Hunting safety -- Prior to 1968, very little camouflage clothing was used to hunt turkeys in the fall. When the spring turkey season was started in 1968, hunters began using camouflage clothing. Today, most wild turkey hunters wear some kind of camouflage clothing while fall hunting. However, due to concerns about hunting accidents, it's now unlawful go afield without wearing fluorescent orange when hunting turkeys. Fall turkey hunters must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined when moving, but may remove the safety material at stationary calling locations providing they display at least 100 square inches of fluorescent orange within 15 feet of their location and visible from all directions.
Turkey hunting in the fall -- If hunting in the fall, it is important to select clothing that is suitable for a November day afield. Hunters become cold very quickly when calling for a long period of time from a stationary position. The secret to staying warm is to dress in layers and select a good hat to reduce heat loss. Weather during the fall season can vary from warm to very cold and snowy as the season wears on. Turtlenecks, long underwear, good quality socks and gloves during cold weather will make your hunt more enjoyable.
Be patient -- You never know when you will break a flock of turkeys up. It is advisable to carry a light lunch or candy bars just in case. It is advisable to carry a small container of water even during cold days. If you break a flock of turkeys it is wise to sit tight and call without having to return to your camp or vehicle to eat or get warm.
Practice calling -- Your calling does not have to be perfect to attract a turkey. All turkeys have different voices and no two turkeys sound the same. Some birds call a lot, others only yelp or cluck a couple of times. It's important to develop a little confidence in your calling prior to opening day of the turkey season.
Determine effective range of your shotgun -- Place an object 35 steps away from you and sit down so you can see what your shotgun's effective range is. Fix that distance in your mind to reduce crippling losses while hunting. It's advisable to use a 12-gauge shotgun with number 4 and 6 shot.
Locating a flock -- If you have completed a preseason scouting trip to determine food conditions and possible locate a turkey flock, you have increased your chances of finding turkeys when season opens. If it's your first day of hunting, plan on taking a long walk through the woods to locate turkey sign such as droppings, feathers, scratching and tracks. If you discover a scratched up area, take the time to see what direction they may have been traveling and check the freshness of the scratching. Direction can be determined by which way the leaves are piled. Turkeys scratch leaves backward so it's not difficult to slowly track scratched areas through the woods.
If the scratching is dry and no leaves have blown into the bare spots, generally the sign is pretty fresh-- a day or so old. Following old scratching may lead you to fresh scratching. Fresh scratching will usually show damp and wet leaves piled on top of dry leaves. If this is what you find, the flock is nearby and may still be feeding. If the dampness and wetness of the leaves is drying out, chances are the turkeys fed through the area a few hours earlier. Very loose scratching on a rainy day indicates fresh scratching.
If you find fresh scratching, walk slowly in the direction it goes. Stop and call to see if you can hear a bird, especially during the early morning and again in the late afternoon. Very often a bird or so will answer in a flock and it will give you a good idea of the flock's location. Also, a lone turkey may respond if the flock was broken earlier in the day.
Breaking the flock -- If mast is abundant and widespread, turkey flocks can often be difficult to locate, because they often move without returning to the same site. They frequently do not scratch much during the early part of the season when food is plentiful. If mast is located on certain areas or at certain elevations, then locating turkeys is often easy. Entering feeding areas is usually most successful in mid-morning and again during mid-afternoon.
Remember in the fall, you are hunting primarily family groups of hens and poults. Seeing turkeys and breaking the flock up are often two different things. If they run off it is usually best to try to work them toward a point of land to make them fly. If you're unsuccessfully, return to the same area the next day at about the same time.
If you're able scare them into flight by waving your arms and hollering then you have increased your chances of killing a turkey that day. After breaking a flock, move quickly into the area where they have flown from or move to the area where you think they've landed. If they have all flown into the same general location, it's best to move to where they landed. If you begin to flush turkeys from the trees then you're in the right place.
In most cases, it's smart to move uphill from where you think the main body of turkeys landed. Selecting a calling spot is the most important part of the hunt. It's generally best to select a location like the base of a big tree, or by an old stump, etc. Such spots breakup your outline and provide protection. Remain still to reduce the chances of a turkey spotting you.
If you have some idea in what direction the turkeys might be coming from, select a place where a turkey cannot see you until it's in shotgun range. This will allow you to move around if you have to reposition yourself before the turkey arrives.
Remember other hunters maybe in the area and your safety is of the utmost importance to you. Wear or display your fluorescent orange clothing or alert band. Do not hide in brush piles, laurel thickets, or other places where you could be mistaken for a wild turkey while calling. Place yourself in a location where it will be difficult for another hunter to approach you without you seeing him or her, or vice versa.
Calling a turkey -- Start calling within a few minutes after breaking the flock. If turkeys are already calling before you make your first call, it may be too late to call one in, because they've already begun to assemble and the flock will soon walk off, leaving you alone on the mountain.
If an old hen begins calling, it almost pays to scare her away and then sit down again. The poults are deeply imprinted to her voice and your unknown voice will often be disregarded. There is nothing consistence about when a flock will begin to assemble. Many start to reassemble in a matter of a few minutes. Other flocks may take a half-hour to several hours before they begin calling.
Patience is a real virtue when calling turkeys. A kee-kee run call (a young bird) is very effective during the fall when there is an abundance of young birds. A yelp call is similar to an old hen is also effective.
If a turkey responds to your call it's good advice to follow the same tempo as the bird. Some birds call frequently with long uninterrupted yelps, while others only yelp a couple of times. Often just a kee-kee will be heard. Once an approaching turkey is spotted, it's best not to call again unless the bird begins to move away from you. Wild turkeys have a tremendous ability to pinpoint sounds and if they do not see a turkey from the calling area they may leave. If you feel that you must call, just a couple of short, low-volume yelps or kee-kees may do the trick.
Shooting a turkey -- Allow the turkey to approach within 35 yards. Do not raise your shotgun quickly. Very often, quick movements will alarm the bird and it will flush leaving you with a hurry-up shot. Bring the shotgun up slowly and smoothly and take aim for the turkey's head or the eye. Body shots often results in a wounded bird. Be sure of your target.
Tagging turkeys -- Tag your turkey and send in the report card with the correct management zone when you return home. It's important for the future management of the wild turkey.
Handling the turkey -- A wild turkey should be cleaned as soon as possible and cooled. Some people skin the bird, but it often leaves the bird with a loss of flavor and increases dryness. The bird can be dry plucked by pulling a few feathers at a time. Sometimes cooling the bird will make it easier to dry pluck. Cutting the wings off at the first joint will help in plucking the turkey.