Article Date: Monday, November 07, 2011
By Bob Humphrey
When most folks think about turkey hunting, they think about spring, and mating season, when you try to exploit a gobbler's amorous Achilles heel by imitating a lovesick hen. It's fall now, and while most folks are thinking about deer hunting, a few die-hard aficionados of the king of North American game birds are thinking about the other turkey season. Fall birds are less inclined to come to a call, though they will if you give them a reason. You must rely more on the turkey's gregarious nature.
There are several different modes of fall hunting but the prototypic technique is fairly straightforward and simple. You locate a flock of birds; scatter them, then call them back. The effectiveness of this method can vary considerably, depending on several variables including flock composition and whether or not you get a good break.
Brood flocks consisting of hens and nearly-adult poults are the most susceptible. These young birds have likely never been apart from their mother or siblings for any length of time, and when you bust 'em up, they're eager to get back together. They'll often begin re-grouping within 15 or 20 minutes.
Jakes are somewhat indifferent about companionship, and may take several hours to regroup. And adult toms are downright anti-social. When separated from their peers it may take them several days to get back together.
In any case, you need a good break. Get as close to the birds as you can (or let them get close to you) before you rush at them, screaming like a Banshee. Some of the old time turkey writers also recommended firing a shot or two in the air while doing so - advice that would make a hunter safety instructor cringe. It's advisable that you set down our gun, or bow before charging headlong through the woods. Just make careful note of where you place it, especially if it's camouflaged.
If you frighten the birds and they all escape in more or less the same direction, it's far more difficult to predict where they'll regroup, but it probably won't be anywhere near you. You may be better off giving up and locating another flock. Subsequent breaks on the same flock are less productive as the birds are now more frightened and close-mouthed. Timing can also be important when using this method. Turkeys are much more inclined to regroup when scattered early in the day.
If, on the other hand, you scatter the birds in different directions, there's a much better chance they'll reconvene at or near the break point, which is what you want. Move to the position you last saw the flock, set yourself up, wait 10 - 15 minutes and begin calling. By then, you may already be hearing the kee-kees or lost hen yelps of lonely birds looking for their running mates. As far as calling, all you really have to do is pay attention to what you hear, and mimic it.
The most popular fall calls are the kee-kee, the kee-kee-run and the lost hen yelp. The kee-kee is a high-pitched whistle made by the young birds. Like a teenager whose voice cracks, they sometimes lapse from kee-kees into yelps, which is termed the kee-kee-run. Lonesome hens or brood hens trying to re-assemble their young will sometimes utter eight to ten even-pitched yelps. Again; whatever you hear; you duplicate. A non-vocalization that sometimes works alone, or in conjunction with calls is scratching in the leaves to simulate the sound of feeding or walking turkeys.
Parts of this article were excerpted from Bob Humphrey's book: Pro Tactics: Turkey Hunting, available at better book stores and sporting goods retailers, or online at www.bobhumphrey.com