Steve Beckwith - Maine Hunter

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hunting The Fall Turkey As The Hunter

Always remember when reading my blog... I am not a professional writer, I tend to ramble, misspell and use bad grammar! In this article I will talk about both archery and shotgun hunting. I will also be talking about calling, stalking and tactics that have worked for me and that I use. Some conventional and some unconventional tactics, but keep in mind, I am a hunter and a hunter uses everything legal to achieve the ultimate end result which is food on our tables. My way may not be your way, but your way is not always the only way or the right way for another hunter! I am tired of the trash talk I see on Facebook and other social media sites from supposed hunters who think their way is the only way and talk down on new techniques or old traditions that they have never tried or that they simply don't like the concept. They trash talk new concepts without ever having tried them, they forget that some states allow methods that their state don't and immediately call it cheating, unethical, or unsafe! Anytime you set out to go hunting "always" check your local laws before implementing anything you read online! States like Massachusetts have no law against shooting turkeys off the roost, I don't like that law for my state, but maybe guys in Massachusetts like to hunt that way. In Maine we can hunt with electronic calls, not that I need them, but it's legal, therefore okay for those who use them here! Why bash others over legal hunting methods in the state we do it in? I say... to each his own, as long as it's legal to do where you hunt!    

I have had many ups and downs when it comes to fall turkey hunting. I do prefer using my shotgun but I have shot many fall turkeys with a bow over the years and I hate to admit this but many have also run off to die and never be found by myself, but instead by a fox, fisher or coyote that surely enjoyed my efforts!  Turkey hunting with a bow, from my years of experience tells me in order to be successful one must be very patient and select only the perfect shot angles. Shooting a turkey broadside with an arrow is in my opinion is a poor shot, there is a very small window of kill areas when a bird is broadside. (Yes.. it can be done, but more times than not they run away to die a slow death and can’t be found so I won't do it anymore.)   The best shots for me are either straight on with it walking directly towards you or walking directly away. Of course there are other good shots too like slightly angling towards you or going away angle shots that work quite well too, but this method gives a much bigger kill area and will easily disable a bird when you drive a broadhead through the spine, lungs, heart, neck or head!   

In my later years of hunting, I have made a choice in the hunting of turkey to use my 12 ga  Mossberg Ult-Mag 835 shotgun with 3 1/2” magnum with #5 shot (Heavy Shot or Federal Premiums patterned best in my gun.), mainly because I respect the animal and want to make sure I use a tool that does the job I am setting out to do, which is to kill a turkey and put him on my dinner table, not a coyote, fox or other critters meal! Using a gun of this caliber also allows longer range shooting which is often necessary in the fall. My gun has taken birds out to 80 yards, although 65 yards is my preferred maximum range. One does not need to use what I use, it’s just my personal choice for turkey hunting.  

There are too many ways to list them all but I have developed certain skills that help me to be a successful fall turkey hunter over the years. The first and foremost mission is that you have to locate birds and the easiest way to do that in the fall is to ride the roads and spot them in fields, backyards, (Bird Feeders) crossing roads and by frequenting areas where spring turkeys have been known to hang out, like oak ridges and old tote roads with landings or clearings. But, remember that fall turkeys have totally different habits and behaviors in the fall over spring turkey hunting. In the fall turkeys group into two flock types, hens and poults and Toms and  1 1/2 year old jakes, beards are with beards, and hens are still with their spring born broods. This requires different hunting tactics for each group of birds in the fall.

First I will go over hunting the hens and poults flock, calling fall birds is quite fun and this flock is the easiest to call, but yet not always will they respond. In order to call birds there are a couple methods that work, one is busting up the group, causing them to scatter into the woods ahead of you, either with a dog or by running at them yourself and forcing them to scatter. I don’t have a dog and I don’t like to chase turkeys although I have and it works! But after the birds have gone out of sight you simply set up close to where they dispersed and begin to call using a soft yelp and single putts or a young bird kee kee to simulate a gathering situation to which the birds will try to regroup and unfortunately to them, your calling is a fake part of their flock and when they appear looking for their friends the shot opportunity presents itself for you.

Another way I have been very successful calling hens and poults is by finding them in large fields or in areas you can easily predict their direction of traveling as a group, and I position myself about 100 yards ahead of that direction without getting caught, or busted, as we call it getting set up. Being stealthy and quick are keys to doing this. Using the woods and ridges make great cover while you get ahead of the flock. Once you are set up, again do some soft yelps and single puts and it won’t be long before that whole group is on the way looking for another flock or group to join up with and again you are not what they will be looking for! Being in camo and very still is crucial when flocks are approaching you in the woods, that many eyes all looking for the sounds you were making puts them on alarm of any foreign movement in their woods.

Recently I teamed up with a company called Blind Magnet, they make very light and easy to pop open blinds that gives me the added cover I need to prevent body movement. It carries easily in my pack or in my hand as I work my way through and ahead of birds in the woods and when I get to what I call “In The Zone”, which is about 100 yards or less from the flock, this blind pops open in two seconds and makes it perfect for run and gunning for fall turkeys. I will mention this blind again in this article for another awesome and fun way to get your turkey!

The male fall flock is quite a bit harder to call into range. Male birds in the fall do not want anything to do with females and their poults, I have been within 75 yards of flocks of male birds and let out a hen yelp, their heads pop up and two seconds later, they are running straight away from that sound they heard. Calling males in the fall can be done, but personally I have not mastered this call and I choose other methods for my hunting success. Males like to keep to themselves in the fall season. I personally believe it is because they know that the large groups of young birds are making too many sounds and predators go after them. The older wiser male birds don’t want these young poults giving them away and putting them in danger of coyotes and foxes, the male birds are no where near as vocal in the fall as the hen and poult flocks!  In my experience calling in fall Toms should be left up to only the most experienced turkey callers, a caller that can mimic only the male “yelp” something I have not yet mastered and probably never will for fall birds. But, I have called in male birds in the fall, using a deep yelp from the center of a slate call or a low pitched box call.

In Maine we can stalk turkey and it’s a lot of fun and is an adrenaline rush one has to experience but, I only advise this in open areas or fields to be safe. Open field or plains stalking is an ancient art of hunting that dates back to our ancestors using primitive hunting tools. In the past my fall tom hunting tactics of stalking have been finding a flock of toms and using natural elements to stalk and close the gap without getting seen by all those eyes watching for predators. I use trees, bushes, stonewalls, hills, valleys and anything that hides me while I close the distance for a kill shot. One of my favorite old time methods is to use a red headed jake decoy once I have located a flock in an open field, the trick is to find a hill or bushes across the field from them that I can get the decoy out in the field without being caught by the flock. Then set up against a tree with some good cover and wait for the flock to walk around the bush or hill and see the lone jake decoy, sometimes that single low pitched tom yelp makes them look quicker! They almost instantly run across the field ready to confront this new intruder in their area and will run right to the decoy. Now with the addition of the “Blind Magnet” in my backpack of tools I will be using that for a cover set up from now on rather than limited bushes and cover in setting up quickly in specific corners of a field!

This leads me to the recent discovery of use of the Blind Magnet for fall turkey hunting. Last spring I filmed the use of a Blind Magnet blind used to stalk three adult toms across a 500 yard field here in Maine and the shooter was able to stalk within 30 yards of these three birds that would not come to any call I had in my box of tricks. These birds stayed on the wood line on the opposite side of the field for hours, so we deployed the Tactical Blind Magnet and slowly worked across the wide open field, if the birds get a little nervous, you simply stop and watch for them to settle back down and start feeding or strutting, whatever they are doing naturally. These blinds have about a 3 inch circle hole in them above the handle you use to move the blind, which you can look out through and see everything ahead of you. Without the use of this new lightweight camo shield, stalking 500 yards to within shooting range of three weary toms would never happen! This new device should be in every turkey hunters bag of tricks. When your preferred method of calling just won’t work, deploy the Blind Magnet and try your hand at something that is very exciting but I will tell you that stalking skills are required to do this. You can’t just walk quickly across a field and shoot a turkey, you have to hunt skillfully behind this device, and that’s why it’s called hunting folks.

So in closing I hope you will give fall turkey hunting a try and that some of my experiences will help you to be more successful!  I hope you will consider giving staking turkey and other game a try. My late great friend Lane Benoit enjoyed tracking, stalking, learning the ways of the animal he was pursuing and he always told me that it is all part of why we all hunt. I had the pleasure of turkey hunting with Lane Benoit and he always told me great woodsman use all their skills and knowledge to be successful and to never leave any stone un-turned in achieving your end goal, which is food on your table!  I too live by the same words and use the tools available to me to achieve those goals!  So check your States game laws to be sure stalking game is legal in your area and catch the fever of fall turkey hunting and the many ways to be successful!

Maine Fall Turkey Hunting Laws

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