Yesterday, I spent a delightful Tennessee morning enjoying the fall turkey season opener at my good friend Anderson’s farm. Anderson and I had talked earlier in the week about hooking up for a hunt. Saturday morning at 5:00 A.M. was cool, crisp, and sported a full moon. Anderson and I agreed on what parts of the farm we would hunt and headed off. I quietly slipped down a gas line headed to ground blind where trail cameras had shown lots of turkey traffic the past few weeks.
I have to be honest and admit that fall turkey hunting is not nearly as exciting as most spring hunts. Turkeys hunting in the spring is all about the breeding of hens. Hunts evolve around lots of gobbling, fanning, strutting, drumming, spitting, and large bearded gobblers coming to the call. In the fall, turkeys are all about community. The hens and gobblers are flocked up and feeding heavily preparing for the winter. While you will hear an occasional gobble, calling is muted and all about the flock. This time of year, turkeys feed on several food sources.
In Tennessee, they will be congregated in hardwoods feeding on acorns, in recently harvested agricultural fields, and even in hay fields eating grasshoppers slowed by the cool nights. As I like to say, ”The spring is for Toms and trophies – the fall is for the oven or turkey fryer!” Though the strategies for the two season are different, one thing is consistent in both the spring and fall: Scouting!
Here are my two favorite Fall strategies:
1. In the falls, turkeys are fairly predictable in moving to their foods sources once they fly off the roost. I like to place grounds blinds along their travel routes and near their food sources and wait them out. Not a lot different from deer hunting!. In this type of hunting, getting comfortable is important. A good ground blind and comfortable chair is a must. A good book, Kindle, or I-Pad is also a must. Scouting and trail cameras will show are the key!
2. The traditional fall strategy is what is I call flock busting. Flock busting entails locating a flock of birds, rushing into scatter them, and than calling them back together. Again, scouting can help make this easier if you know the birds’ travel patterns. When I locate a flock, I will sneak in hopefully using the terrain to get near for the rush.
Once I rush in, the flock will typically scatter like a covey of quail. I’ll than move about 30 to 40 yards towards where the majority of the birds flew. I’ll set up and after about 10 minutes begin a series of assembly calls and kee-kee’s. The kee-kee is the calling of an immature turkey that was born in the spring and is heard often when the flock is trying to reassemble. Typically, the birds will begin to reassemble with 20 to 30 minutes and a shot opportunity will occur. I think a kee-kee sounds a lot like a whistle. Lots of time I’ll whistle the two kee kees and follow with a cluck on my pot call to do the classic kee-keep-run. To hear this call, you can click the following link on the NWTF’s website.
Back to yesterday, the sun peaked up over the pines as I enjoyed the cool fall morning. The clover field I set up on was a natural feeding area for turkeys and deer. I expected to see birds early but the morning crept along with no turkeys. At one time, I heard the distinctive sound of gobblers yelping nearby but it was interrupted by a stray dog running deer in the vicinity. It was close to 11:00 and my stomach was beginning to grumble when I looked up from my I-pad and realized there were about 70 hens and poults moving into the plot The majority of the birds skirted by me out of range but a few of the hens passed by at about 30 yards. I picked out the nearest one, put the red dot at the base of her head, and squeezed. A nice 14 lb. Jenny who will eat great on the Thanksgiving table!