Thursday, October 22, 2020

Don’t Forget Turkeys This Fall

September 14, 2011  

Most turkey hunters live for the spring turkey hunting season when gobblers are very vocal and responsive to imitation hen sounds. I must admit that spring is my favorite time of year to turkey hunt as well, but I really enjoy the fall season too. Judging by the participation figures from IDNR, fall turkey hunting is not very popular in Illinois. Of course, fall turkey hunting often takes a back seat to archery deer hunting, especially the turkey gun season which occurs about the time the pre-rut is kicking in. Still, for those who love chasing and interacting with turkeys, I think it is a mistake not to take at least one morning or afternoon break from your tree stand to pursue a fresh Thanksgiving bird. The classic fall hunt style of breaking up a brood flock or young gobbler flock can provide a great deal of action. How many times have you read a turkey hunting article that recommended minimal calling? Well in the fall, you can usually throw that adage out the window. It is hard to call too much to a broken flock. You may be surprised just how vocal they will be! Listening to live turkey talk is the best way to sharpen your calling skills. Learning their full vocabulary will make you a more well-rounded caller, which can be an asset on spring hunts as well. If you are looking for the ultimate challenge in turkey hunting, set your sights on a fall longbeard. Without the breeding urge or a terribly strong social desire, he can be downright impossible to call to your set-up this time of year. In this case, forget what I said about copious amounts of calling. Subtle gobbler yelps and clucks are usually your best bet, but you just might catch him on the right day and have him come in gobbling and strutting. Last year while deer hunting from a tree stand, I heard some gobblers yelping a couple hundred yards away on an oak ridge. I yelped back to them a few times, and it wasn’t long before a pair of longbeards came charging in to see who the intruder was. Unfortunately, they busted me drawing my bow, but it was exciting while it lasted! Six new counties are open to the fall gun season this year: Clay, Franklin, Hamilton, Menard, White and Washington. This is a testament to the continued expansion of the Illinois turkey population, despite some small regional declines recently. Because hens are legal in the fall, seasons must be closely regulated and only established when the science shows us that the local population can support some hen harvest. The goal is to limit hunting mortality of hens to the natural mortality level caused by predation, disease, etc. In other words, we don’t want hunting to be additive to the hen mortality rate. Fall seasons are not established without good supporting science, so you should not feel bad about taking a hen in the fall, where legal. However, if you feel your local population is not as strong as you would like, you may want to limit yourself to killing male turkeys only, as a personal choice. One positive aspect about Illinois hunters’ lack of interest in fall turkeys is that it is rather easy to draw a permit, even on public sites. If you have grown discouraged with deer hunting due to lack of access, fall turkey hunting may be one way to remain in the game. It can be a fairly active hunt and downright lively if you can break up a flock. This makes fall turkey hunting a great tool to introduce youth and other newcomers to our hunting heritage, because this kind of hunt is rarely boring. I hope you make it out to pursue a wild Thanksgiving turkey this season! Share your successes and hunting  stories on the Illinois NWTF Facebook page: facebook.com/IllinoisNWTF.  

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