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Hunting turkeys in the fall is different than in spring

OUTDOORS --

October 05, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

Many turkey hunters concentrate their efforts on the spring gobbler season only.

For many years, that was just about the only turkey hunting opportunity and for good management reasons. Spring seasons for gobblers only have proven to be low impact on the overall population. But fall hunting is different because a lot of hens are taken and that has the potential to adversely impact the population if too many birds are taken in a fall season.

Hunting turkeys in the fall is a very different sport from spring gobbler hunting. As most know, spring hunting is based upon calling in gobblers that are looking for hens. Fall hunting is mainly targeted at mixed flocks of hens and young birds.

The typical hunting tactic in the fall is to try to find a flock and split the birds up. Calling is then used when the birds attempt to regroup. Most of the turkeys taken in the fall are young-of-the-year birds and, to a lesser degree, hen turkeys. But the good news for our area is that turkey populations are at a point that fall hunting can be allowed without endangering the overall population.

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The best turkey hunters are real woodsmen, and are particularly good at locating turkeys by scouting out the areas that they are using as feeding areas, roosting areas and travel areas. Identifying the main food source is always a key factor. If you can find the places that the birds are feeding, and traveling through, you can plan your hunting approach accordingly.

Turkeys respond well to calling in the fall, but it is different than spring gobbler hunting. Most veteran turkey hunters like to scatter a flock of birds, hopefully in many directions. If scattered early in the day, the birds will usually try to regroup before they go to roost. If a flock is scattered near dark, the birds will sometimes not regroup until just after daylight the following day.

Young turkeys don't like being separated from the flock and will begin calling to each other after a flock is scattered. The call that is used is called the "kee-kee" call. Some old-timers call this the "whistle" of a young turkey. If you are unfamiliar with this call, there are many good instructional videos or DVDs that will help you learn it.

This scatter-and-call tactic is most effective in the early season before the birds have been hunted hard. As the season goes on, the birds become more wary and are much harder to call in. They learn really quickly.

West Virginia's fall turkey season will open Oct. 25 in selected counties. The duration of the season varies from county to county. Maryland's fall turkey season also will open on Oct. 25, and close on Nov. 1, in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties only. Hunters should consult the hunting guides that are issued with the license for details on the fall turkey season regulations.

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