For most turkey hunters, springtime hunting is where it is. Autumn is a busy time for hunters – it is deer season, upland hunting season, waterfowl hunting season – the list goes on and on. For that reason, most hunters put off the turkey hunting until the spring, but this fact can make autumn turkey hunting very satisfying. Hunting turkeys during the fall is less crowded, and you’ll have less competition for the birds. Add to that that autumn tends to be turkey eating seasons, and you can see how forgoing the deer hunting for a little turkey hunting in the fall can be a very good thing.
Turkey hunting in the fall is an altogether different beast than spring turkey hunting, and it can be quite a bit more challenging. In the spring, the male turkeys are on the prowl, looking for a hen, so it can be fairly easy to lure one away from the pack by making hen calls. In the fall, the male turkeys aren’t so interested in the hens and instead tend to roam around in packs together (likewise for the hens, of course, but hunting mature male turkeys is preferable). Separating these groups can be a bit more difficult and needs a different approach than spring turkey hunting.
When you are hunting in the autumn, it is best to stick to a certain progression of activities. The ideal situation is to stumble upon a pack of male turkeys and take position hidden from view. When you are out of eyeshot of the turkeys, preferably at least 100 yards away from them start trying to call them in to you. Now, it is important here to not make hen calls as you would in spring hunting. You instead want to make the kinds of gobbles that male turkeys make – these gobbles are usually slower and lower pitched than the hen gobbles. What you want to do here is lure on turkey away from the pack. Sometimes, however, this plan backfires. You may end up luring the entire pack, which is not ideal for taking a clean shot, and sometimes you may end up luring in a hen. If you bring in a hen, run her away. If you bring in the entire pack, you will need to take a different tact.
If the whole pack of male turkeys moves in on you, or if they do not respond to your calls, you need to go on to plan B. Instead of trying to call the turkeys, scatter the pack. You can do this by rushing up on them making loud noises, or you can use a turkey hunting dog that is trained to scatter (you don’t want the dog to chase them too far away once they scatter). The object here is to split up the pack and then call in a turkey that has not reattached to the group. Once the turkeys are scattered, wait around 15 minutes, and then start your calls again, trying to call in that lone bird. If the turkeys seem to be running too far away, start the calling sooner, but waiting a bit is ideal.
At this point, it is simply a matter of waiting. Because the turkeys aren’t trying to mate like they are in the spring, they are a little less motivated to respond to calls. You may have to repeat the scatter and call routine a few times before one takes the bait. For most autumn turkey hunters, however, this is the fun part. You have the woods to yourself and you can take your time and enjoy the thrill of the hunt.