November is highlighted by the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. What better way to emphasize this colonial tradition than supplying a fall turkey for the table? One roadblock may be ahead: large flock security.
Toms have regrouped into bachelor bands, and hens have gathered with their pack of poults. Most every turkey in the woods has extra eyes on guard around them to detect danger. The following tips offer some ways around those spying eyes.
Subtle Yet Shrewd
Subtleness goes a long way as an attention getter. Fall turkeys may not run off a stranger, but because of their pecking order lifestyle, they may be curious. Using flock observations and scouting clues, put yourself in the locality of a turkey flock. The sign left by turkeys scratching is a big clue to the presence of a fall flock.
Sneak into the area and set up near where you hope a flock could be appearing depending on the time of day. A decoy staked in the open never hurts for accompanying realism. Use purrs, soft clucks and even rake your hand through the forest duff to create the sound of turkeys scratching. Have your gun up and ready, as some turkeys may simply arrive without a yelp.
When subtleness fails, take the bully approach. Boss your way into a meeting with a flock by ramping up the antagonism. A bold, in-your-face calling cadence can stir the blood of a fall flock.
Set up in a known hangout of turkeys, between the roost and feeding areas where turkeys frequent. A decoy (again) offers visual reassurance. Begin with a series of yelps with cutting added in for additional testiness. Slowly increase the intensity and if you spark a response, return the fire with the same passion.
Bushwhack a Bunch
Autumn turkeys can sometimes be a fickle bunch and they may not be open to conversing face to face. That could lead you to bushwhack or ambush a fall flock. Scouting plays a critical role in putting you within scattergun range.
Several strategically placed trail cameras could provide you with detailed, time-stamped images of a pattern. Insight from farmers, bus drivers or delivery drivers could provide crucial testimony regarding a flock's favorite lairs.
Mast hollows, harvested grain fields, berry patches and livestock feed yards are a handful of possibilities to find birds binging before winter. Confirm a pinch point and stake a blind in the travel route. Keep a call handy just in case they pass out of pellet range.
Scatter and Gather
Another favorite is the "scatter." Fall flocks are nearly inseparable, so when the flock is broken up they soon attempt to regather. The big issue with scattering a flock is provoking them to flee in varying directions. If you come across a flock and run at them, it is a good bet they will all escape basically in the same direction. Instead, get close without alarming the flock and shoot high over the flock. The shocking noise has proven to be a good tactic in getting birds to disperse to all compass points.
Another proven method, where legal, is to use a dog to scatter a flock. The turkeys view charging, barking dogs as a natural enemy and head for the hills when the flock is disturbed.
After the flock leaves, look for a good hideout, especially one that offers good observation. Yelps, combined with the kee-kee run sound (an adolescent attempt at a yelp) traditionally lures turkeys looking for their clan. Slow, soft clucks and yelps work well if you bust a band of toms.
Fall turkey hunting does not carry the magnetism of a booming gobbler fanning in the spring. Nevertheless, it does provide great outdoor adventure with a pilgrim legacy.