A veteran fall turkey hunter uses yelps, cutting, gobbles and aggressive purring to bring autumn birds to the gun.
Fall turkey hunting often seems straightforward when it comes to calling: lots of kee-kees and kee-kee runs for scattered family groups, and maybe some jake or gobbler yelps for gangs of male birds.
However, autumn turkeys — jakes, jennies, brood hens, adult gobblers, hens without poults and male birds entering their second fall (jake-and-a-halfs) — use a far broader vocabulary. And sometimes, fall hunters might miss out by not digging deeper into their bag of calling tricks.
Just ask Tad Brown, product development specialist with Hunters Specialties and an avid fall turkey hunter from Missouri.
“You know, when I’m trying to locate a flock, I use a boat paddle — HS’ Long Stroker, designed by Paul Butski — and really raise hell, yelping and cutting aggressively,” Brown said. “I have good luck getting a matriarch hen to answer with that. Sometimes, she comes bringing the whole flock, and other times they answer and then lead their flock away, but that allows me to at least understand their location and try to get on them a bit tighter.”
As autumn progresses, Brown adapts his approach for changing conditions.
“Later in the season, once turkeys have been hunted or scattered for whatever reason, there seems to be more lone hens traveling around,” he said. “I use a slow yelp with a couple of clucks. I started using that in spring, too — just sort of loud, slow searching-type yelps. I just walk and call like that about every 50 yards or so.”
“I usually refrain from kee-kees anymore until I get a flock scattered or get one to answer with a kee-kee, and then I do it back,” he said.
And what about adult gobblers, which can be notoriously quiet and uncooperative during fall?
“For gobblers, I have the best luck just gobbling,” Brown said. “If you get lucky enough to get a flock of gobblers or jakes scattered, gobbling is amazingly successful. I have had them come in strutting and gobbling just like during spring, especially if they’ve spent the night alone. I have a good friend that has good luck with fighting purrs in the fall, pulling the whole group or scattered singles. And fighting purrs seem pretty successful on those spring jakes going into their second fall. They are constantly trying to establish dominance.”
This fall, don’t get stuck in a rut with your calling. Try several turkey vocalizations to see how birds respond. You might be surprised when that varied approach produces a free-range Thanksgiving bird.