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Why You Should Fall Turkey Hunt

Fall 2011 Iowa

Fall turkey hunting; Well, some would say it’s not as exciting as the spring version, but maybe it’s not all about the thundering gobbles and full strut toms. It’s more about the hens, listening and learning how you can use the fall to hone your skills for the spring; those woodsmenship skills that you can only get though field experiences that are so valuable to your success. We all have the skills, some more so then others. A hen turkey can be one of your best teachers afield and are the most vocal in the fall woods. It’s not hard to find a large fall flock to set up on and call to. . . and most of the time you will get an ear full.

Fall 2011 Iowa

So, I said it’s not hard to find them. Well, that is if you know a few things to look for. Here in the Midwest where the landscape is dominated by hardwood forest and crop land. I look to the trees to find the big fall flocks. What I look for is a tall stand of conifers (evergreens) like pines or cedar trees that turkeys will most likely use when the weather turns harsh; this kind of cover is known as thermal cover. Think about it like this- you are a turkey and you are looking for a place to roost for a long winter’s night. Do you A: take the large oak as a roost tree (as many times we find turkeys in the spring) or B: do you take shelter in the needle (leaves) filled limbs of a tall pine. Oaks as well as other hardwoods we all know lose most their leaves in the fall and evergreens as the name implies hold their leaves all year long. Find the thermal cover close to a food source and this should get you in the area of a fall flock. One other thing that pine stands are good for is the pine straw on the forest floor is great for turkeys as they will spend much of the day scratching and picking for food, mostly the bugs that live in the pine straw.

Fall 2012 Iowa

Weather plays a larger part in this strategy. The colder the better! I’ll see more turkeys in this area of the forest when the temperature plunges. With that, always remember don’t let the weather talk you out of hunting. Good or bad, you can’t kill anything without leaving the house. I’m not a fair weather hunter and never will be, I’m hunting every opportunity I get, forget the weather. I can’t stress it enough every minute I spend hunting I’m learning.

Now that you’ve found turkeys, you need to make a decision on if you are willing to shoot a hen or wait for a tom. In some cases, the decision may have been made for you by your state. (check your local hunting regulations)  I like to hold out for as long as I have time for and that will vary from year to year.  Waiting will assure that I will see a lot of turkeys and get to practice my calling. In most years, I’ll see hundreds of hens and polts, sometimes as many in a day. Being in the woods with that many turkeys can only do one thing for your calling, make it better. When I started turkey hunting, I was like everyone else, not very confident in my calling but I found a way to change all of that. Three things you will get out of fall turkey hunting are:

Fall 2012

A: hear a lot of “Turkey Talk”

B: Learn how to talk back

C: become a better turkey hunter

Ask any contest caller and they will tell you that the best teacher is a real live hen. I even know some of them who keep live turkeys around just to learn from them. I listened to every CD out to learn and some aren’t all bad, but they can’t beat real live turkey sounds in the woods. I live for the fall turkey season, to get in to a yelping match with an ol’boss hen. I love to sit and play games with the hens; maybe they are really playing games with me. All I know is it’s helped me become a better caller.  It’s just fun and helps to pass the time waiting for that tom to stroll by. As the years have gone by I have become a successful contest caller but that alone doesn’t make me a better turkey hunter then anyone else. Calling is a large part of turkey hunting and you want to be on top of your game and for me confidence in your calling can only help.

Fall 2010

Bottom line I got better and more confident in my calling and so will you. With that I will add that just because you are a good caller doesn’t mean you will kill every turkey you call to nor should you get call crazy and over call. One of the biggest mistakes hunters make is to over call in the spring but in the fall you can get away with more calling and worry less about over calling. Keep your cool and work the birds, remember the basics to be successful.


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