How to hunt fall turkeys without breaking up the flock

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Throwing the 12-pound jake over my shoulder, I returned to the truck, happy with the success of another fall turkey hunt. Only this one was different from most of these outings.

Instead of breaking up a flock of chickens and young birds, I located the group of turkeys I had taken this jake with using binoculars, guessed where they were going, and settled down in a few hundred meters in front of them. Half an hour later, without uttering a single cry, I lunged at the plump jake and watched the rest of the herd run away, barely alarmed.

Predicting motion patterns is how we kill White Tails. It’s also a great way to label a fall turkey. It is particularly useful for western hunts which have many open areas and scattered woodlands where birds can be spotted in the distance and where it is often difficult to get close enough for good separation. It is also a very effective way to take a turkey in many areas of the east with semi-open habitat.

No one would want to completely abandon the traditional method of hunting turkeys in the fall. Locating a flock, separating birds, and then recalling them is a great way to enjoy the outdoors this time of year. But don’t rule out a one-off approach to turkey hunting just because that’s “not how it’s done”.

Why a big game hunting approach for fall turkeys works

More than two-thirds of states offer fall seasons when the weather is generally cooperative and bird populations are at their peak. Here are some reasons to consider hunting fall turkeys more as if they were big game than a bird.

On the one hand, it’s simply a stimulating and rewarding way to hunt, just like when you study a local population of deer or elk and pull one out by predicting their natural movements and routines. daily.

Hunters who are not particularly good callers may also want to use this approach. It doesn’t matter how horrible your turkey conversation seems if you don’t call.

It is also a good hunting method when the birds have been under heavy pressure and are leery of calls. Such birds may have been repeatedly dispersed by turkey, deer and small game hunters and be wary of coming easily to a call.

Once you know where the turkeys are going to end up, get ahead of them and wait for a shot. Mitch Kezar / Design photos

If a group of mature gobblers are involved, breaking them apart and calling them back is sometimes nearly impossible. Old toms can sit scattered around for hours or even days. In other cases, they can regroup without even calling. Locating, then setting up and ambushing those long beards is often more likely to be successful.

A final reason to consider this tactic is to avoid overly disturbing the local bird flocks where you are hunting. Many states have multiple labels for harvesting more than one turkey. If you want to get back to the crate and the birds you hunt are not scared and divided into small groups, then ambushing a bird is much less disturbing for them. They will likely stick to their normal travel patterns, allowing you to resume the route they are using and harvest additional birds.

Ultimately, some hunters simply prefer this method or like it as a change of pace from separating a flock and attempting to call the birds back with a shotgun or bow.

The tactic is especially useful when there are a lot of open areas and ridges or perhaps fire towers from which you can observe the herds and study their movement routines. Where do they roost? When do they go to the water and where? Do they usually head east or west in the morning after flying down? The rod and ambush method also works in the woods as long as they are open enough to see birds from a distance and get ahead of them.

How to hunt fall turkeys without breaking up the flock

1) Find a place with a high number of turkeys

First, using hunting service websites, county harvest numbers, regional biologists, foresters, or other sources, locate an area with abundant birds and public or private land where hunting is permitted. Then get out and scout, or scout while hunting if the season is already open.

The next step is optional, but once you’ve found some potential areas, you might want to increase your chances by using surveillance cameras. Place them on the edges of fields, forest meadows, edges of crops or anywhere you have seen birds or signs of birds.

Capturing turkeys on cameras can tell you where the turkeys are traveling and when they’ve passed, with a good chance they’ll repeat that route. The patterns are what you are looking for. But unlike deer, which can follow somewhat similar routes each day, turkey flocks often have longer travel routes. Sometimes it may take several days for them to return to an area. Keep this in mind as you study surveillance camera footage and plan your hunt.

Besides setting up surveillance cameras and glazing high areas, you can also locate turkeys with the traditional approach to fall – lots of walking. Walk along forest paths or ridges and weave up to the ridge to peer into depressions and hollows. Once you’ve located the birds, find the best way to go around and get settled. A hunting app like onX can help. If the birds are heading towards you, simply crouch down against the nearest large tree or shrub and wait for them to come within range.

2) the best habitat for fall turkeys

Prime habitat for turkeys in the fall includes woods with an abundant mast, fields with insects or crop residues, hollows, ridges, gully junctions, clearcuts, edges where deciduous trees meet conifers, or young wood joins mature woods. Pines are particularly popular for roosting when available. An ideal fall turkey hunting area has a good mix of open and wooded habitats with different age classes of hardwood and coniferous woods for roosting.

Also try to locate streams, spring seeps, small ponds or other water points. Turkeys need water every day. They get some of the dew and puddles from it, but they often visit a waterhole, reservoir, stream, or pond once a day. Find these areas and you can either set up a blind and hunt near them or use the sign to find out where they are coming from and heading after drinking.

Five turkeys feeding in a field
Find sources of turkey food to mold the birds. Elizabeth W. Kearley via Getty Images

3) look for turkey food sources

Acorns are at the top of the menu for turkeys in the fall in many areas, but other hard and soft masts are eaten as well. Favorite turkey foods include wild grapes, chufa, wheat, corn, oats, rowan, persimmon, clover, hawthorn, rowan, berries, and insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and larvae. If a food is badly affected, its placement can lead to a quick and successful hunt. Enter before dawn and wait.

Look for indications that turkeys are using the food, including feathers, tracks, and scuffed leaves. Then try to discover patterns of turkey movements from the area. Determine where the birds are roosting, water and go out to feed in the morning. Find out where they rest and dust their feathers at noon. With this knowledge, you can often identify where to catch them.

4) How to interpret the sign of Turkey

Look for droppings, feathers, areas of dust, and scratches on the leaves. You can tell which direction the birds are going by the direction the leaves are stacked. A turkey picks up the leaves towards it while looking for food. This means that they will be stacked in the direction they came from. The opposite direction is where they are going.

Make sure the sign is cool. Turkeys move so far in a day, usually several miles, that finding an old sign doesn’t mean much. Concentrate on areas where the “scratches” look fresh with the moist soil where the birds have raked the leaves. Look for shiny or moist feces rather than dried out and faded.

5) use your ears when looking for fall turkeys

Make sure to use your ears as much as your eyes when hunting and spotting. Take a break every now and then and listen. The flocks of turkeys that feed in the woods make a lot of noise. In addition to the occasional chuckle and purr, you might hear leaves scrambling or wings hissing when one bird tells another to back away.

hunter walking on a trail in the woods.
Walking on forest roads is one way to locate a flock of turkeys. Mitch Kezar / Design photos

6) Perching the flock

Perched birds can be a valuable strategy for fall hunters. Go out late in the day, just before sunset, preferably to a ridge or a place where you can hear birds from a large area. About 30 minutes before sunset, start listening to the whistling wings and snapping branches of the turkeys as they fly to the perch, or the sweet calls they make when they gather for the night. Locate this spot and stand nearby the next morning in broad daylight.

7) The final approach

If you’ve modeled a herd well, the final approach may simply involve picking a good spot along their planned travel route and waiting. If you continue to hunt in wooded habitat and encounter birds, do a quick analysis of their direction and terrain features that will allow you to bypass and intercept them. This is when the adrenaline rushes as you descend a ravine or behind a side spur ridge to move forward, much like anticipating where an adult male moose or boss antelope is going and stalking for. intercept it.

Does that match the thrill of breaking out an autumn flock and remembering the birds? It’s up to you to decide. I plan to use both tactics, choosing one or the other depending on the habitat and hunting situation, or maybe just my mood for the day.


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