Fall Turkey Myths

Nwtfturkeyeasternflying_sz_post3 1. Fall turkeys are too easy

Some are. Some aren’t. Autumn turkeys can be easy once you find them, but locating flocks isn’t always a sealed deal. Food sources can be widespread in October and November, the heart of fall-turkey hunting around the country. As a result, groups of birds can roam widely. This is especially true for ridgetop turkeys in mountainous regions of the country. You may find sign in the form of scratchings, tracks, droppings and dusting areas, but never contact the live birds. When you do though, yes, it can be easier, but not always . . .
I’ve tagged fall turkeys on opening day not long after fly-down time. I’ve hunted autumn flocks on a Vermont ridge for days, with fresh scratchings all around me, without filling a tag. Is this anything different than hunting spring gobblers? Turkey hunting is turkey hunting.

Fact: Wild turkeys, young or old, are delicious on the table when prepared with care. My Thanksgiving Day simply wouldn’t be the same without one.

2. You can’t call fall longbeards

Not unless you try. Thinking like a wild turkey will help. In spring, male turkeys are inclined to seek out hens to breed them. Our calling tradition then focuses around making clucks and hen yelps to lure gobblers in. In fall, male turkeys roam in gobbler gangs. Survival—primarily roosting and feeding—and pecking order rule their movements. To call a fall longbeard to the gun or bow you have to adapt your calling. Clucking, gobbler yelping, and gobbling can do just that.

Once on a Vermont fall turkey hunt, my English setter Midge broke up a flock of gobblers my buddy Lawrence Pyne had seen while bowhunting. Our hunting partner Marc Brown would be the shooter. Calling included clucking, gobbler yelping, and most importantly aggressive purring. I watched as one longbeard skirted our setup, and moved on past. Not long after, another approached silently, and looked in the direction of the calling. Just then, Brownie purred aggressively, and I watched as that brick-red head turned red, white and blue. That fired-up tom, his shoulders hunched like Count Dracula, stalked into range.

That was the last thing that fall longbeard did.—Steve Hickoff