-By Brandon Wikman
This weekend I came home from college to jump into a slightly different hunting style and try my luck against something a bit more feathery and, hopefully, more predictable.
Deer hunting has been very slow this year due to extreme weather conditions that bounce from 80-degree heat to an entire week of torrential rains. Weather has a severe affect on deer, but turkeys on the other hand, they seem to care less.
Fall turkey hunting is in a category of its own. Turkey hunting in the fall doesn’t compare to the spring. Aside from the vibrant array of colors and the wonderful feeling of fall in the air, there’s no action-packed gobbling or strutting. In fact, males seem to be a totally different bird, almost with a sense of manners for once! Toss the decoys back in the corner and grab your camo, gun and a mouth call, because it’s fall turkey time!
Turkeys will usually bachelor up in flocks or perhaps you’ll spot a sly gobbler with a mess of hens during the fall. My grandpa always taught me that birds will gather up in woodlots and live their winter months as comrades.
Birds will usually come out of fields during the morning and just before roost, but the unfortunately they have no time schedule. They’ll come out of the when they want. If they’re hungry, they’ll come out and get a snack. This particular puzzle has ruined so many of my fall turkey hunts that I’ve determined birds are so incredibly clueless, making them smartest animal in the woods. Once they get into a field, there’s no definitive direction they’ll take. Sometimes they’ll go halfway across a field before cutting into their roosting trees, while other times they’ll cut back into the woods from where they came out.
You can only pattern a bird to a certain point. Today they could be picking through a field to eat, tomorrow they may be go to the other side of the woods where a freshly picked cornfield sits, or perhaps they may just relish their entire day in the woods. They are truly unpredictable, and the only surefire way to intercept one is by being patient. Wait for them to screw up and walk in front of you. I’ve never tried the technique of busting a flock and trying to call them back in, I’ll leave that for another day.
We began our venture for Mr. Long beard early, sitting over a rye field, shotgun in hand. I sat over that rye field behind my house for nearly 4 hours without seeing or hearing one bird. As I began to stand up and walk back to the truck, I heard a sharp putt at the field’s edge. My head snapped backwards just in time to see a group of white heads scatter back into the thickets of the woods. That sixth sense of ‘waiting five more minutes’ had really shaken me this time.
That afternoon I patrolled the countryside with binoculars anticipating that I’d spot a group in the field. That didn’t happen. Relying on luck, a bit of frustration and a lack of knowing what to do, I went back to that rye field where I bumped the birds earlier that morning. Skeptical as ever, I decided to sit where I busted them before... figuring I wouldn’t see anything.
As we sat down and brushed ourselves in with branches and leaves, the sun made its way towards the horizon. Time was nearing the roost. Within an hour my friend spotted a group of black spots off to the distance coming toward our setup. As the lead hen drifted back and forth towards the woods and field, the rest of the bunch followed her lead. As they edged the field and forest boundary, I was afraid they’d cut into the woods to never be seen again, but they didn’t. Seven hens and one gobbler strolled within 40 yards. With nothing more than greens and dirt between the gobbler and me, I fired a 3.5-inch shell towards him and luckily put him down.
If there were any lessons learned this weekend, I guess I learned that patience is a virtue, for not only whitetail but also turkey. Fall turkey hunting combines a mixture of luck, patience and wonder to the face-off. I was just lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time. With many tips from my grandpa and cousins to incorporate within my techniques, I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest a great number of birds waiting at the field’s edge... especially near a deer trail, which turkeys will use.