If you were fortunate enough to draw a tag for the fall turkey hunt, chances are you were in the woods this morning at daylight. The weeklong season is for a gobbler or a hen, so any turkey that may be within shotgun range is fair game. This is no easy task for the hunter who wanders the woods on foot or drives some of the back roads hoping to get a shot at these keen-eyed birds with sprinter like speed.
With a little planning, the odds will greatly increase of bagging Thanksgiving dinner. Knowing where turkeys roost can be a distinct advantage for the next day’s hunt. They often will pick a tree on a side hill where a bird can fly to the roost limb and also exit with clear sailing the next morning at the crack of dawn. Hearing that distinct flap of their wings is a telltale sign that birds are close by in a canyon or on a nearby hill.
If you can hear the flap of their enormous wings at dawn, then set up to call immediately. Full camouflage, including a facemask and gloves, will help in blending into the vegetation. Sitting against a tree that is wider than your shoulders and body is a must and will aid in blending into the outdoor surroundings. Be sure that you have clear shooting lanes that are in front of you in the direction of where the turkeys left the roost tree.
These birds have extremely keen eyesight, so once you are set up, be as motionless as possible. They are low on the food chain in the forest and their eyesight is one of their best defenses against predators. The key for the hunter is to find a comfortable position which can be maintained for a lengthy period of time because an October turkey is in no hurry to go anywhere in the early morning. The daily routine of going to water and scratching for food will occur any time during the daylight hours.
A gentle morning yelp can get a bird’s attention from as far as 300 yards away. They may respond with a yelp or cluck which is always a good sign for a hunter who is waiting patiently for that turkey to be within shotgun range. Many times in the fall, the birds may approach with no warning, coming to the call in complete silence, so it is important to always be ready. On more than one occasion, I have been startled by the appearance of a turkey or two without the telltale yelp or cluck.
If after an hour’s wait there is no action, it is probably best to quietly walk in the direction of the fly down and start using the call in hopes of getting any kind of response from the birds. If there is any turkey noise because of a call, immediately find a suitable tree and set up again in hopes of a close encounter. Remember, these birds are flock oriented and they want the company of other turkeys.
Most turkeys taken in the fall are hens or a poult, which is a young bird, but it is possible to call a long bearded gobbler in October. He may respond to a call with a turkey yelp much like that of a hen or poult and not the expected mating time gobble. The fall is a tough time to call a turkey into shotgun range, but it can be done even though they are not nearly as talkative as they are in the springtime. Spending time in the woods, walking quietly and calling occasionally will greatly increase the odds of bagging a turkey this season despite the success rate being rather low during the fall hunt.
A wild turkey can be a very smart bird as noted by Ben Franklin when he proposed the idea it should be the national bird for our country. It is interesting to note that they exist in 49 of the 50 states and in far greater number now than when our country was first founded. This is made possible by the reintroduction of these noble birds by the National Wild Turkey Federation, which is made up of hunters throughout the United States.
Enjoy the beginning of the fall colors in the Rim Country, God’s creation.