It might not get the love and attention of its springtime counterpart, but unless you’re a gobbler snob, the fall turkey season is just as good—if not better, given the fitting Thanksgiving overlap. Things like snowstorms and charging through a flock of turkeys like a fullback just don’t happen in the spring. With a little grit and some new tactics, every spring gobbler fanatic can make the successful transition to fall. Here are some tips and tactics to help you come up clutch with a wild bird on Thanksgiving.
Be a Location Scout
As with spring, the key to success is locating birds. But without thunderous gobbles to go by, visual scouting takes on a bigger role. If the area you hunt is mostly deciduous forest, look for the large swaths of disturbed leaf litter created by feeding flocks of birds. Deer will create patches of upturned litter as well, but you know you’re onto turkeys when it looks like somebody drove through the woods with a John Deere. If it’s wet and green, look for an open field where birds can feed on insects.
For this particular mission, you will be unarmed because firearms and alcohol do not mix. Your mission? Locate the roost. Now that it’s fall, you have the distinct advantage of being able to see through the trees. Brew yourself a hot toddy with Wild Turkey (obviously), and then find a hill or ridgetop with a good view and wait for the birds to tuck themselves in. Hopefully you still remember the location of the roost the next morning. If not, just look for the tree with all the turkey fertilizer underneath it.
Not all who Wander are Lost
Calling in lost birds is one of the easiest ways to fill a tag in the fall. Lost hens and jakes will make singular, sad yelps until they’re right on your doorstep. Answer back with the same type of yelp until the bird is in range. Bad weather? Great! Snowstorms will work in your favor as young turkeys routinely get lost during the season’s first big snow. Humans also get lost during snowstorms, so bring your compass or some more recent technology to avoid having to tell the story at Thanksgiving.
The Bum Rush
By far the most exciting thing to happen in the fall is locating a flock of turkeys and running at them. Please, please—unload or leave your gun behind before doing this. The purpose of this time-honored tactic is to break up the flock in order to call them back in using your locator yelps and kee-kee runs. For this to work, you really need to give the birds the fright of their lives and get them going in all directions. Once you’ve done that, trade in your wolf mask for a mother turkeys, and let the games begin.
Lakers legend Jerry West was Mr. Clutch because he hit big shots. You know what would be just as cool as Mr. Clutch under pressure? You showing up 15 minutes late to Thanksgiving dinner with a wild turkey under your arm and saying: “You can eat that Butterball if you like, but I’m gonna eat like a pilgrim.”