Because of back surgery in early May, I didn’t hunt during spring turkey season this year, so getting a turkey during fall season is on my radar. Fall turkey season is fraught with competition, making it possibly the most underutilized hunting season in Kansas. The first leg of fall turkey season opens October 1 and runs through November 28 statewide except in unit 4 in southwestern KS, and right on its heels are upland bird hunting, early goose and duck season, deer archery season and trapping season, not to mention the high school volleyball and football games. Do you see the problem? The second leg of fall turkey season starts December 11 and runs through January 31, still competing with several of the above events.
When spring turkey season arrives, everyone but the ice fishermen have been cooped up for awhile and are badly in need of an “outdoor fix;” plus the only competing outdoor activity is spring fishing for walleye and crappie and maybe mushroom hunting. Spring season also appeals to the turkey hunting “purists” who insist the only sporting way to kill a turkey is to call-in and harvest a love sick gobbler. All this makes spring turkey hunting very popular, and fall turkey hunting not-so-much.
But 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 50 or more in my part of the state. But perhaps the best perk of all lies in the fact that fall turkey regulations 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 toward the four winds, 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 (which is legal) to achieve the same outcome. Then the hunter can conceal themselves in the nearby cover, 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 new and 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]