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Examiner
  • Kenneth Kieser: Time to scout fall gobblers

  • Big fall gobblers are independent. Some older birds prefer to be alone and are most content when feeding. They love a big, open field where visibility is unlimited. After all, a big daddy bird reaches three or four years by being cautious in a world where almost every other creature in the woods wants to dine on his succulent flesh.

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  • Big fall gobblers are independent. Some older birds prefer to be alone and are most content when feeding. They love a big, open field where visibility is unlimited. After all, a big daddy bird reaches three or four years by being cautious in a world where almost every other creature in the woods wants to dine on his succulent flesh.
    Mick Bowman, of Garnett, Kan., recommends scouting first when searching out a dominant bird and September is the time to start for the October season. Bow hunters may use this time to scout out both deer and turkey hunting areas.
    “I like to determine their roosting areas, and then set up trail cameras set up late at night between their roost and food,” Bowman said. “This shows what gobblers are in the area. Using a camera allows me to find long beards without spooking birds. They are cautious enough at best.”
    Roost areas are found by listening in the evening for heavy wings flying up in trees. Generally these birds were discovered by glassing fields with a good pair of binoculars and then observed walking into a certain section of woods.
    Some hunters walk through the woods while the birds are feeding and find roost trees that are easily visible by the white splatters of turkey droppings on the ground. Keep in mind that gobbler droppings are J-shaped. Then determine where they are feeding and set up between both areas.
    “When you accidentally spook gobblers off their roost, set up there,” Bowman said. “Then when it’s legal shooting time, use fighting purrs every three to five minutes with an occasional gobble. Include a few gobbler clucks. Continue for 20 minutes and then stay silent 20 minutes with the exception of a gobbler’s yelp every five minutes. You will likely bring an old gobbler in to watch the fight.”
    You can sometimes hear a big bird crunching leaves when approaching. Of course, all deer and turkey hunters know that squirrels make crunching sounds in the leaves too. Big birds seem to materialize when you least expect anything but a pesky squirrel.
    Hunters can easily find big gobblers with good binoculars or spotting scopes after a frost when grasshoppers are dying and cannot move. This important food source becomes easy prey for gobblers. They are busy stuffing themselves with insects and some hunters feel this is one of their most vulnerable times. They are easily ambushed coming out of the field in area with definite signs.
    Signs are important when choosing ambush spots. Look for locations that include signs from different times. Areas with signs from a week before mixed with fresh signs are good bets. These may include tracks or droppings.
    Water is the first place to look in big woods. Limited water areas, especially this year, give you a good starting point for scouting. Check each water hole for tracks, brush them out and return a day or two later to see if gobblers are visiting that area.
    Page 2 of 2 - CALLING: Hunters with turkey calls are often their own worse enemy. You would be surprised how easy it is to over-call fall gobblers. I observed the big fall bird only making two light clucks in a 20-minute period. His calls were soft and very content. Most hunters call often and too loud. Dominant fall birds don’t.
    “I use the same method for coyote or fox when working a fall gobbler,” said David Hale, co-host of Knight and Hale’s Ultimate Hunting television show and spokesman for Knight and Hale Game Calls. “First, you have to intercept the gobbler in his area en route from roost to food and continue with light gobbler clucks. Don’t try to get in a calling contest with a gobbler in the fall.  They simply are not that vocal. Just be where the gobbler is going.”
    You can be slightly more aggressive with subdominant birds. The big boy I watched only wanted sunlight and food. He was happy and likely content to be alone. I might have drawn him with a similar light, contented gobbler yelp – just one. I should have tried but hesitated because my stalk was going well.
    Some of the best fall hunters make one gobbler cluck every 15 minutes and then watch and listen.
    “Try scratching two- and three-note yelps on a box call every 15 or 20 minutes,” said Brad Harris, a veteran turkey hunter. “This may draw a gobbler in your area to see if another is moving in his territory. But you may sit for hours.”
    Remember that younger gobblers make the same sounds as older birds. Younger gobblers will make yelps like a hen. Older gobblers yelp sparingly when lost, while younger birds yelp aggressively. Dominant birds will have a broken, two- to three-note yelp. Tone and volume are basic, but the older bird is generally deeper in sound.
    Hunting fall gobblers may be one of hunting’s greatest challenges. Try it and you will get an education on turkey habits.
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