I have known many turkey hunters over the years and have guided many others. They come from all walks of life and have a widely varying degree of hunting experience. Once in a great while I run across one that is exceptional.
In late 2013 I received a call from a guy from SE Georgia wanting to book a public land turkey hunt with me. His name was Brian Threlkeld. We had numerous conversations and email exchanges over the coming weeks and developed a plan for a combination public/private hunt for the 2014 spring season.
Brian’s hunt date finally arrived and he and I spent the next three days, completely consumed with turkey hunting. We would rendezvous at my office at 5:00 AM and would be lucky to make it back by 10:00 PM that night. If we weren’t actively hunting a turkey we were talking about how to hunt a turkey. I am not even sure we stopped for lunch every day!
A Master Hunter Leaves Nothing to Chance!
I quickly came to realize just how knowledgeable of a woodsmen Brian was and what an exceptional turkey hunter he is. Many hunters overlook just how important a role woodsmanship plays in being a successful turkey hunter. Brian probably didn’t know it but I was watching every move he made, how he called, when he called, what gear he carried, even where he walked. I scrutinized every word he spoke. There was no doubt I was hunting with a Master turkey hunter!
Brian was meticulous about the equipment he carried. Every item had a purpose and a place. I could tell that each item carried a special meaning. One of his essential items was a custom long box that he used as his primary strike call. Another was a custom made trumpet call, each having a custom holster. His chosen weapon….an old Remington 870 with a 30” barrel and custom choke. He was particular about every item he carried and wore. Everything was not new but it was in top working order and performed even better. I have noticed that this is usually the case with the best hunters. The guy with all the latest, brand new gear is probably not the expert everyone thinks.
Brian and I had a tremendous hunt and came close to pulling the trigger 3 different times before we finally killed a bird on the 2 nd. day at about 10:45 am. A number of the birds we hunted were struck well up in the morning including one at 12:00 noon! Another mark of a real turkey hunter. We hunted that bird until 2:00 PM before he and his flock of 5 hens finally moved off away from us. We repositioned on them twice and almost killed that bird both times. His death awaited but a couple yards away on each set-up. They never knew we were there. The next morning, we hunted a bird early that I had roosted the evening before. When he came off the roost he landed 25 yds from our position only to walk away with some gallberry bushes between us. Afterwards, we went back to hunt the gobbler from yesterday again. We struck him at 10:15 AM in some short sand pines. He died shortly after at 10:45.….following the same routine as the day before. We were successful due to having scouted heavily and located a number of birds. When one broke down we were able to move on to the next with current intel
Are you missing the Big Picture?
Many turkey hunters seem to have no understanding of or maybe just over look the big picture when it comes to hunting a turkey. What do I mean by this? They narrowly focus on the turkey and what is going on at that very moment. They neglect to consider why the bird is where he is at that time and a whole host of other factors like does this bird have a predictable routine, are there hens involved and what will they be doing as the morning progresses. For most hunters, If the bird does not gobble, fly down and move towards the hunter, they don’t know how to handle the situation. Basically, in their mind, the tom is gone at this point. Often times this is not the case and considering all factors involved will give you a good idea of what your next move should be.
The typical hunter knows how to strike a bird and move in and set up but what if the bird breaks down and stops calling and don’t show……he’s outa there looking for another bird. The run and gun strategy is a great one and exactly what we employed on the hunt above however, you need to bring more to the game than just one method of hunting. You need a hunting strategy for each different situation and be able to adapt to as needed. It is easy to get stuck in the run and gun mode. The problem is that you are walking away from often times, killable birds.
Here’s a good example;
I was recently on a hunt with Brian on a tract he owns in Georgia. Brian, knew a particular gobbler was using a few hundred yard stretch of black jack oak ridge that bordered a narrow creek drain. The drainage was predominately thick and impassible with a very small opening in the creek bottom.
The vary scenario I described above happened to Brian and I on this hunt. The bird gobbled on the roost at us as we moved towards him owling. He was in a tight creek bottom with a terrible cut over adjoining the back side. We set up on the sand hill to his right knowing he pretty much had to come to the hill. Besides that, we had cut numerous hen tracks crossing the road in the dark. We surmised that they were roosting in the creek then moving up onto the hill to spend the day feeding and loafing.
I only gave the bird a few tree calls until it was time for a turkey to be on the ground. He never answered a single call! Brian was set up behind me about 30yds. After more than an hour of silence and no birds showing up, I moved over to Brian to discuss a new plan.
It was obvious the bird was not going to come to this spot. We were very close to the roost and he surly had moved away by now. I was ready to move on myself and though that decision happened to be technically right at that time (we discovered later), I instantly realized I had made a classic error when Brian suggested we relocate a little and give the bird an hour to start up. That was a Masters move! Someone that was seeing the whole picture. It was One of those, hit yourself in the forehead moments for me. “Damn it, why didn’t I think of that?” Though the odds of that bird coming to us that morning right there were not good, Brian’s move was the tactically correct one! You’re already on a bird dummy! It is typically a poor choice to leave a bird that you already have close to you in hopes of finding another! I guess, at least I was smart enough to recognize my mistake. I will not repeat it again.
Though no turkey was killed that morning, the experience was a valuable one. That lesson will without a doubt kill me some turkeys in the future.
Knowing what to do and when to do!
O.K., I know what your thinking, What was so important about Brian’s call to stay with that bird, you did not kill him anyway? First, through previous scouting and knowing the area, woodsmanship again, Brian knew the birds were in somewhat isolated pockets, very significant. This bird had himself a group of hens and they were roosting in a narrow creek drainage and then moving out onto an oak hill to feed and spend the day. They were using a relatively small area and it had everything they needed, also significant. There was no reason for them to wander out of the area. Therefore, by relocating up onto the hill a short distance, to where we had seen all the hen sign in the dark, we would be in a place were the flock was used to using at that time of day and they would not be to far away. Second, it was very likely that he stopped gobbling early once he saw his hens and then pitched to them. However, By going silent and giving him some time, it was highly likely that he would start up on his own a little later in the morning or we might strike him with an occasional call. Either way we should get a courtesy gobble at some point and we would go from there.
Therefore, with the knowledge that the birds were using a relatively small area, were in that area currently and we were in their wheel house undetected, the tactically correct decision was to stay with them and see what developed.
A turkey generally has a routine to his coming and goings. Day in and day out a turkeys day begins the same, progresses through the day and ends the same way. It is affected by many factors, including the type of woods, density of population, weather, water levels, phase of breeding/nesting, food availability, etc., etc. The list is endless but is paramount to the hunter to recognize as many of these factors as possible and take them into consideration when developing an attack plan. Now your looking at the big picture!
Another Masters Move!
Brian and I went back to hunt that creek bottom bird the next morning. We had discretely scouted the spot the Tom had been roosted after the hunt the morning before. We now knew his roost spot was a hole in the creek where the only option for him was to move from there onto the hill. We located a small game trail that we believed the turkeys were using to enter and exit the bottom and marked it for our return in the dark.
The next morning he was exactly where he was supposed to be. It was another Masters move! Brian stayed up on the hill and kept the bird gobbling so I could course him without calling and move in silently for the kill. This one was not a new one on me but is an advanced strategy.
That bird has no idea how close to death he came. A more solid plan has never been designed. I cannot say without any doubt that he never left the limb but I don’t see how he could have gotten it done. There were no solid spots in the canopy large enough to hide him gliding off?
I sat quietly on the bank of the little stained, sand bottom creek, a mere 60 yds from the roosted tom, watching intently for his departure from his limb. I am really confident he was still sitting there when I finally slipped out at 8:30. I know I did not fowl him getting set up! I have been close like that to a pile of turkeys and know what I can and can’t get away with. It is one of my most deadly tactics. Though I never actually saw the gobbler this was a great hunt. I was within a long shotgun shot of him for over and hour and a half, tight as a string the whole time. I just knew I was about to deal the death blow any second! Wow that was a hunt!
In true turkey form that old tom made the only play possible, short of migrating out of there that could have kept him from getting shot……He sat right there on the roost until we just had to leave him due to our limited time to hunt that morning.
The Quickest of Turkey Hunts!
Brian had heard another tom hammering that morning so with only 45 minutes left to hunt, we charged off after him. We ended up striking the bird well down the road using Brian’s wing bone call. He couldn’t have been more than 175 yds at the most. We grabbed our gear and took off after him.
The bird was on a sandy hill with scattered black jack & live oak, some scattered pine, etc. with a ridge paralleling our movement. We stopped to call and course the bird after about 100yds and he responded immediately, just on the other side of the ridge. We barely had time to get set up.
I picked a group of 8-10” oaks and Brian dropped back to call. In just a few moments the bird topped the ridge in front of me within gun range. He turned slightly to follow the ridge and I immediately recognized that it was time. A quick shift of the camera and a load of #6 was on its way down range. Big gobbler down! I jumped up and ran to the flopping tom. Brian was standing where I had shot from when I came walking back up with the bird and a big smile. He looked at his watch…..”you know it’s only been 6 minutes since we struck this bird! That’s got to be a record!”
The big Georgia Eastern had a 11” beard and 1 1/8” spurs.
A trait that seems to be common among the best hunters I have met is Modesty. They have the confidence of experience. Brain was no different. He would never brag of the numbers of turkeys he had harvested. That was not even the point of hunting. Not at all, it is the new experience, sights and knowledge that each hunt brings. Every hunt without exception is different in some way. It may merely be something you have never seen your quarry do before. As a hunter, if you overlook these moments you are little more than a killer and the hunt is truly so much more than that.
Brian would seldom speak of his accomplishments or boast about what he owned, etc. I only received little tidbits of information about him as a side fact to some story he was conveying at the time. He wouldn’t just come out and tell you he owned numerous tracts of land, some of them substantial, nor did I ask. I figured he would tell me in his own time, if he wanted me to know.
Another thing I liked about Brian was that he didn’t come across as a know it all! He was willing to listen to your ideas then offer his own experience and reasoning. Conversations with Brian were always enjoyable and interspersed with stories of past hunts. All included valuable bits of information that could only be gained through countless hours spent afield. I sucked it all up like a sponge!
We are already planning some new hunting adventures for next year and to say that I am looking forward to it is quite an understatement.
Best of hunts,
Since my back ground is of a technical nature, I have always believed more information is better than less. Trail cameras provide a lot of valuable intel that you can incorporate into your hunting. With the advent of the new “Time Lapse” feature and being incorporated into the latest trail cameras, a whole host of new intel can be gained.
I recently add a new Camera to my stable of Trail Cameras…..the Primos DPS Time Lapse Camera!
This is a really neat little unit and can provide information that a conventional motion triggered camera just cannot do.
On one of my leases there is a historic turkey roost where the birds roost every night. This is a spot in the corner of a pasture that borders a creek swamp and I have never been there and not seen turkeys roosting there!
I have been running a Bushnell Trail camera there and decided to move the DPS unit there as well for a test run. I discovered that the birds are coming from a different direction to enter the pasture and are not using that roost right now. Since this camera is set to take a photo every 5 seconds, I get a clear sense of where the game came from, when, how long they were in the area and which direction they left in. The beauty of the camera is you collect data even when the game is too far away to trigger a standard motion sensing camera.
I found the photo’s to be pretty clear depending on the lighting. I would say the photo quality is average to slightly above.
The camera was easy to program and set-up. It requires (8) AA batteries for power.
One of the best aspects of this camera is the PRICE! You can buy (4) of these for what you’d pay for a plot watcher!
One negative is that this is a daylight camera only and does not take photo’s at night.
You can set this camera to take a picture every 5 or 10 seconds. I prefer the 5 second setting myself. A lot can happen in 10 seconds and an animal could walk past the camera without getting his picture made. You can always delete pictures but a missed opportunity is lost for ever!
You will need a pretty large card to store all of these pictures. The unit will handle up to a 32gb card and you definitely want to go with the 32gb. Otherwise, you will be servicing the camera every couple days if you use something like an 8gb. I am using the “Sandisk ULTRA” but the “Extreme” or “Standard” will do a good job also. The Kingston “Ultimare X” or “Standard” cards work well with the DPS camera also. As far as class of card….class 10 is great but I have used class 4 also and cannot tell any difference. For individual photo’s, the class is probably not a factor.
The camera comes with software to watch each days time lapse. You can watch a whole days activities in 3 minutes or less! The software is fairly intuitive and you’ll get the hang of it without to much trouble. Set up was the only place I had any issues with the software. There was not much instruction on installation.
As far as using the photo’s you collect…..That’s a whole other issue. The photo’s use an extension that is not supported by many photo editing software’s. I was able to use a free photo editor called “Irfanview” to edit the photo’s but you should make a duplicate copy of them before you open them with Irfanview as it will change the file extension. Once that happens, the DPS program software can’t read it anymore.
I was able to make the videos below from the time lapse collection by doing a simple screen capture with “Corel VideoStudio Pro x5“, a video editing package you can get for about $49. The DPS software has a share button but I could not get that to really do anything and there were no instructions that I found on how it works.
Here is a hot link to the technical data on the Primos DPS Camera. This is a link to Amazon. In the interest of transparency I do receive a minuscule commission if you decided to make a purchase. However, if you can find a better price somewhere else, by all means, save some money! You may even want to consider a used unit on eBay, just be sure it is the latest version as earlier units had problems using certain cards.
Here are a few videos made from the DPS time lapse photo’s….
Q – How long does a turkey beard get?
A – The longest recorded turkey beard measured 18″ thought the average is just over 9″. The beard length will vary depending on a few different factors such as diet and terrain. Turkeys that spend most of their time around pastures or open grass lands tend to have longer beards as thicker terrain or areas with a lot of rock, etc. tend to wear the ends of the beard off quicker. Bristles of the beard are also broken off from the tom stepping on it as he feeds. Also, Northern birds or birds in areas with high snowfalls will often lose the ends of their beards when ice builds up on them and they break off. The beard typically grows 3-5 inches a year throughout the life span of the gobbler.
Q- How many beards can a turkey have?
A – Generally, most turkeys will only have one beard. However, a small percentage can grow multiple individual beards. They will all be aligned vertically with a small separation between each beard. Typically, There will be one primary, normal sized beard with multiple smaller, thinner beards above. These extra beards will usually vary from a few hairs to approximately 1/4″ in diameter. I have personally harvested (2) toms with triple beards. Toms with more than 6-7 beards have been reported but are pretty rare.
Q - Can you tell the age of a turkey by its beard?
A – The turkey’s beard can be used as a general rule of thumb for aging a turkey though the spur is probably more accurate. A young male turkey that is born in the spring will be almost a year old by the time hunting season arrives the following spring. He is referred to as a “jake” and his beard length will vary from barely visible to a max of about 4-5 inches long. By the next spring he will be a 2 year old and sport a beard up to 9-10″. Beards over 10″ are typically found on birds of 3 years or older. Most toms will not reach a length longer than 11-11 1/2″. The length is measured to the tip of the longest bristle.
Q – Can Hens develop beards?
A – Short answer, Yes! A certain percentage of the hens in any population will develop beards. The percentage varies but can be up to 10-20%. I have personally taken three hens with beards that I can remember. However, that is over almost 3 decades of hunting turkeys. Typically, a hens beard will be short and whispy compared to a gobblers. They are seldom more than a 1/4″ in diameter and usually about 3-4″ in length. Two of the Hen I harvested with beards had pretty large ones that were about 7 1/2″ in length.
Q – What is Beard Rot?
A – There is another factor that can effect the length of a turkey’s beard. It is known as Beard Rot and is caused by malnutrition. Many believe that this condition is a result of a parasite or fungus but this is not the case. Beard Rot is an interruption in Melanin production which gives the Beard it’s color and strength. This occurs when a turkey is stressed due to a poor diet. A turkey suffering from a Melanin deficiency will develop a light colored band around his beard. Some turkeys may have a completely blond coloration to the beard under severe cases. When a Turkey goes through a brief period of reduced melanin production and a discolored band develops on the bead it produces a weak area. When the turkey begins producing melanin again, the beard will return to its healthy black color. As the beard continuous to grow, eventually the fatigue from the flexing will break the beard off at this point, leaving a truncated end with a blond to reddish coloration to it at the tip. This gives the tips of the bristles a rusty or rotted appearance, hence the name, Beard Rot.
Q - Does a Turkey’s Beard serve any purpose?
A – A lot is not known about what purpose the turkey’s beard serves. However, from my own observations, I believe the beard is a visual cue, an identifying part of the turkey that allows other turkeys to recognise him as a male from long distance. If you have ever watched a gobbler strutting in a field or other place where he can be seen from a long distance, his beard projects out and is very much more pronounced then when he is feeding or milling around. Every so often a strutting bird will break out of strut and stretch out tall and make his beard stick straight out. He will almost always be looking at or for another turkey and I believe this is a signal just like the turkey’s fan and increased size when he blows up into a strut. Remember, turkeys have incredible eye sight and they put it to good use in just this way.
I recently purchased a new turkey hunting blind for next season, the Barronett Blinds-Grounder 250 blind. It is a 5 hub design and the setup and take down in the blink of an eye. You can set the blind up in a matter of a few seconds.
Of course, if you are going to sit in a blind for any amount of time and be comfortable, you need a chair of some type. I wanted it to be a light weight chair with a back support and decided on the “Alps Outdoors – Rhino Stool”. The chair only weighs 5lbs. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Other than the back of the chair being a little straight up and down, it seems well built and provides a reasonably comfortable seat without excess weight to pack in.
If you are looking for a hunting chair I would definitely recommend it and here is a link where you can get more information or order one for yourself;
Best of hunts,
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I have been looking for a new turkey hunting blind for next season and after a lot of research and consideration I have decided to go with Barronett Blinds-Grounder 250 blind. It is a 5 hub design and the setup and take down in the blink of an eye.
I also use the blind for filming archery hog hunts out of but when it arrived I realized the window sills were right about arrow rest height for me when I am kneeling. I am about 5’6″ so for a taller hunters this is most likely not be an issue.
Of course, if you are going to sit in a blind for any amount of time and be comfortable, you need a chair or stool of some sort. That started me looking for a light weight chair with a back support and I decided on the “Alps Outdoors – Rhino Stool”. I guess they refer to it as a stool as it only has 3 legs but I would call it a chair. It only weighs 5lbs.
Compared to the coil up blind I have been using the 5 hub design is a snap to set up. You just pull on the tag at the center of each panel until it pops out into place. Pop up the roof and your ready to hunt! You can set the blind up in a matter of a few seconds
The blind has one large window on each side with a center vertical zipper that will allow you to just open the left or right half of each window.
One of the major pluses of this blind is its light weight! At 14lbs. it is one of the lightest full size 5 hub blinds you can get. That is important when you consider all the other gear you will also be lugging in.
The blind has tons of room and measures 59″ square by 67″ tall!
- Five-hub design is easy to set up and take down
- Replaceable shoot through mesh camo windows for archery
- Ground skirt that contains scent and drafts
- Includes backpack for easy carrying
- BloodTrail camo pattern
I was impressed with the construction and compares to other blinds that cost considerably more.
If you want more information on this blinds or are looking to purchase one, just click on the Amazon link below.
Best of Hunts,
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“A comprehensive look into the use of chairs and seats for hunting turkeys”
I was recently flipping through a fresh sales flyer I had received from Bass Pro Shops and since spring gobbler season is almost here, naturally it had a wealth of new turkey hunting gear. One of the first things I noticed was a selection of hi-tech chairs and seats for the turkey hunter.
If you have any experience in doing anything that requires the use of a tool, you have probably figured out by now that different jobs require different tools! So it is with turkey hunting, different types of hunts and hunting styles require different tools to achieve the best results.
O.K., you’ve seen some reviews on chairs and seats used for turkey hunting. This article picks up where the others leave off and fills in the information gaps you need to consider before selecting a chair or seat and describes where best to put each to use.
-What Styles of Turkey Hunting Chairs are Available?
There are basically three styles of seats for keeping your butt out of the dirt. The first is the chair with a back, the second is the backless seat or chair and finally, the seat cushion. From there, you have two types of hunts to consider, an open country hunt and a woods type hunt.
There are several styles of hunting chairs for hunting from within a blind. The best choice of these is a chair with a back. This is obviously the most comfortable choice and if you’re going to hump in a 20lb blind and a 5-10 lb. chair you’re going to be there for a while so get a chair with a back. This may sound obvious but Since the windows of most blinds are pretty high, be sure to select a chair that is tall enough that you can see from the blind. Obviously, a Hunting Stool can work in a blind and it will usually weigh a lot less but you will not be able to sit on one for long. In my opinion, stools have little use for hunting. Additionally, if you’re not in a blind you need to be sitting right on the ground with one knee up to rest your gun on, in a shooting position.
There is a style of chair that probably is more properly referred to as a seat. Basically it is a chair without a back. In my opinion I see no benefit to using one. If you’re not going to use a chair with a back you might as well stay with the ol’ stand by, the cushion.
The third style of hunting seat is the seat cushion. This is by far my preferred choice and covers 95% of my turkey hunting.
-Hunting Seat Cushion vs. Hunting Chair!
Since we have pretty much narrowed the most useful choices for turkey hunting down to a chair (with back) and a cushion, this would be a good point to compare the two.
If you’re not hunting from a pop-up style blind, then the most useful hunting chair is going to be a short legged version. If you like using a chair this is what you want. Remember, the closer to the ground you can sit, the better. I cannot over state the importance of being low to the ground. It is very important to be able to sit in a manor that keeps you gun at the ready at all times. If a gobbler slips up on you, the chance of being able to lift your gun up from your lap and shoot, is not good. You cannot out draw a Turkey!
Each of these tools has its place in the turkey woods but the seat cushion is the most versatile. The only draw back is you have to have some kind of back rest to sit against. Of course, every turkey hunter knows the best way to break up you outline is to sit against a tree that is at least as wide as your shoulders. Sometimes this is not possible. If you have to sit against a small diameter tree, make sure it is a situation where you can shoot the turkey before he gets a chance to scrutinize you.
If you are hunting in open country that has few trees you are pretty much going to need something with a back to support you. In this case, a cushion is not going to work as well as a chair. Another possible choice would be a turkey vest with a build in back support. I would give this a serious look if I spent any significant time hunting open country.
As I spend the bulk of my turkey hunting time in the south, I am usually in a swamp or some kind of timber situation where a tree is almost always available to sit against.
How you sit can be critical to the outcome of your hunt!
-What Are The Drawbacks to Using a Turkey Hunting Chair.
-Difficult and bulky to carry
-Cuts down on your mobility
-You cannot back up to a tree to break up your outline.
-Difficult to sit with your knee up to rest the gun at the ready.
-What Are The Benefits to Using a Chair For Turkey Hunting?
-Keeps your butt out of the water if you have to set up in a wet area.
-It is more comfortable than a cushion.
-You are able to sit still for longer periods of time.
-Gives you a back rest when hunting an area with no trees to sit against.
-Does the chair design make a difference!
For the most part, a chair is much like another and serves the same purpose but when it comes to a turkey hunting chair, the leg design is something to consider, as well as size and weight. There are two leg designs to decide from and this is probably the main consideration. The first is a four individual leg design and the second it a “U” style design. Each has positive and negative points.
The difference in the leg designs boils down to how soft the ground is where you typically hunt. Here in Florida where I spend most of my time I am usually sitting on some saturated muck or soft organics. If you use a four leg chair, you are going to sink. right up to your butt. There is nothing worse than a wet butt. The “U” type leg is the best choice for this situation as it spreads the load over more area and provides more support.
The draw back of the “U” type leg is that you cannot sit close to a tree with it as a rule. If you hunt in any high water table areas, the trees will have somewhat of a swell butt to them. The ground is typically elevated at the base of the tree and the “U” style leg gets high centered on this or any roots or sticks that you cannot more. The 4 leg chair does not have nearly as much of an issue with this.
-What do I use and why?
OK, I admit I have them all! I have a variety of very hunting chair made, a 3 legged stool, a tall, four leg chair as well as several “U” leg folding chairs but for my hunting style, which is based on mobility, the cushion which is built onto my turkey vest is my number one choice!
This covers 95% of my hunting. If I use a turkey chair it is a “U” leg design and is actually a shorty beach lounge chair that is made of light weight aluminum tubing with a web seat that I adapted for turkey hunting. It is about the lightest chair you could get and sits very close to the ground so I can still sit with my knee up to support my gun. Again, I cannot over state how important this is. I seldom use a chair and sitting against the base of a tree is tailor maid for a seat cushion. Just make sure yours is waterproof and it needs to be attached to your vest to keep your hands free. Also, be sure it is at least about an 1 ½” thick.
In conclusion, whether a turkey chair is going to be a benefit to you is going to depend on your hunting style and the circumstances of the hunt. If you know ahead of time you are going to be parked in one location most of the morning or you are going to be hunting some kind of flat or open area that has no trees to back up against then the chair is going to be an asset.
However, in my opinion, the most exciting turkey hunting is when I can be on my feet and mobile, taking the fight to the bird. Sitting for hours on end and calling to the wind is a hunting technique that has little appeal to me. Give me light and mobile any day!
Best of hunts,
Tactics for Hunting Fall Turkeys differ from those of Spring!
If you plan to Hunt turkeys in the fall you need to know that there are considerable differences between spring and fall hunting. Many of the turkey hunting basics you have learned in the spring will apply to pursuing fall turkeys.
Though the hunting basics may be the same, the Calling and hunting tactics used during the fall differ from those used in the spring. The Fall turkeys typically consist of flocks of birds and their social interaction and daily movement patterns are different than in the spring. During the spring the Hens will be in singles and small groups of 2 to a max of about 5. During the fall the hens will be in large flocks of 10 to 15 birds and can be as large as 100. Typically, the hen will have all of her surviving brood and possibly a few other mature hens tagging along with her. The flocks will also usually have young toms mixed in known as Jakes. Jakes can also be found in their own bachelor groups and when split up are relatively easy to call up.
During the fall, mature Gobblers for the most part will only associate with other male birds. Typically, the birds in this group will all be mature turkeys but may sometimes have some jakes mixed in. One of the biggest differences you will notice between fall and spring hunting is the lack of gobbling. Mature Toms are less likely to respond to calling than Jakes and hens.
Locating turkeys during the fall is substantially harder than in the spring. The turkeys are less visible and generally cover more ground.
Typically, most states allow the harvest of hens during the fall, unlike the spring where only bearded turkeys may be harvested. Here in Florida, the harvesting of hens has not been allowed for several years now and has reduced the hunting opportunities to male or bearded turkeys only.
-Which Calls are best for Fall Hunting?
The fall hunter will need to add a few new calls to his turkey vocabulary that are not normally used during the spring season to be successful. During the fall hunting season the hunter is most often going to be imitating the calls of a young turkey that is lost and trying to locate other birds of its flock.
The most common call of a lost turkey is the “lost yelp”. The “assembly cluck” of an adult hen is used to call the flock together when scattered or after fly down. The “kee-kee” of the juvenile turkey is also used like a lost call, especially by jakes. The “coarse gobbler yelps” and occasionally, the “gobble”. are used by mature gobblers to re-group with each other. However, mature toms in the south almost never gobble at this time of the year.
Just as in the spring, the calls you use while hunting fall turkeys needs to match the type of turkeys you are calling to. You will find that young hens, and immature toms are the easiest turkeys to call in during the fall.
For immature turkeys, the “kee-kee” is a very important call but if you bust up a hens brood flock, using the “assembly cluck” to call the young back in is a deadly tactic! This is the primary tactic for fall hunting where the harvest of hens is allowed.
When calling to mature hens the best calls to employ are going to be the “lost yelp” and again the “assembly cluck”.
The best call to use for calling mature Gobblers during the fall is the “course yelp” of the gobbler. It is louder and less polished than that of a hen turkey.
-How to Identify Hens From Young Toms in a Fall Flock?
Many hunters have difficulty identifying young toms from hens during the fall, and both remain in family flocks throughout the fall. As long as both hens and bearded turkeys are legal game, I guess it is not that important to be able to identify between the two but if you plan to do much turkey hunting you really need to learn the differences.
As with most all species of birds the male is going to be more colorful. Being colorful and easily seen does not serve any purpose for the female. Since she will be the one sitting on a nest and raising little ones, she needs to be more camouflaged and less visible. Therefore, the female turkey is typically medium brown in color with a blue gray head. You will not find any iridescent colors that change with the sunlight on a hen. The caruncles or bumps and wattles on the hens neck can sometimes have a touch of red but very little. On the other hand a Jake will have significantly more red on his head and the wattles at the base of the neck. While not large and bulbous like the mature tom, they will be red. Additionally, hens are substantially smaller is size than Jakes and about half the weight of a mature gobbler. Mature hens in the South typically weigh about 8-10 lbs and hens in the North a little larger at 10-14lbs.
One of the first things to look for when you see a flock of birds are the ones that look black. Male turkeys will look almost black compared to the hens, particularly when viewed from the front.
Another identifying mark of the hen is the additional feathers that extend up the back of the neck. Typically, they have less exposed skin on their necks than males. It will not take you long to be able to recognize the differences between hens and Jakes once you have been around them a little.
-Locating Turkeys is the Key to Fall Hunting Success!
Locating turkeys during the fall is 75% of the battle and is a little more difficult than in the spring.
Pre-season scouting is one of the best tools you can employ to increase your odds of taking a fall turkey. The turkeys are usually a little more difficult to locate but once you have located where a few flocks are using they will probably not be to hard to re-locate again. The fall turkeys in the North are going to mostly be found on wooded hillsides and ridges scratching in the leaves for left over seeds and bugs. In the south the fall turkeys are located in a variety of places but locate the feed and that’s where they will be.
Locating turkey feeding sign is key to harvesting fall turkeys. With no mating going on, feeding is the primary thing on a fall turkeys mind.
Turkeys have substantially different habits during the fall than during the spring season but many of the same methods for locating them can be employed.
One of the main difference of the fall turkeys habits is where they spend the majority of the daylight hours. Food and safety are the primary driving forces behind the day to day movements of turkeys during the fall.
The food sources for turkeys during this time of year vary widely and are distributed over a larger area. Therefore, the turkeys must cover a lot more ground to fill their craw. The trick to locating turkeys in the fall is to know where the feed is located.
-Tactics For Hunting Fall Turkeys!
One of the most often used tactics for fall turkey hunting is to locate and scatter the flock, preferably in all directions. The hunter then sets up at the flush site if the birds scattered well or moves ahead a short distance in the direction the majority of turkeys flew and then sets up and attempts to call the birds back to the flush site. Turkeys at this time of year have a strong desire to remain in a group. Remember, most of these flocks will be comprised of a hen and her brood from the spring and they don’t like to be far from momma.
One tip to remember when calling fall turkeys and this is a good technique in general, is to answer the birds with the same call they are using. Use the same intensity and cadence, matching their every call. Often times this can really get the lead hen worked up.
“Roosting” is another tactic that can be employed to locate fall turkeys but it is very much different than in the spring. During the fall you need to have a good idea where the turkeys like to roost in the first place in order to find them. They will not be gobbling in the evening from the roost so long distance roosting is not an option. You will need to get into the area before the turkeys arrive to roost. The turkeys are prone to cackle when they fly up to roost but in the south are not quite as vocal as during the spring. Typically, you will need to listen for wing beats as they fly up.
Similar to deer hunting, the fall turkey hunter can use the “Ambush method”. This technique does involve calling. but you need to have a good idea where the turkeys are using and feeding and loafing. Basically, you set up in one of these locations depending on the time of day and do some intermittent calling to try to lure a bird within gun range. Decoys can also be used and be very effective.
Just like turkey hunting in the spring, the fall hunter can utilize “A Rainy Day Hunt” to his advantage. When the wet weather moves in, the turkeys are going to head for an open field, powerline, graded road, very open woods or similar location, just as in the spring. As the turkeys will be utilizing open areas, they will be very visible and are much easier to locate. Actually Locating the turkeys during the fall is really the hardest part of the hunt.
If you couple these tips and tactics with the skills and knowledge you have gained from spring turkey hunting, you should have no trouble finding success on your next fall turkey hunt.
Best of hunts,