For most hunters taking to the woods this Fall, turkey hunting is a bit of an afterthought. Since turkeys are available, and occasionally walk by a treestand, a few bowhunters take advantage of the chance encounter. It’s a happy coincidence that Fall turkey season runs parallel to the state archery hunting season, which opens September 15th in our zone. And when it comes to fall turkeys, a few of us get after it a bit harder.
Personally, I was one of the target of opportunity hunters for a while and would take a shot at one if it presented itself. Then one day while killing time, I stumbled into a flock of birds feeding beneath a canopy of live oaks and spooked them. They putted and flew off in alarm, headed in every direction. I knew then that they would be hoping to regroup as a flock, took a seat and made a few calls with my voice and a pair of jakes walked back in. Once I had one of them short-beards step into a clear line of sight, my arrow flew an invitation to dinner his way.
Way back then, I didn’t know that “busting a flock” was an ancient tactic of Native American turkey hunters and is exactly how it sounds. The goal is simple, find a naturally feeding flock and charge in, scattering them in all directions, then sit and wait until they begin calling to regroup. Just get in close as possible before starting your charge. If you start your rush from too far out, all of the birds will scatter in the same direction, but, if you get inside fifty yards or so and then start to run, you’ll get a much better scatter. Be careful to watch for the loner or duo that takes off in the opposite direction of the majority of birds, they’ll be the first to return and offer a shot.
One myth I’ve heard for many years is that fall turkeys don’t vocalize. Fall turkeys will make every sound they can when they feel the need, but mostly their talk is of a social nature. There’s no urgency to their calling as in the spring with hormones raging. Fall birds are more concerned with finding food, dusting and entertaining as much company as they can. Take advantage of that with assembly yelps, just remember to imitate a tom, not a hen. Toms have a deeper tone with a slower cadence to the calling. And if on the ground, don’t forget scratching in the leaf litter about you to further sound like a feeding bird.
Another thing to consider is that turkeys in general can be territorial and since fall turkeys are locked onto food sources, they are usually quick to defend their turf. A solo jake decoy positioned where a flock wants to feed usually won’t be tolerated, and they’ll stomp in and throw spurs at the interloper. For best results, toss out some kee-kee calls from time to time sounding like a lonely and lost young jake. An older, mature flock of toms may just swing by to either pick him up or run him off. Either way, it will bring them into range.
Speaking of the kee-kee call, it’s a call you really want to familiarize yourself with. Not only is it a call you need to learn to imitate, but to recognize in the woods. If you hear a lost jake out in the woods kee-keeing, crying out to the world that he’s lost and desperate for a friend, you can call him in with ease by kee-keeing right back.
Callers in the fall are usually a bit less complex than those we use in the Spring. A simple single or double reed diaphragm, slate with mushroom tipped striker or a wingbone call are preferred. In fact, I haven’t missed a fall season yet when I haven’t gone to the woods with my wingbone caller in tow. It’s the perfect call for me and there are a good many turkey which have graced my table because of it.
As always, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!