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The Fall Turkey Season Is Open

kay guys, the annual fall turkey season is upon us. It began on November 9 and will run until December 8. The limit is one turkey of either sex per day -- two per season. What that means to some of us is there will be a purely organic turkey roasting in the oven come Thanksgiving. It will not look exactly like a round breasted turkey from the local supermarket, but it will taste every bit as good as a domestic bird.

In order to have a wild turkey as the main course of your Thanksgiving meal you’ve got to put yourself in the right place at the right time to harvest one, and, as with hunting any game, that’s sometimes easier said than done. To that end, it helps to recognize the subtle differences in hunting turkeys in the spring and fall, and here are some of them.

Raven Higley, Fall Turkey, John Higley
This is my grandson Raven Higley with his first turkey ever, a fall bird he got a year ago.

During the spring breeding season you expect to hear plenty of turkey talk on nearly any given day as the toms interact with hens. In the fall the turkeys still talk routinely but for reasons other than breeding.

The hens vocalize to gather flock mates, refresh the pecking order and to keep track of their broods. The toms, usually in separate small groups of like males, will converse for similar reasons. Of course, as is the case with turkeys all year round, there are times when they are quite vocal and times when they’re not.

John Higley, Fall Turkey
This isn’t the biggest turkey in the world, but I’ll take a jake like this in the fall whenever I can. I got this jake last year and hope to do the same again this fall.

One popular approach to successful fall hunting is for the hunter to scatter a flock of turkeys, usually hens and their nearly grown poults, and to setup nearby and call them back when they commence to regroup.

To perform the scatter properly you may have to run into their midst like a wild man waving your arms and even yelling. However, never, ever do that with a loaded gun! And watch your step. Swan diving into a tangle of brush isn’t pleasant and neither is breaking a bone or two. Trust me.

Instead of scattering the turkeys, which I used to do, I now prefer to move slowly, call occasionally, and listen intently for any turkey response, which usually comes in the form of plain hen yelps. I then determine the flock’s direction of travel, set up in front of them, and try to rouse their curiosity with a few yelps of my own.

Happily, this tactic has worked well for several years running. I’ve lured several mixed flocks of adult hens, female poults and some jakes into shotgun range, whereby I’ve taken my pick, usually a jake (perfect barbecue size) home with me. Sometimes, when I’m sure I know the route a flock is taking, I’ll simply wait quietly for them to show. Last fall I had a several family group of two or three dozen birds walk right past me. One of them stayed behind when the others fled.

Whether you hunt fall turkeys by scattering, calling or simply ambushing them as they pass by, you will find the challenges interesting and rewarding. To me, simply being outdoors in the fall is its own reward and turkey hunting is the icing on the cake.

So far this fall I haven’t killed a turkey but I’ve gone out only once. Starting next weekend I’ll make an effort to practice what I preach and, yes, I’ll let you know what happens.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro, CA. His articles have appeared in Outdoor California and other fishing and hunting journals. He is the author of two books: “Hunting Wild Turkeys In the West” and “Hunting Blacktail Deer.”

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