John's Journal... Entry 168, Day 1
HOW TO HUNT FALL AND WINTER TURKEYS
How To Set Up on Fall Gobblers
EDITOR'S NOTE: The birds of fall and the winter are both the easiest and the hardest to take, depending on the lengths of their beards and spurs. The longbeards of the fall are the most-difficult turkeys to bag at any time of the year. But the jakes, the bird less than a year old, are easy to take. The hunter's strategy for taking the turkeys of fall and winter is completely different from the techniques he'll use in the spring. Sex is no longer important to the gobblers. The birds already have passed through their mating cycles, and the hens have made their nests, laid their eggs and reared their young. Fall calling and hunting tactics are based primarily on the social order of turkeys more than on the sex drive of the birds.
"When there is very little food in the woods, turkeys are usually more social," Alex Rutledge explains. "They call back and forth to each other more and concentrate on the available food. For this reason, you'll often see longbeards traveling with a hen and young turkeys to find food. Or, the longbeard will come to the same food source for several consecutive days. So, if you find him and can pinpoint the food he's eating, you can take him. But even then if you scatter a flock that has longbeards in it, often the long-bearded gobbler will take much longer to come to your calling than the hens and young turkeys will. And if the area where you're hunting has a high population of predators like foxes, bobcats and coyotes, the older gobblers may not come back. Often it will be the next day before you can go to the scatter spot and try and call in the longbeard. If you scatter a flock with longbeards just before fly-up time in the evening, you may be able to go to that spot and call the longbeard in the next morning."
Since the fall woods are open, and a turkey's eyesight is so keen, if you set up in clean woods where the gobbler wants to walk, the chances of his seeing you before he gets close enough for you to take a shot are very good. But a terrain break can be beneficial to the fall turkey hunter. A slightly rolling hill, a mountaintop, a small ridge or any type of hump in the ground you can put between you and the turkey will increase your odds of bagging that bird. That hump or hill will act as your blind. Then when the turkey walks into view, you can see him. If he's within gun range, you'll have an opportunity to bag him. However, if you're forced to take a stand in an open area where a tom can watch from 100 to 200 yards as he comes in, your chances for success are reduced greatly. But never set up in a thicket or any kind of thick cover. Turkeys in the fall, like turkeys in the spring, will avoid thickets. If you must set up in the open, sit still, and pray the turkey doesn't see you before he gets close enough for you to take a shot. Or, he may run or fly off.
One strategy some turkey hunters have used successfully to bag fall and winter gobblers is to hunt from tree stands. Deer hunters know turkeys will walk under their stands and never look up to them. This tactic is especially effective if you know where turkeys are feeding every day. However, turkey hunting in the fall may mean covering a vast expanse of ground. Often when you locate a flock of turkeys, you'll not have time to put up a tree stand. But hunting from tree stands can be effective if you scatter a flock of longbeards and plan to sit in one spot for some time.
TOMORROW: HOW TO HUNT THE YOUNG BIRDS OF FALL