How to Hunt Fall Turkeys

By Tracy BreenOctober 16, 2016

As the longbeard slipped into view, I knew it was just a matter of time before I would let an arrow fly.

fall turkeys

The author with a fall turkey he took with his bow.

Just when I thought everything was going well, he spotted me and turned to head to the next county. When he started picking up the pace, I let my arrow go and moments later, the gobbler was flopping on the ground. This scene is fairly typical in the spring and even happens in the fall when bowhunters who are deer hunting from a treestand have a flock of gobblers walk by so they take one for the dinner table. However, in the fall there are times I am deer hunting. There are times I am turkey hunting. I don’t mix the two very often. Here’s a look at how to hunt fall turkeys.

Most bowhunters rarely take the time away from their treestand to chase fall turkeys, but I can tell you they are missing out on a great opportunity. I hunt turkeys in three to five states each fall, and it is one of the things I cherish most about October and November. A gobbler coming to a call in spring or fall gets my heart pumping just like a big whitetail.

Many bowhunters believe that gobblers don’t gobble or strut in the fall – which is false. Over the years, some of my most exciting hunts have taken place in the fall. If you bust up a flock of gobblers in the fall, chances are good that one or more of them will strut and gobble as they try to find each other. In the fall, they gobble to find each other, and they strut to reestablish a pecking order.

There are several strategies you can employ when bowhunting fall turkeys. Some hunters try to pattern the birds, and wait for them to walk by. Others try to call in an entire flock.

fall turkey dog

Brett Berry with one of his turkey dogs.

My favorite methods are busting up the flock on foot or using a dog. I own turkey hunting dogs that are trained to find turkey flocks in the woods, and bust up the flock. When a flock of turkeys gets busted up, they fly to run away in an attempt to get away from the dog. After the birds are separated from each other, I sit down with the dogs in the area the flock was separated and call the birds back in. When hunting gobblers, it can be a long waiting game. Gobblers have no problem being alone so they don’t come rushing back to the call. Hens and poults often respond to the call quickly. When I am hunting gobblers, I gobble and gobbler yelp. Sometimes it takes three or more hours before the birds start calling back and approach my setup. When my dogs break up a group of hens and poults, the birds often come back quickly. In some cases, they come back in less than an hour. When I am calling to hens and poults, it is best to do the kee kee run call of an immature bird. Brett Berry, a pro staffer for Zink Game Calls, says rarely should a fall hunter call like an adult hen. “A poult knows it’s mother’s voice and won’t always come to an assembly yelp of a hen that isn’t its’ mother. The flip side is they will come to another poult that is calling.”

As a bowhunter, I would much rather break up a flock of hens and poults because my odds of putting a bird in the freezer are much higher. If the dogs do a good job of breaking up a flock of turkeys, the birds will be scattered far and wide. As a result, they will need to do a lot of talking to find each other and will be receptive to my calling. In addition, there are typically several single birds wandering around the woods when the dogs break a flock. If I call in and miss a bird with my bow (which I have done a few times), the hunt is far from over because the likelihood of another bird being called in is extremely good, so I will have a second (or third) chance.

fall turkey

Kids, crossbows, and fall turkeys are a great combination too!

Some bowhunters might not want to take the time away from the treestand to chase fall turkeys, but the beautiful thing about fall turkey hunting is it doesn’t have to be done first thing in the morning. You can deer hunt at first light and hunt turkeys for a few hours before the afternoon sit. If you don’t have a turkey dog and you locate a flock, sneak in close and run into the flock making lots of noise. After the birds are separated, you can call them back in.

fall turkeys

Berry suggests doing the kee kee run call of a young turkey when hunting in the fall.

Hitting a gobbler, hen, or a poult with an arrow requires skill. This is one reason everyone should try fall turkey hunting with a bow. It helps keep your archery skills honed. Another reason to try it is because nothing beats fresh turkey pot pie made from a young poult. It is a great tasting table fare!

If you find yourself in the middle of the October lull and want to put a little meat on the table this fall, go find a flock of turkeys, and break up the flock. Better yet, train a dog to break up the flock for you, and your odds of success will increase because the nose of a turkey dog will find the big woods flocks that you don’t always see in the farmer’s field or driving down the road.

Fall turkey hunting with a bow is fun and challenging. In many states, you can take several birds in the fall so you can keep hunting after you have filled a tag. Try it this fall, and you will likely be hooked!

Tracy Breen
Tracy Breen is a full-time outdoor writer and marketing consultant in the outdoor industry. Over the past twenty years, he has been able to hunt and fish all over North America. Tracy was born with cerebral palsy and often writes and speaks about overcoming physical obstacles, chasing dreams and living life to the fullest. Tracy writes for a wide array of publications including Outdoor Life, New Pioneer, North American Whitetail, Buckmasters, Petersen’s Bowhunting and Bowhunting World to name a few. Tracy resides in Michigan with his wife, Angie and their two boys Thane and Hendrik.
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