Turkey Hunting…A Proud Fall Tradition

I get a little frustrated at people who have never turkey hunted. I try my best to explain to them that turkey hunting is perhaps the most addictive hunting they will ever experience, still many of these hunters just blow me off. These hardcore waterfowl or deer hunters just don’t have a clue that once you try turkey hunting and taste success…you will likely realign your priorities to make sure you make time for turkey hunting in your schedule for the future.

Today, in fact, starts the first of two (five-day) fall seasons in Minnesota where hunters were chosen by a lottery system. Earlier this past summer hunters applied for a limited number of permits to hunt one of the two fall seasons. Later this fall (likely December 2nd) the application period will close for Minnesota’s upcoming spring 2005 turkey season.

As Minnesota’s turkey population continues to grow and establish itself the challenge of getting a permit is much easier than the task of bagging a turkey. In particular, fall permits are just not as highly sought after as those for the spring hunts. This might seem a bit odd to individuals not familiar with turkey hunting…but it’s in the springtime that the bird is full of sexual energy and quite susceptible to the seductive calls and tones made by the deceptive hunter. Fall turkey hunting…well, it’s just a bit different than in the springtime.

I must admit that, although I am a turkey addict, I do not find fall turkey hunting particularly enticing when compared to the spring hunt. First off, in the spring a hunter can only shoot a bearded turkey (which mostly means they are targeting males of the species). The fall hunt is more of an indiscriminate hunt whereas a hunter may legally take a bird of either sex (which should be noted is a biologically sound management practice).

Some hunters contend that fall turkey hunting is more of an ambush type of hunt as opposed to strategically luring in the bird. To some extent that statement may be true, but savvy hunters employ definite strategies to put more than just luck on their side. One common technique for bagging a fall turkey is locating a flock (hens or poults) and then scattering them. The key here is to get the birds to fly off in several directions with hopes that eventually the flock will try to regroup. To accomplish this technique, first locate the flock…then do a running surprise. That’s right, first put your gun down for safety as you won’t need it…and take off running to get the turkeys surprised and moving in all directions.

In the spring hunt it is common that a hunter will locate the birds and then call them into the area. But the fall hunt requires the hunter to go to the turkey…and that often means lots of walking. Once a flock is successfully scattered, then the fun begins. Sometimes the turkeys will begin moving back into the area fairly quickly…other times it might take a few hours. The key is once you affect a successful scatter it is then time for the hunter to get set-up and ready for the action.

Unlike the spring hunt when you are trying to seductively lure a gobbler into gun range, the fall calling attempts to accomplish a reassembly of the flock. In other words, the calls of choice in the fall are sounds that mimic the birds from the original flock attempting to relocate each other. For instance, the hunter will typically use the “lost” call or the “kee-kee-run” of the young poult to lure a mature hen into range. The problem is if you don’t locate a flock and scatter it then calling might only achieve marginal success. A scattered flock has more urgency to hook back up with the others and communication is essential in allowing this to happen.

Oddly enough many people think of turkey hunting strictly as a springtime sport. And a mighty fine springtime sport it is. Still, fall hunting has a heritage that dates back well before the colonial times. Remember this…in states like Pennsylvania where there have been traditional fall seasons dating back for centuries, the concept of the springtime turkey hunt is the new game. Fall hunting in Minnesota may lack some of those same long-standing hunting traditions, but that doesn’t mean that bringing home a fall turkey for the Thanksgiving table has to be any less special. Enjoy the hunt and be safe!

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.