By Josh Boyd
Once a tradition in many areas, the popularity of fall turkey hunting seems to be on the decline in a number of regions. In some circles, even the talk of fall turkey hunting will garner a confused glance from fellow hunters. To many, turkey hunting does not register high on the priority list, other than during the dogwood bloom days of spring.
It seems as if every year, a number of hunters cite a lack of responsiveness to calling as their primary reason for forgoing the fall turkey season. “You can’t call them, you just have to sit and wait,” seems to be the mantra of most who feel that the fall season offers little in the way of excitement.
While it is true that you are unlikely to experience the explosive gobbling that is synonymous with the spring season, turkeys are still turkeys. Birds still vocally communicate with one another, no matter the season, and hunters can call turkeys to the gun during the fall of the year, just as they could in the spring.
A Change In Circumstances
In order to understand how best to call turkeys in the fall of the year, one must first consider the behavioral differences between turkeys in the spring and fall. In the fall, toms are no longer actively seeking hens, and hens are no longer interested in standing for breeding.
Toms can be found grouped together, working as a cohesive unit to locate prime food sources and avoid danger. Hens, on the other hand, are busy rearing their poults, and intaking sustenance for the winter ahead.
By familiarizing yourself with these common traits of flock behavior, one can deduce that you will likely stand a far better chance of attracting a turkey during the fall when using a call that imitates the sound of a bird of the same sex.
Words To Live By
If you intend to call turkeys during the fall of the year, you must know the lingo. The following are some vocalizations that fall turkey hunters can use to coax curious birds into range.
Gobbler Yelp: Contrary to the spring of the year, toms do not typically gobble as their primary form of vocalization during the fall. Instead they yelp. A tom’s yelp can be distinguished from that of a hen due to its more throaty, sound and slower cadence. During the fall, toms are always eager to determine where new birds in the area fall into the pecking order. By gobbler yelping at a tom, you stand a decent chance of enticing an aggressive response.
Gobble: While toms do not typically gobble as much during the fall as they do in the spring, gobbling does still occur. If gobbler yelping fails to bring a territorial flock of toms within range, try a gobble or two in a bid to make their blood boil.
Hen Yelp: Hens yelp regardless of the time of year, even sometimes doing so to the point of making hunters question a bird’s reasoning. In many cases, yelping can be used to a hunter’s advantage in the fall when a flock has become scattered. In fact, many hunters purposely scatter flocks during the fall of the year, and attempt to call lone hens back into range by assembly yelping.
Kee Kee Run: The kee kee run is another favorite of those who scatter and call flocks during the fall. This is the vocalization of poults who are not yet old enough to properly yelp. This sound could be best described as a series of 2-4 short whistles, followed by a somewhat muted yelp. Outside of its use for regrouping scattered flocks, the kee kee run can also be used to entice a passing flock, bringing them just close enough for a shot.
Scouting Pays Dividends
Unlike during the spring season, when a hot gobbler can sometimes be coaxed from great distances, fall calling success is often dependent upon setting up in a location that is within close proximity of a flock’s natural route of travel. In turn, scouting prior to season can be of immense importance.
During the fall, turkeys feed heavily on mast, making oak flats a key point of interest. The sign of turkey activity in these areas is unmistakable, as a significant amount of leaf litter will be disturbed, as turkeys scratch for the acorns that lie beneath.
A hunter can also glass fields in a bid to study how turkeys are navigating across the open landscape. Much like in the spring, turkeys will make regular appearances in fields and other open areas to pick at insects and remaining vegetation. This is especially true in the hours directly following a rain shower.
It is also important to locate roost sites within the area that you intend to hunt. This can be done in a number of ways. When birds of an area frequently roost over open fields, glassing from a high vantage point with a pair of binoculars can be quite effective. Hunters can also listen for yelping or gobbling prior to flydown, thereby pinpointing the location of roost sites.
However, if both of these methods come up dry, a simple walkthrough of historical roosting locations will often reveal areas saturated in droppings and feathers. When such a location is found, there is a high probability that you have stumbled upon a heavily used roost site.
Calling Knows No Season
Despite what many would have you to believe, hunters can, and do, call turkeys during the fall of the year to a high degree of success. Are you likely to lay witness to hard-gobbling action and non-stop strutting? Probably not. However, with an understanding of how turkeys socially interact, and the ability to render a few basic calls, you can pull a little tom-foolery on an old longbeard this fall just the same.