He once yelped in a spring gobbler for recently retired NFL New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. He probably calls more fall turkeys into range annually for lodge guests than anyone else in the country. Above all, Pete Clare owner of Candor, New York’s Turkey Trot Acres with his wife Sherry, is a serious wild turkey hunter. Strut Zone caught up with him recently to talk a little about the fall turkey tradition:
Steve Hickoff: What are the major differences between spring and fall turkey hunting as you see it?
Pete Clare: In the spring of the year we hunt mature gobblers. In New York State we can only hunt until noon. During our fall season we hunt all wild turkeys: gobblers, hens, jakes and jennies. We can hunt all day and we are allowed to use turkey dogs to find and bust up the flocks.
SH: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a dog to hunt fall turkeys?
PC: The advantages of using a turkey dog are many. First and foremost is using the dog's nose and natural hunting ability to find the flocks of wild turkeys. Using a dog also adds a tremendous amount of excitement to the hunt. Watching the dog's mannerisms when getting close to a flock and waiting for the barking lets us know that the hunt is on! As my friend, and creator of the Appalachian Turkey Dog John Byrne from Lowry, VA once said, "Fall turkey hunting without a dog is a little like going on a honeymoon without a bride . . . it's just not the same." There are no disadvantages of hunting with a dog.
SH: What advice would you offer a person who wants to fall turkey hunt, but who has only done it in the spring?
PC: Fall turkey hunting will allow you to hear a much wider range of turkey vocabulary. Learn all the calls of the wild turkey to improve your fall turkey hunting odds. To be a better spring hunter, learn to hunt turkeys in the fall. The practice of luring a spring gobbler to your gun using the mating calls is vastly different than calling in a wild turkey gobbler in the fall when his only concern is survival!
SH: What are the three most important aspects of finding fall turkey flocks?
PC: Learn where the turkeys roost, especially as the weather changes. Know what food source the turkeys are feeding on at the time you are hunting them. Woodsmanship is huge in the fall season. Know how to read turkey sign and especially how to follow turkey scratchings. Fresh scratchings will always lead you to a flock of turkeys!
SH: What calling strategies do you use for autumn gobblers?
PC: When calling to gobblers in the fall, patience is king. If a mature gobbler decides he wants companionship, he just might respond to gobbler clucks, yelps and gobbles. The best times of day to expect a response are at first light and just before roost time in the evening. Remember after the mating season is over in the spring, a wild turkey's main interest is survival. Too much calling will attract predators both two- and four-legged.
SH: What do you love most about fall turkey hunting?
PC: In October and November here at Turkey Trot we can be found "trying to reason with turkey season.” My favorite turkey season is in the fall. I totally enjoy the entire turkey hunting adventure, especially hunting with my Appalachian Turkey Dogs: finding the flocks, busting the flocks and calling them in to the gun is what it is all about. When you toss in the beautiful fall foliage, fresh turkey scratchings, acorns and beechnuts dropping, and a young bird kee-keeing way out on the ridge, the fixin's are there for a grand fall turkey hunting experience! Long before there ever was a spring season the traditional turkey seasons were in the autumn.
Interested in hunting upstate New York State’s wild turkeys? Contact Turkey Trot Acres’ Pete and Sherry Clare at 188 Tubbs Hill Road, Candor, NY 13743. Phone: 607-659-7849. Website: turkeytrotacres.com