You’ve been longing for next turkey season since late May. You can’t wait to get back in the woods with your calls.
What if I told you that you don’t have to wait ten months to chase longbeards again? That’s right, more than 40 states have fall turkey hunting seasons.
While turkeys don’t gobble as much in the fall as they do in the spring, there are still many nuances that make fall turkey hunting a unique experience.
In several states, you can use rifles to turkey hunt in the fall. Many others allow you to use dogs to locate, break up, and retrieve turkeys. To top it off, turkeys often hang out in huge flocks this time of year. Imagine the rush of being surrounded by 15-plus turkeys at a time.
Now you may be wondering how to hunt turkeys in the fall. Have no fear. I’ve got five fall turkey hunting tips to get you started. Let’s talk about how to call them first.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tip #1-Call to the Same Sex
In the spring, most people imitate the calls of a hen in an attempt to call in a mature gobbler. In the fall, you want to do just the opposite.
When targeting mature toms, you want to make mature tom calls. Now don’t go around gobbling your fool head off. I’m talking gobbler yelps. If you’re not familiar with what those sound like, listen to Ray Eye making them with his box call in this video.
If you just want to bring some meat home and don’t care about trophy toms, many states allow you to take either sex during the fall. So if you want to kill hens, you’re going to make hen calls to target these ladies. Hen yelps and kee-kees are the keys to bringing a curious hen into range during the fall.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tip #2- Find the Food
Spring turkeys’ lives revolve around the reproduction process: breeding, finding nesting cover, and raising poults. Fall turkeys’ lives revolve around food.
If you want to find turkeys in the fall, you need to find large, quality food sources. Remember, turkeys are in large flocks now so there needs to be a lot of food in the area to hold them. They will hit a good food source until it is depleted before moving on to the next.
Food sources to check may include mature, mass-bearing forests. In other areas, agricultural fields are the primary food source for fall turkeys.
If you’re wondering what wild turkeys like to eat, check out my article on the wild turkey diet to get some ideas.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tip #3- Cover A Lot of Ground
Turkeys can be harder to locate in the fall than in the spring. As mentioned above, autumn turkeys are traveling in large flocks so they tend to be spaced out less than they are during the breeding season.
Because turkeys are not gobbling loudly all the time, locating fall turkeys is more of a visual endeavor. Use your binoculars to check out fields or scout from ridgelines if you are hunting mountainous or hilly terrain. Check the ground closely for fresh sign in the form of scratching, feathers, tracks, and poop.
When hunting public land or heavily hunted leases, try to get away from the crowds. Most hunters barely get more than a quarter mile from their truck. If you are willing to hike in a bit, you may be able to find flocks of turkeys that have escaped the pressure of less motivated hunters.
A well-trained turkey dog can also help you locate turkeys in the fall. Good dogs use their noses, ears, and eyes to find game.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tip #4- Appeal to a Turkey’s Eyes
You probably have a decoy or two that you use in the spring. You know how effective these visuals can be when combined with calling. Why not use decoys in the fall?
Turkeys are social creatures. They are drawn to each other. Whether you are hunting a flock after breakup or you’re setting up in an area they frequent, a decoy may be just the ticket to get one into range (especially if you’re hunting with a bow).
Remember, in the fall you must mimic the same sex of the bird you are hoping to kill. Therefore, use gobbler or jake decoys to bring in toms. Use hen decoys to bring in hens. If you have/can carry more than one decoy, larger setups can be helpful as it is natural for turkeys to be in groups during the fall.
Be especially careful when hunting with decoys during the fall. Remember that rifles are legal for turkey hunting during the fall in some states. Decoys can look very realistic at longer ranges.
Fall Turkey Hunting Tip #5- Get Them Rolling Out of Bed
If you can figure out where a flock of turkeys is roosted, you have a good shot at, well…getting a shot at one.
Depending on the area you hunt, turkeys will consistently use the same roosting areas from year to year and night to night. Ideally, you will be in the right spot to hear or see them flying up to the roost the night before your hunt.
Once you know where they are roosted, set up in the direction you expect them to fly down. You will want to set up as close to the roost as you possibly can without spooking the turkeys.
After you hear them fly down, begin to call to them. Remember my first tip and use the appropriate calls for the turkeys you are hunting. With any luck, you should have a flock of turkeys coming straight to you in the early morning hours.
While not exactly the same game as the one played in the spring, fall turkey hunting can still be a lot of fun. If nothing else, it is a nice break from sitting 16 feet up in the tree waiting on ditch goats to pass under you.
Hopefully, these five fall turkey hunting tips will help you to fill your tags this year. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to rely on Butterball for your Thanksgiving turkey this year?
Remember most of all to have fun and be safe!