tips for fall turkey hunting

Hunting turkeys in the fall is considerably different than hunting turkeys in the spring. However, many of the basic turkey hunting skills you would use during the spring are also necessary for pursuing turkeys in the fall. The key to being successful in the fall is being able to locate the flock. The flock will be where the feed is! The following is some of the more important information and tips that I have learned over the years that could help you harvest more fall turkeys.

Fall Gobbler By Bow!

-How does Fall Turkey Hunting Differ from Spring Hunting?

The hunting and calling techniques differ from fall to spring and turkeys in the fall are typically “flocked-up”. These turkeys present different movement and social patterns. Where the hens in the spring are in very small groups of 2-5 with many singles, during the fall the hens will be in large flocks that typically contain her brood from the spring and maybe a few other hens. Sometimes a flock may consist of several hens with broods associating together. These flocks can contain jakes at this time of year also. During the spring, jakes will be in their own bachelor groups for the most part. Gobblers on the other hand will only associate with other gobblers in the fall and will also be found in bachelor groups. One other major difference from spring hunting is the lack of gobbling by mature males. Also, mature males are less likely to respond to a hunter’s calling than hens and juveniles.

The greatest difference between fall and spring hunting is the type of calls you need to use and where the turkeys will be found. Finding the turkeys at this time of year is the greatest hurdle to over come.

-Can Hens be Harvested During The Fall?

Unlike spring hunting where only bearded turkeys or gobblers can be harvested, in the fall, most states allow the harvest of hens. One of the main reasons the harvest of hens is allowed is that many hunters find it difficult to tell the difference between hens and immature toms.

One of the first decisions you need to consider if you plan to pursue fall turkeys is whether you are going to target mature gobblers or hen flocks. The turkeys will be split up into these two groups based on sex and the mature gobblers do not associate with the hen flocks at this time of year. The Hen flocks can however contain young immature gobblers from the hens spring clutch. These immature toms are known as “jakes” and can also be found in small groups of their own.

-How do Calling Tactics Differ From Spring to Fall?

The calls a hunter needs to be able to mimic for fall hunting are different from the calls he would use during the spring. For most fall hunting scenarios the hunter will be trying to imitate the sound of a turkey that is trying to locate other birds from its flock. The most common calls to imitate in the fall are the, lost yelp”, the “assembly cluck” of an adult hen, the “kee-kee” of the juvenile turkey or in the case of mature toms, the “coarse gobbler yelps” and occasionally, the “gobble”. However, Keep in mind that while mature toms often gobble in the fall in Northern latitudes, they almost never gobble at this time of the year in the south. In fact, I have only heard two gobbles in all the hours spent afield here in my home state of Florida. The gobble call should be used very sparingly in the South but you could incorporate it more in the North.

Your calling tactics for fall need to match the type of turkeys you are calling to. Young hens, and immature toms are the easiest turkeys to call in during the fall, followed by mature hens and then Mature gobblers.

For immature turkeys, the “kee-kee” or “whistle” 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 meat and potatoes of fall turkey hunting!

If you are calling mature hens, the best calls to employ are going to be the “lost yelp” and also the “assembly cluck” of the dominate hen.

For mature Gobblers, “course yelps” are going to be one of your best calls. Again, in the North you can also do some gobbling but birds in the South just do not gobble in the fall and therefore, it is my opinion that if it is an un-natural call for that time of year, I would not use it, or very, very sparingly at the most.

-Tips for Locating Fall Turkeys?

Locating turkeys during the fall is 75% of the battle!

Pre-season scouting is one of the best things you can do to increase your odds of taking a fall turkey. Once you have found where a few different flocks are using and feeding you can probably expect them to be in that same location until something scares them off or the feed runs out.

Turkey feeding sign!

Osceola Turkey Feeding Sign!

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 in the birds habits is where they spend most of their time. Food and safety are the primary driving forces behind the day to day movements of turkeys during the fall.

During the fall the food sources for turkeys vary widely and are distributed over a broad area, hence the turkeys must cover a lot of ground to make a living. In the northern states the turkeys will mainly be found in the timber, scratching in the leaves for any left over seeds and bugs they can find or feeding on AG fields. In the south, there will still be some green available to be picked so it’s a 50-50 shot on whether they will be in the woods or in some open areas. The trick to locating turkeys in the fall is to know where the feed is that they are keying in on. If you like hunting turkeys with a dog, this can be a tremendous advantage for locating them.

-Strategies For Hunting Fall Turkeys!

Scatter the Flock: One of the most used fall turkey hunting techniques is to locate a flock of turkeys and flush them, preferably in all directions. The hunter then sets up at the flush site if the birds scattered well or moves ahead maybe 50yds or so in the direction the majority of birds flew and then sets up and attempts to call the birds back in, working on their strong instinct to stay in a group at this time of year. Remember, most of these flocks will be comprised of a hen and her brood from the spring so they don’t want to loose momma!

Roosting: Roosting is another technique that works in the fall but it is very much different than in the spring. During the spring you can hear a gobble from as much as a mile away but since there is no real gobbling going on in the fall you need to have a good idea where the turkeys like to roost in the first place and get into the area before they do. Many times the hens will cackle when they fly up just as in the spring but here in Florida you are probably only going to get to hear them take flight and beat their way through the tree tops.

The Ambush: This is somewhat like deer hunting but does involve calling. Like roosting you need to know ahead of time where a group of turkeys likes to feed in the morning or maybe where they are loafing at midday. Basically you set up in one of these locations depending on the time of day and do some intermittent calling. However, remember that as the day progresses, turkeys do less and less calling unless one is lost. It is unnatural for a turkey to do a lot of calling from one location and will make a turkey suspicious if you do it.

The Rainey Day Hunt: Just like turkeys in the spring, turkeys in the fall are going to head for an open field, powerline, graded road or very open woods, etc. when wet weather moves in. This makes them easy to locate as they are very visible. This is half the battle (and then some) during the fall. Once you have found them, then you can develop a strategy to hunt them.

Gobbler's wing primary feather found under a roost tree!

Couple these tips and techniques with your basic spring turkey hunting knowledge and you will also be successful in hunting turkeys in the fall. It’s just a matter of getting out there, finding them and applying the strategy that’s appropriate for the hunting situation!

Best of hunts,
Larry Stephens

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