The flock of turkeys had frustrated me throughout Virginia’s fall season. All of my attempts to take a bird ended in failure. The mother hen of the assemblage was an exceptionally loud old girl, and it was quite obvious that I couldn’t lure away her jakes and jennies by outcalling her. Her young, as nature had intended, were more in tune with her own yelps and clucks than with mine.
I decided that the time had come for an all-out charge on the flock. Charging a turkey flock is a time tested and effective method for scattering turkeys. Unlike in spring, turkeys in a gang will not respond to calling. If they’re spread out, though, you can take position and usually call a bird into range.
This particular flock’s habit was to feed in fields during the morning and enter an adjoining woodlot sometime early in the afternoon. I entered the woods around 2 p.m. Just 15 minutes later I saw the flock winding its way up a ridge along a mountainside, some 100 yards away from my position. I waited until the flock was out of sight and then began huffing up a ridge adjacent to the one the birds were foraging on.
When I felt I was well above where the turkeys would be, I inched up to the lip of my ridge and looked over to see if they were within sight. Fortunately, they weren’t. This allowed me to run over to the birds’ ridge and hurriedly set up against a tree.
Regardless of whether you hunt fall turkeys in the mountains, on rolling hills or in the flatlands and swamps of the South, one constant exists: You can use the terrain to hide your approach when charging a flock. Those terrain features might be a ridge like the one I used in the Virginia mountains, a hummock in the hill and valley regions or just a small rise in a flatlands swamp.
I heard the sounds of birds scratching from my position. Shortly afterward, several turkeys crested the edge of the flat below and began feeding.
Inexplicably, however, the flock hen decided to move toward the next ridge over. Laying my gun down, I quickly began screaming and running down the mountain. Chaos reigned among the flock’s members, and the entire assemblage took wing and pitched off the side of the mountain in every conceivable direction–a textbook scatter.
With the birds dispersed to all points of the compass, I set up against an oak that was 30 yards from the edge of the ridge. I waited 15 minutes and began yelping softly. Five minutes later, I began to utter frantic kee-kees–the sound of young turkeys lost and desperate to rejoin their flock. Ten minutes later, a jake poked his head over the edge of the flat, and my hunt was over. The young tom weighed 16 pounds–not bad for a Southern mountain bird.
1 Although Southern hunters often debate whether to try to call in a flock first or scatter it and then call, I have had more success with the latter tactic.
2 The kee-kee run is the best call for fall turkey hunting. Basically, this call is a whistle-like wee-wee-wee, followed by yelps.
3 If, during your scatter, the flock flies or runs off together, don’t waste time trying to call in the birds. Your attempt will most likely be futile. Try to relocate the gang and attempt to scatter the birds again.
4 Lay your gun down before attempting a charge. Never fire into a flock; doing so makes them too scared to be called back in and runs the risk of wounding a bird.
5 Don’t try to outcall the flock hen. If you hear her uttering the assembly yelp (a series of a dozen or so yelps), move toward her and attempt to run her off.