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Fall Turkey Hunting

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.

Roostingis 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 utilizeA Rainy Day Huntto 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,

Larry Stephens



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