(Aggressive FALL Turkey Hunting)

by: Ron Newman

As the group of gobblers crossed through the opening in the stone wall, barely 25 yards away, I wondered,  "How will I ever draw my bow with this many eyes watching?" Five mature birds, each strutting and gobbling, and two jakes trying to act tough, came along the deer trail passing my tree stand at less than 15 yards. Watching them march steadily by, I thought how they looked like a "gang", coming to teach the new guy a lesson. Boy, were they in for a surprise!

Let's back up a second. A "group" of gobbler's?  "Treestand?" "Marching steadily" instead of the usual alert and cautious (typical) turkey behavior? What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, once you try a new technique I have used successfully on fall gobblers. I love all forms of turkey hunting; Spring or Fall, bow or gun. But the usual fall strategy of breaking up a flock (usually consisting of hens and poults) and calling them back, started losing it's appeal. There isn't much challenge in calling a scared, lost young bird, who will pretty much respond to anything sounding remotely like a sibling or Momma. So, the next step is to try hunting the "elusive" fall gobbler.

This, on the other hand, can be humbling and openly frustrating to say the least. An ADULT gobbler in the fall has no interest in the hen sounds he so actively sought in the spring. He could care less about a "lost" poult, and rarely even communicates with other toms, even when several "flock" together. The old-"cluck every hour, wait all day" routine is, well, BORING! And seldom successful. In a attempt to bring some "springtime excitement" and increase my fall encounters, I found a way to get gobblers to respond more consistently in the fall, and I can even do it while treestand hunting for deer! The "secret" is DOMINANCE! All species have a pecking order (no pun intended) and there is a constant year 'round struggle for position and territories, even among turkeys. By challenging this "EGO" so to speak, and acting like an intruder challenging all who will hear, I've managed to bring in ADULT toms in the fall much more often, and with such aggression that they seem almost seem less aware of their surroundings as they come in to fight, giving the bowhunter a better chance of going undetected.

By using aggressive "JAKE" yelps, aggravated purrs, gobbling, and especially "mimicking" the more aggressively responding bird, I have been able to pull groups of gobblers to me, sometimes at a dead run. This is particularly effective near favored roost areas and food sources which will be natural sources of competition.

The group at the beginning of this story was a classic example. After climbing into my "deer" stand before daylight, I heard a group of turkeys still on the roost, about 80 yards above me, on a pine covered knob. A stone wall which ran between me and the birds had an opening (and major deer crossing, my original reason for being there) which ran past my tree. Never one to miss a party, I threw a Primos "True Double" diaphragm in my mouth and started "Yelling" back at the roosted birds. By cutting into their calls, and throwing some challenging purrs, I soon had thee birds fired up and squabbling amongst themselves and back at me. As I continued to pour it on, I heard the birds fly down and hit the ground, several gobbling hard. When they appeared over the top of the hill, I could see there was 7 toms, and they were coming! I laid on the call as hard as I could without spitting it out, answering each bird as quickly as possible. Once they approached the opening in the wall, and began crossing to my side, I immediately went silent. This appeared to first confuse and further anger the birds, as several continued strutting and staring down the hill below me, seeking the "loudmouth" who was looking for trouble. Moving almost under me, I dared not breathe as they scanned the woods below, never noticing me barely 15 feet above their heads. Not satisfied the the outsider had left, they slowly continued down the trail, looking and purring. When the last bird passed me, I drew my 60# recurve and quickly released an arrow, which took the big bird squarely thru the top of his back at 12 yards. He went down hard, and the others, unsure of what happened, milled around nervously, alarm putting, but not knowing which way to go. Finally one of the bigger birds started moving back the way they came, (which appeared safer than where they were now, I'm sure). I chuckled as they left, so cautious and alert, nothing like the "angry mob" that they were moments ago.

I climbed down to examine my prize, a beautiful 19 1/2 lb. bird with the longest and most unusual beard I have ever taken. A full 11 inches long, it has a 2" section midway down it's length of a rust/amber color. I have seen "amber tips" but never a color change within a beard so sharply defined. This tactic seems to work best with groups of gobblers of varying ages, as they are constantly squabbling amongst themselves. Single birds will respond also, but are harder to "fire up" and tend to remain at a distance while returning any challenges. The "fighting purrs", marketed so successfully as a springtime ace-in-the-hole, is sometimes used even better in the fall for drawing All turkeys to investigate. Everyone comes to see a fight! Like I said, dominance is a on going battle not limited to spring mating rituals.

Turkeys, especially with a bow, can sometimes seem impossible, especially mature gobblers in the fall. But, by "YELLING" at them and getting them so engrossed in the source of your challenges, you can sometimes catch them less aware of what's going on around them. Shooting them while they're "blinded by anger" is a whole lot more fun than wasting a beautiful time to be in the woods hunting these magnificent birds, because you always thought you can't call fall gobblers. Heck, there's been plenty of times when I thought competing with hens in the spring was tough too, and isn't that one of reasons 'fighting purrs' was created? Another way to bring them 'em in? Hmmmmmm. You might even get a shot at a deer while you're waiting for the turkeys, or is that the other way around?

Give 'em a holler, you might be surprised at their answer!!

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