5 Tips to Kill a Fall Turkey

5 Tips to Kill a Fall Turkey
In most states, hens and poults are legal birds. Though the meat yield is generally just a few pounds apiece, it’s the best white meat you’ll ever taste. 

When deer movement slows, get out and lay down some white meat.

It's common for folks to add a fall turkey permit or two to their pocket in case an unsuspecting flock wanders just a little too close to their treestand while bowhunting for deer. Fewer folks actually dedicate hunts specifically to fall turkeys. Some reason that it infringes on their deer-hunting time. Others deem it senseless to invest time and money into a hunt that yields as little as five pounds of meat or less.

These are somewhat-valid points, but let me reason that it's the fun and experience, first, that make fall-turkey hunting alluring. And, with some knowhow, that measly five pounds of meat could be some of the finest you'll eat all year. Plus, what else are you going to do when it's too hot or the wind direction is wrong for your deer stands?

Now, if you've never hunted fall birds or have had little success doing so, I'm outlining five tips that will help you learn the curve and waylay a fall turkey or two. Let's review.

Fall Turkeys Aren't Spring Turkeys

Many folks who hunt spring gobblers never step foot in the fall-turkey woods. If that's you, let me start by saying that fall turkeys rarely behave like spring turkeys. Plus, hens and poults are legal in most states, so you aren't necessarily hunting toms.


Aside from the occasional gobbling that happens on rare fall mornings when the stars align, you won't be locating birds to hunt by listening for gobbles at dawn. However, fall turkeys do make a racket. Hens yelp frequently, and poults create a whistle often followed by yelping. Hen and poult flocks keep continual communication to ensure everyone is in the ranks.


Leaf tossing is another sound you'll hear on calm autumn days. And when there are crunchy leaves on the ground, a flock simply meandering through the hardwoods sounds like an army.


Spot Them

While listening for hen/poult talk or tossing leaves can be productive, I instead prefer to drive back roads rich with agriculture to find birds to hunt without stepping into the woods. Nearly all of my fall turkey success generates this way, and most landowners happily grant access. In fact, most farmers kiddingly tell me to "shoot 'em all."

In my area, turkeys are rather plentiful, so finding a flock generally takes little time. Plus, I've been hunting fall turkeys for years and have several farms at my disposal that are absolutely money each fall.

I suggest taking a pair of decent binos along on your scouting drives. Places to glass are hayfields in early fall and picked cornfields mid-fall through the end of the season.


As for timing, I usually take my drives an hour or two after dawn or flydown. This tells me where the birds hang out after they fly down, as hunting roost sites is dicey. Of course, if you can set up quietly in the pitch dark, then hunting a roosting area in the morning can be productive. This is easier done with a shotgun than a bow.

Observation Hunts

During my early fall turkey hunting days as a teenager, I'd often bowhunt a hayfield or picked cornfield from a blind to observe bird movement rather than scout. Fall turkeys are generally patternable. An observation set can yield a shot opportunity, but at a minimum you can see the specific areas turkeys are frequenting and move in for the kill the following day.

Confidence Decoys

While targeting hen/poult flocks, placing one or two realistic decoys within shooting range can be wise. Fall hens and poults can be inquisitive, and a hen decoy can draw them in for a closer look. Hens can also be territorial, so it's possible one could respond out of anger, even attacking the decoy with pecks, kicks and wing jabs.


In any case, I've never had decoys ruin my fall hunts. In fact, one September while targeting a 10-tom flock, I placed a strutting jake decoy in the large hayfield I was hunting. I did it because the turkeys didn't seem to favor any particular portion of the field, and I needed to try something creative in order to bow-kill one of them.

The first morning I hunted them, all 10 toms came in from 250 yards away, several posturing next to the decoy 18 yards away. I thumped the lead tom just before he attacked the decoy. Yes, decoys have a place in the fall-turkey woods.

Gun and Go

One of my favorite ways to shotgun hunt for fall turkeys is to spot and stalk them. It might seem impossible given a wild turkey’s keen eyesight, but I've claimed a heap of birds using this strategy.

The best days to stalk turkeys are in roaring wind and when the ground can be negotiated quietly — powdery snow or damp leaves are best. It's also important to have terrain features or other natural obstructions at your disposal so you can remain hidden until you're within shooting range.

Fall turkeys often provide more than one shot opportunity, so if you have multiple tags, be quick on the gun. Many of my shotgun stalks end with a double, and that makes for a thrilling hunt.

End Results

Once you bag a fall turkey or two, consider making the spoils part of your Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. Be sure to cut across the grain to ensure tenderness. Also, soak the chunks in salt water or buttermilk for 24 hours prior to cooking, which tenderizes the meat.

I often batter and deep-fry breast chunks and serve them with BBQ or bleu cheese dipping sauces. If that, along with the other points I’ve presented, doesn’t interest you in fall turkey hunting, nothing will.

Recommended for You

Every hunter needs a rimfire workhorse for varmints and predators. Guns

Best Rimfire Rifles for 2019

Keith Wood - April 23, 2019

Every hunter needs a rimfire workhorse for varmints and predators.

We put the best boots for late-season hunting to the test. Here are the results. Clothing

Field Tested: Cold-Weather Boots

Kali Parmley - April 22, 2019

We put the best boots for late-season hunting to the test. Here are the results.

Having just the right amount of lightweight gear can make or break a hunt. Find out the best way to pack for a backcountry trek! Camping

What's In Your Backcountry Pack?

Tracy Breen

Sponsored By
Outdoor Sportsman Group

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 10: Snowbound Chamois

Host Brittany Boddington gets more than she bargained for on what turned out to be a grueling, snowbound and extremely physical hunt for chamois in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 9: Aloha Axis Deer

Host Mike Schoby joins his buddies Jon Dubin and Jeff Johnston on the island of Lanai for a deer hunt Hawaiian style!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 11: Wheelgun Buffalo

Host Craig Boddington lays claim to hunting more than 100 Cape Buffalo over the course of his 40 plus year career, but he never took one with a handgun. That changed in South Africa when Craig faced down "black death" with a magnum wheelgun.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites. Guns

8 Great Youth Guns Designed for Growing Hunters

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 18, 2016

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites.

Since the first explorers and pilgrims landed, the inhabitants of this glorious country have been Shooting

7 Favorite Truck Guns

Joseph von Benedikt - May 11, 2015

Since the first explorers and pilgrims landed, the inhabitants of this glorious country have...

My deer-hunting seeds were planted and nurtured as a youngster on my family's small farm in North America

Best Units for Hunting Western Mule Deer

Josh Dahlke

My deer-hunting seeds were planted and nurtured as a youngster on my family's small farm in

See More Stories

More How-To

Master the West by Avoiding the pitfalls that leave most hunters eating tag soup. How-To

How to Avoid Western Hunting Mistakes

Joseph von Benedikt

Master the West by Avoiding the pitfalls that leave most hunters eating tag soup.

When deer hunters are in the middle of an all-day sit, they certainly will need some high-energy snacks to made it to the end. Start with Old Trapper jerky! How-To

Dandy Dozen: High-Energy Snacks for Deer Hunters

Lynn Burkhead - September 06, 2018

When deer hunters are in the middle of an all-day sit, they certainly will need some...

Breeding season is over, elk are smart, but competition is low. North America Big Game

How to Kill a Giant Post-Rut Elk

Mark Kayser

Breeding season is over, elk are smart, but competition is low.

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.