If you only turkey hunt in spring, you’re missing out. The fall season can be just as exciting. Getting a bird can be frustrating, however, because these all-day wanderers can be tough to locate. Fortunately for hunters of fall turkeys, the birds’ feeding habits and movement patterns can make them a bit more predictable, which can make them a bit more likely to wind up on the dinner table.
1. Follow the Arrows
As a turkey scratches for food–acorns, cut beans, or corn–the rearward raking of its feet creates a V-shaped pattern in the leaves or agricultural stubble, with the point of the V roughly indicating the direction of travel. Follow the arrows, and keep an eye out well ahead of you.
2. Search for Clues
With the exception of small bachelor groups of adult gobblers, fall turkeys travel in large flocks. Always in search of food, these turkeys leave plenty of sign: scratchings, droppings, feathers, and tracks, which are the most common. Look for these indicators at creek crossings or waterholes or around acorn-heavy oak stands.
3. Find the Food
Just like trout anglers try to match the hatch, turkey hunters need to pay attention to the food that’s available. October can be a time of plenty, with acorns, farm crops, and grasshoppers widespread. Mast is always a good starting point in your search, as are newly cut grains; birds are quick to take advantage of a fresh menu.
4. Get Good Glass
Quality binoculars (along with an easy-to-access binoc harness) top the list of essential gear for the fall turkey hunter. A lightweight 8×42 binocular can be used to glass field edges, open woodlots, agricultural areas, and distant hillsides for wandering flocks. Postscan, you can more efficiently formulate a plan of attack.
5. Unleash the Hounds
Where legal, hunting turkeys with dogs can be a productive tactic. Turn the dogs loose in an area known to hold turkeys–through timber and along field edges–and follow them. Once the dogs locate birds, they’ll run into the flock barking. This scatters the flock. Call the dogs back, cover them with camo, and try to regroup the flock into range using very plaintive calls like kee kees and yelps.
From the October 2010 issue of Field & Stream magazine.