Autumn is the second spring when every leaf becomes a flower. French novelist Albert Camus said that. He wouldn’t have known a gobble from a wattle but, by fluke, he nailed it for turkey hunters. Fall is the second spring because in some areas, we get another chance to hunt the wild turkey. That’s as far as the similarity goes however. Fall turkeys are not the hormone driven love birds of the spring season. They’re back to normal – hyper wary and paranoid of anything that moves. It’s a different game in the fall and you need different calls to bring in a tom, jake or hen.
The reality for most turkey hunters is that we only have few farms or small bush lots where we can hunt. The classic fall ‘scatter and call back’ method can go bad fast on small hunting grounds because it makes the flocks more wary and can drive them out of your area all together. It’s far better to pattern the flocks on their daily route, set up along that route and pull them into range with realistic calling if you have a limited hunting range.
In the spring, a squeaking car door can call in a jake or a suicidal two year old tom. I know because I’ve done it. But fall turkeys won’t be fooled by poor calling. Practice calling till your calls are realistic.
In October, turkeys form four types of flocks. The toms will be in one flock. The jakes form their own brawling gangs. The hens without poults form a flock and the hens with poults form the largest flocks. The toms and jakes have no interest in the hens and hens couldn’t care less about toms but they all may move around in the same woods and fields. Fall calling is specific to the type of flock you are calling. If you’re calling a flock of hens call like a hen or a poult. Call to toms with tom calls and to jakes with jake calls.
Turkeys communicate with calls all year. Fly down is the noisiest time as the flocks are reforming after a night of separation on roost. Hens call to poults with assembly yelps. Young birds make their kee kee run calls. Toms gobble to reassert their dominance over other toms and give contact clucks when they see each other again. Jakes give baritone kee kee runs, half gobbles, hoarse yelps and aggravated purrs while squabbling among themselves. If you hear any type of calling, the basic rule is to match it with your own calling. Call what you hear and boost the intensity a little if you get a response.
Get detailed calling tips and fall hunting tactics in my e-book “How to Hunt the Wild Turkey”