All due respect, and I’m not one to judge, but some things people say about fall turkey hunting are just wrong-headed. Maybe it’s social media chest-thumping – or maybe not. What seems to me though is a lot of opinion isn’t necessarily based on fact. Ask any serious fall turkey hunter, and they’ll agree the following statements – dumb things people say who don’t hunt fall turkeys – are pretty much laughable.
Have you ever heard these dumb things said about fall turkey hunting?
Dumb Thing No. 1: "Turkeys don't gobble in the fall."
I worked a gobbling October turkey last fall, and by the end of it, the experience made me grin. The bird was separated from the flock, acting truly “lost” by its incessant yelping and frantic gobbling – nonstop over the period of 45 minutes. Sometimes they go about it more quietly, softly clucking and yelping. Not this one. It was fun and exciting and in the end the turkey chose not to come my way into the waiting shotgun, but to join the rest of the flock, eventually located with all that calling (and mine). That turkey not only gobbled, he vocalized so much it sounded like the bird would eventually lose its voice. It didn’t.
Dumb Thing No. 2: "You can't call turkeys in the fall."
The essence of fall turkey hunting is calling turkeys to your position – either after fly-down, following a scatter (by foot or with the help of a dog, where legal), or before fly-up as you sit near a known roost. Fall turkeys talk all the time. Just listen for it.
Dumb Thing No. 3: "Turkeys don't strut in the fall."
Scatter a fall gobbler gang to gain a calling advantage, wait the length of time needed for them to decide to regroup (often hours, but not always), and watch what happens. Though they want to get together again, they often contest rank and pecking order as they do it. They gobble, yelp and strut to show dominance. They fight. They resolve to let one be in charge. Never seen it? You need to hunt fall turkeys a bit more.
Dumb Thing No. 4: "I don't like to shoot baby turkeys."
Then don’t. A lot of the fun is being picky about how you do it in fall. It’s perfectly okay to call turkeys up and not shoot them. But if you’re obsessed with filling a tag rather than enjoying your fall hunt, well then, have at it. I personally have no problem with shooting juvenile fall birds (most states allow for either-sex fall turkey hunts; check your regulations, as always). I’ve done it many, many times. What I do take issue with is you knocking the tradition. Come on, lighten up, folks. We’re all in this together.
Dumb Thing No. 5: "Turkey hunting is meant to be in spring."
Your choice. But traditionally, fall turkey hunting was the accepted deal, not spring. My dad, a fall turkey hunter who first spring turkey hunted in 1968 when Pennsylvania spring turkey hunting was legalized, said back then: “I enjoy this but it feels like you’re breaking the law.” We’ve come a long way since then. Now, the spring tradition is firmly locked in around the country. That’s even true in my native Keystone State where old-timers used to say, “Spring turkey hunting is too easy.”
Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.