Fall Turkey Season Coming Up

The fall limit is one turkey of either sex per day—two per season. This hen would be fair game—and good eating.
Photo Credit: John Higley

by John Higley

Okay guys, the annual fall turkey season is almost upon us.  It begins on November 11 and will run until December 10.  The limit is one turkey of either sex per day--two per season.  After an unproductive deer season, at least for me, I am looking forward to hunting turkeys because I know where a few of them are, and that’s the first step in getting one for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I don’t know what other hunters do, but I’m constantly looking for other game whenever I’m in the woods, and this year, I saw far more turkeys than deer in Zone C3 where I was hunting on timber company and private ranch land.  In the fall, as is the case in the spring, I will have to be in the right place at the right time to harvest a bird and my ability to do so will depend, in part, on what the weather brings.  One of the places I would like to hunt is off limits to me when it’s muddy. My truck slid off that road into a ditch once, and once was enough.  However, another spot I know is at the end of a paved road.  If we get as much rain as is predicted this week my choice will be a simple one.  Then all I’ll have to do is figure out how to engage the turkeys with a shotgun in my hands.

Fall turkey hunting, while similar in some ways, is somewhat different than hunting in the spring, and here, just so you’ll know, I’m going to repeat some things I’ve said before in my Ramblings column on the My Outdoor Buddy web site. These truisms haven’t changed and never will.  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.

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 set up nearby and call them back when they commence to regroup.  An effective scatter usually requires some fast jogging and the element of surprise.  I’ve performed that procedure in the past, but don’t anymore as my knees are starting to protest, and my balance is not exactly that of a ballerina.

Today, instead of scattering the turkeys, I much 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.  Or, if I know where the turkeys usually show up at a particular time of day, I may set up a ground blind and wait. I call once in awhile, and normally the turkeys do answer when they’re coming.

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

I like to harvest a jake in the fall (perfect barbecue size) and let the adult toms be until spring when they fill the air with gobbling.  However, when push comes to shove, I will make an exception (see the photo from 2015 above), and be glad I did.  Some hunters would rather chase gobblers in the fall than anytime else and I say more power to them.  The important thing, I think, is to take advantage of the opportunity to hunt while the season is open.  From what I’ve seen, and what I’ve heard from others lately, there’s no shortage of turkeys this fall.  I hope, when I’m finished hunting for them this year, that there will be at least one less turkey in the woods and one more in my freezer. 

To learn about a special holiday discount on John Higley’s hardcover book Successful Turkey Hunting, email johnhigley37@gmail.com

Editor's Note: Be aware that non-lead ammo is required for turkey hunting as of this year. What I’m using right now is Federal Heavyweight Turkey. Others are Hevi-Shot and Bismuth.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at myoutdoorbuddy.com. Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.