One of our deer hunting properties is on my sister’s farm, and a few years ago a fledgling wild turkey population began there. I’ve harvested a couple of them during spring seasons and over the years they have benefitted from our deer corn feeders. We’ve watched the flock grow and again this year we’re seeing lots of young birds, possibly from a couple different hatches. But now I’m getting real tired of seeing all twenty five or so of them on trail camera pictures and it’s time to harvest a couple this fall.
Fall turkey hunting is a vastly underutilized and thus under-enjoyed sport here in Kansas. We ourselves have only hunted fall turkeys a couple years out of the last ten. This year’s fall turkey seasons run from Oct 1 through Dec 1, 2015, then Dec 14 2015 through Jan31, 2016, almost 4 months of hunting opportunity, so the issue is most certainly not the length of the season, but rather the time of the year; let me explain. During spring turkey season, fishing, bow fishing and mushroom hunting are about the only other games in town. However, during these nearly 4 months of the fall season, one can also hunt doves, ducks, and geese, participate in the early season youth deer hunts, hunt deer with bow and black powder, trap and call predators, not to mention high school and college football, soccer, girls volley ball and basketball…… Do you see the problem?
Fall turkey hunting has its perks; besides fresh wild turkey, the temperatures are cooler, which means fewer, if any bugs & ticks and NO mosquitoes. There are more opportunities to harvest a bird since the turkeys are grouped together in their winter flocks which can easily number in the hundreds in my part of the state. But perhaps the best perk of all lies in the fact that fall turkey regulation allow for the harvesting of hens too. That means that any wild turkey that strolls past your stand can go onto the dinner table!
Fall turkey hunting strategies are much different also. No longer can we use the gobblers need for love against them as we can in the spring. During the fall and winter the “boys” are sort of just one of the girls and dominant hens actually rule the roost (pun intended of course.) Just as in the spring, turkeys travel routes and times are somewhat predictable from day to day, so one strategy for hunting them in the fall involves setting up a ground blind somewhere along their daily route and simply ambushing them.
Another popular approach to hunting fall turkeys relies on their social need to flock together. It has been proven that when a big group of turkeys is suddenly startled, causing them to split and fly in numerous directions, not only will they eventually group back together again, but they will often re-congregate at or very near the precise spot where they split. Let me explain. If hunters spot a large group of fall turkeys somewhere near good cover, they can either run toward the flock, causing them to fly helter-skelter, or send a dog running into the flock to cause the same outcome. They can then conceal themselves in the cover nearby, fairly confident that the flock will re-congregate where it split, giving them good shots.
I have an excellent turkey calling CD by Lovett Williams, PHD and one of the country’s leading wild turkey biologists. He devotes some of the CD to fall hunting tactics and explains how dominant hens call a flock back together after having it scattered, and plays actual recordings of the calls and sounds they use to do so. So if you are a purist and insist on calling turkeys in the fall as well, you can learn these sounds and theoretically call a scattered flock of turkeys back together and right into your lap if you are well camouflaged.
To me, fall turkey hunting is less frustrating than spring hunting because the finical nature of the gobblers is not an issue. This makes it an ideal time to introduce a youth, your wife (or husband) or your girl friend (or boyfriend) to Kansas wild turkey hunting. Remember, no ticks, no mosquitoes and many turkeys! So to put a wild turkey on the Thanksgiving table this year, or just to try something different for a change, try Kansas fall turkey hunting this year. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]