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Fall Hunt Frenzy

Thanks to the hard work of wildlife agencies and NWTF volunteers, and the resilience and adaptability of the species itself, the wild turkey population across North America stands at an estimated 5.6 million birds. This means more hunting opportunity and more chances for hunter success in every corner of the continent, spring and, of immediate interest, fall.

Steamy summer air may still be striking you in the face every time you step out your front door, but believe it or not, the first fall turkey season opens in parts of Arizona Aug. 23, with a slate of some 40 other states set to open in the months to follow. A traveling hunter with the stamina of an Iron Man competitor can literally hunt across the country from August through the end of February. That is a lot of hunting! That's even more turkey hunting than a sportsman can enjoy in the spring.

So, to the uninitiated, I say take heed and give it a try. You're sure to like it. And for those veteran wanderers of the autumn forests, get ready for another great season.

Fall hunting seasons have now been uploaded on the NWTF web site and can be found by clicking here and selecting the state of your choice. There, you can get the scoop on season dates, populations, bag limits, legal hours and more.

But remember, information can always change, so before venturing afield with shotgun in hand, be sure to confirm season dates and rules with the wildlife agency where you'll be hunting.

If you really want the inside track on fall turkey hunting, the 2002 Fall Hunt Guide will be featured in the September/October edition of Turkey Call magazine. Look for detailed fall hunt information in your mailboxes in about a week or so. And to learn more about becoming a member of the NWTF and receiving Turkey Call magazine six times a year, click here.

You'll never regret helping wild turkey populations continue to grow across the nation, and bettering your chances in the turkey woods.

To get you started off on the right foot, here's some tips on finding fall flocks, one of the biggest challenges in the autumn woods.


Unlike the spring, when toms can be found by the sound of their gobbles, fall hunters must rely on less audible yelps, clucks and kee-kees, or turkeys scratching in leaves or flapping their wings. And unlike the spring when turkeys typically frequent the same roosting, strutting and feeding areas day in and day out, fall flocks range over a wider area in their search for food, sometimes not returning to the same tract for days.

The typical range for a fall flock is between 250 and 400 acres, depending on the habitat and availability of food, according to Bryan Burhans, director of the NWTF's land management programs. But if food is found easily along corridors that stretch for great distances, turkeys may range much farther, maybe even for miles.

Scouting is the key to finding fall turkeys.

Whether you limit your hunt to gangs of old gobblers or tail the more vocal hens and young-of-year birds, remember that the only thing on their minds is food. Turkey flocks will move throughout an area, scratching for acorns and berries among the leaves of the forests. They'll also look for waste grain in fields that have been harvested or "bug" for insects along grassy lanes.

Once you've identified those feeding zones, look for turkey tracks, droppings and feathers. Large, j-shaped droppings indicate a gobbler has come and gone, while smaller droppings, shaped like popcorn, signal that hens and young birds have passed. Scratching also lets you know where turkeys have been feeding and in which direction they are traveling. If the soil is still dark and damp, chances are that the birds have been there in the past few hours.

On opening day, hit the hotspots before fly-down. Despite not having the advantage of gobbling birds, young flocks often make a ruckus when they descend from their roosts and gather on the ground. Listen for the sound of frantic wingbeats, loud yelps and cutts and the kee-keeing of young birds. Once gathered, flocks usually don't call much, so the earlier you are, the better. But be prepared to cover some ground.

Ease through the woods and listen for the occasional call of a turkey or for the sound of scratching. Don't worry much about the sound of your walking through the leaves, though; other birds might mistake you for a turkey, too, and that's a good thing. Keep in mind, however, that other hunters could be around. So be cautious and never call while you are walking or stalking through heavy cover. When you're able to call, call from a large tree for safety's sake. And if that big ole bird should appear, you'll be able to set up quickly.

Make sure to check back next week for more fall turkey tips and adventures.




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