fill a fall tag and bring home a tasty twist on Thanksgiving dinner all the while enjoying autumn’s splendor. Good hunting!