While many hunters are familiar with the thrill of calling in a big tom during spring, fall turkey hunting offers its own unique and challenging experience. Unlike the spring season, where mating is the primary focus, fall turkey hunting revolves around hunting flocks and targeting individual birds.
Fall turkey hunting takes place during the autumn months when turkeys are actively preparing for the approaching winter. The behaviors and patterns of turkeys in the fall differ from those in spring, making this hunting season a unique opportunity for hunters. Understanding these differences and employing effective strategies and tactics will greatly increase your chances of success.
Scouting for Fall Turkey Hunting
Proper preparation is important to a successful fall turkey hunt. Invest time in scouting the area to locate turkey roosting and feeding sites. Keep your eyes open for fresh turkey signs including tracks, droppings, and scratching. This will help you determine turkey movement patterns and establish your hunting strategy.
Roosting areas serve as a crucial part of a turkey's daily routine, providing safety from predators and a place to rest. While roosting times may vary, turkeys generally begin roosting in the late afternoon or early evening, with most birds settling into their roosts just before dusk. Listen for turkey vocalizations to identify where turkeys roost.
- Wooded Areas: Turkeys prefer roosting in mature woodlands, particularly in trees with open canopies that allow for easy landing and takeoff. Look for forests rich in oak, hickory, or pine trees, which provide ample food sources nearby.
- Water Sources: Turkeys are often drawn to roosting near water sources, such as rivers, streams, or marshes. These areas offer not only drinking water but also ideal roosting spots on trees along the water's edge.
Turkey Food Sources in the Fall
Understanding turkey food sources during the fall season allows you to narrow down hunting locations.
- Acorns: Turkeys have a penchant for acorns, which serve as a rich food source during the fall. Locate areas abundant with oak trees to find feeding turkeys.
- Grains and Agricultural Fields: Search for turkeys in agricultural areas where they feed on grains like corn, wheat, or soybeans.
- Wild Berries and Seeds: Turkeys also indulge in various wild berries, seeds, and natural vegetation during fall. Areas with dense shrubbery or berry-producing plants are likely to be fruitful hunting grounds.
Travel corridors serve as vital pathways that turkeys use to move between their roosting sites, feeding areas, and other essential locations. These travel corridors offer excellent ambush points, increasing your chances of encountering turkeys and the likelihood of a successful hunt.
- Early Morning Observations: Arrive at your hunting area before dawn to witness turkeys leaving their roosts. Observe their flight patterns and note the general direction they take, as this may indicate their travel corridors.
- Tracks and Sign: Look for fresh turkey tracks, scratch marks, droppings, and feathers along potential travel routes. These signs indicate recent turkey activity and can help confirm the presence of a travel corridor.
- Natural Funnels: Pay attention to areas where terrain features naturally funnel turkeys. These can include narrow openings between fields, forest edges, or bottlenecks created by geographic formations.
Hunting turkey in the fall can be a rewarding endeavor when employing effective tactics. The following are tactics that you can employ.
Lay Out Decoys
Yes, using turkey decoys can be a productive tactic in the fall. Positioning realistic decoys near feeding areas or roosting sites can attract both flocks and individual turkeys. Utilize a combination of hen and jake decoys to create an enticing setup that mimics natural flock behavior.
Scattering the Flock
Scattering a flock of turkeys involves intentionally causing them to disperse, separating them into smaller groups or individual birds. By creating chaos and confusion, you can take advantage of the disoriented turkeys and target them one by one rather than dealing with the entire group. This approach offers a few advantages:
- Easier Calling and Approaching: Disoriented turkeys may be more receptive to calls and less cautious, making it easier to call them within range.
- Provoking Competitive Behavior: Scattering can trigger competitive behavior among turkeys, as they regroup and establish dominance, increasing your chances of attracting gobblers.
Always remember to maintain safe shooting zones with this tactic. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid shooting towards structures, road, and other hunters.
The name says it all. Ambush hunting requires setting up near known turkey travel routes, such as woodland edges or field borders, waiting, and being very patient. Here are some considerations to remember:
- Break Up Your Silhouette: By using natural cover, such as trees or shrubs, or utilizing ground blinds, break up your outline and blend into the environment. Be sure to conceal exposed skin by wearing camo face mask and gloves to avoid catching the turkeys’ attention.
- Reduce Movement to a Minimum: Once in position, remain as motionless as possible. Turkeys have incredible eyesight, and slight movements can alert them to danger. Be prepared to wait for extended periods, remaining vigilant and ready for action.
Best Time of Day for Fall Turkey Hunting
While fall turkey hunting offers more flexibility in terms of time compared to spring hunting, certain periods of the day are generally more productive. The following times are often considered the best for fall turkey hunting:
- Early Morning: Just before sunrise, turkeys leave their roosting sites in search of food and water. Set up your hunting spot early in the morning to catch them during their morning routine.
- Late Afternoon: As the day starts to wind down, turkeys become active again, preparing for the night. Late afternoon is a prime time for fall turkey hunting as turkeys often move towards feeding areas, offering a great opportunity for a successful hunt.
Mastering Essential Fall Turkey Calls
While calling is often associated with spring turkey hunting, it is equally relevant in the fall. During this season, turkeys are more focused on finding food sources and reassembling flocks, making them susceptible to the allure of well-executed calls.
The yelp is a versatile and essential call that can be used to locate turkeys, spark their curiosity, and establish contact. It consists of a series of varied notes that mimic the natural sounds of a turkey. Practice different pitches and volumes to create realistic yelps.
Clucks are short, sharp vocalizations that turkeys use to communicate over short distances. They can be used to maintain contact with a turkey that is within sight or to coax a curious bird closer. Focus on producing clear and concise clucks.
The purr is a soft, rolling call that turkeys use to communicate contentment or to call in other birds. It is an effective call to use when you want to create a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. Mastering the subtle vibrations and rhythm of purrs can be highly enticing to fall turkeys.
The kee-kee call is commonly associated with young turkeys and can be used to imitate lost or separated birds. It is particularly effective in the fall when turkeys are regrouping. Practicing the distinct three-note kee-kee call can be a powerful tool for attracting both young and adult turkeys.
Fall Turkey Hunting Gear
Whether you’re looking to fully outfit yourself for your first turkey hunt, or just update your existing gear, we’ve put together turkey gear recommendations to aid in a successful hunt.
The Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag Turkey Pump Shotgun with Holosun Red Dot Optic offers an easy-to-use, problem-free pump shotgun setup with the added benefits of the Holosun HS407K micro red dot for enhanced sight alignment, faster target acquisition, and transitions, as well as superior silhouette concealment through Mossy Oak Greenleaf camo, an oversized 3.5" chamber for versatile load options, a 5+1 magazine tube capacity, and a durable camo-covered synthetic stock that reduces weight and withstands hunting environments.
Herter's TSS Shotgun Shells provide enhanced long-range performance by utilizing high-density Tungsten Super Shot (TSS), resulting in denser patterns, increased penetration, and improved energy delivery, with the added benefits of consistent patterning and effective use in tighter chokes due to the buffered payload and smaller pellet sizes.
The RedHead Tec-Lite Long-Sleeve Woven Shirt keeps hunters cool and dry while providing comfort, unrestricted movement, and air circulation, with additional functional features like extra-roomy chest pockets for accessories.
RedHead Tec-Lite Pants offer the benefits of Insect Shield Preventative insect repellent, repelling various bugs for up to 60 launderings, along with ultralight and comfortable construction, moisture-wicking technology, fast-dry capability, and a functional 6-pocket design for convenient storage during hunting activities.
LaCrosse Alpha Agility 17" Waterproof Snake Boots offer hunters lightweight and flexible protection with durable waterproof construction, snake bite resistance, moisture-wicking liners, secure fit design, cushioned midsoles, and sure-gripping rubber outsoles.
The Cabela's Intensity HD Gen 2 Binoculars provide professional-level scouting capabilities with their premium HD ED glass for clear, detailed viewing, phase- and silver-coated prisms for enhanced resolution, advanced coatings for bright images in various conditions, fogproof and waterproof design, ergonomic comfort, and accessories like a padded neck strap and lens covers.
WoodHaven Custom Calls Hunting Public Mouth Turkey Calls offer three mouth call designs with versatile tones, including easy-to-control combo cuts for sweet soft calls and rasp, crisp rasp for loud cutts and yelps, and a radical combo cut for reliable cutts and yelps, making them ideal for effectively attracting heavily-hunted gobblers in challenging areas.
The Avian-X HDR Jake and Hen Turkey Decoy Combo, featuring highly detailed and durable blow-molded designs with lifelike feather detail, flocking, and interchangeable heads, effectively provoke dominant toms' aggressive responses due to their true-to-life appearance and realistic movement capabilities provided by the carbon mounting stake and rubber molded leg stumps.