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There's nothing better than the feeling of pride from harvesting your own wild game to serve at the dinner table.
Every hunter will tell you that it's something about the hard work and dedication to the hunt that makes wild game taste better.
Maybe the type of shot you use gives it some extra flavor, or maybe your buck knife has something to do with it. Whatever it is, you'll never talk us hunters out of our superstitions, because fresh-shot game is just that good.
Lucky for us, the holidays and most hunting seasons happen at the same time.
It provides hunters with a great opportunity to feed their families a holiday meal with the best mother nature has to offer.
Thanksgiving is next up on the holiday roster, and you're not doing turkey day right without a fresh shot bird sitting on the dining room table.
If you're new to turkey hunting you're in for a treat. It's not an easy hunt, but the payoff is spectacular.
Watching a blown up Tom strut into sight and let off a gobble will send chills through your body.
We're breaking down the best fall turkey hunting tips so your Thanksgiving table is blessed with a fresh bird.
Fall turkey hunting season is all about locating the flock.
Birds aren't mating during the fall, and otherwise hostile gobblers put aside their differences to find food before winter comes.
Hens and poults do the same, staying in tight-knit groups for protection and resource management.
Take a walk during the day to look for turkey sign. Open grassy fields make a good place to start.
Turkeys eat leafy plants and insects that hide in the grass before the frost hits. They also enjoy dropped corn, beans, and wheat after harvest time.
Look for tracks and scat that lead towards wooded areas. Flocks roost together in close groups of trees and often leave "dust baths" where the turkeys roll on the ground to "clean" their feathers and ward off bugs.
Once you've found a potential roost, return around dusk and watch for turkeys flying up to nest. You can't miss their awkwardly flying black shapes, even in low light.
>Now that you've got a lead on the flock, it's time to get hunting.
There are two effective ways to hunt turkeys in the fall. The first is something called "flock busting."
Locate a flock on the ground and charge them. The idea is to scatter the birds in many different directions. Where legal, dogs are excellent at this.
Watch the birds as they scatter and determine which turkey you're interested in shooting. Set up in some sort of cover (hedgerows work well) and position yourself in the direction the turkey ran.
The idea is to call the turkey back with yelps that mimic a lost turkey. The flock's instinct is to regroup in order to have strength in numbers.
If you're lucky, you'll have set up in the general direction that your desired bird left in. If you're unlucky, and it's hardly bad luck, another few turkeys will wander your way.
Remember, turkeys all taste the same once the feathers are gone.
The second fall technique is called "making a play."
The idea is to set up near where you've seen a turkey roost. It's a good technique for targeting individual birds because you're not relying on a scared flock.
Instead, making a play is all about keeping a low profile and calling the bird to you. It's a lot like spring turkey hunting, except you're not mimicking a female bird.
Turkeys have a pecking order, no pun intended.
Their natural instinct is to figure out who's the alpha bird. A big Tom in fall will come running if he thinks another turkey is challenging him for dominance.
Set up a Tom decoy and make angry yelps and purrs. If he gobbles, gobble back just as loud to show you mean business.
Do it right and the Tom will walk in blown up in full strut. Your decoy might take some spurs, but the spectacle is phenomenal.
Calling turkeys is all about thinking like a turkey.
If you're up against an aggressive Tom, it's logical to stand your ground and make him come check you out.
Likewise, when you're flock busting, friendly purrs and yelps will lure other turkeys because they're looking for friendly faces.
Here's a quick breakdown down of the most useful fall turkey calls and when to use them.
This is the sound a poult makes before it's mature enough to yelp. Use a mouth call to kee kee when calling back a broken flock. The older birds will return looking to round up the young.
The lost yelp is another call for reuniting a flock. Hens will make 10-15 yelps that act as a locator beacon to other hens and poults.
Male turkeys make a low, hoarse yelp. It's also used for reuniting with other birds but sometimes works to let another aggressive male know you're in the neighborhood.
The gobble is the universal male turkey single for, "Get out of here, or else." As us humans say, "them's fightin' words." Gobbles work well for making a play on a Tom.
Don't be afraid to vary up these calls and use them in innovative ways. The most important part of calling turkeys is situational context.
Fall turkey hunters get the luxury of traveling light.
Because you can shoot hens, the turkey population you're targeting is smaller on average than spring turkeys. This means you can sacrifice some firepower for portability.
A twenty gauge shotgun with a super tight choke will get the job done. Lighter ammo is also acceptable, though it's best to keep using the heavy stuff for maximum knock down. Turkey Shells don't weigh enough to encumber you.
Decoys are still advisable, though you may want to carry a Tom instead of a hen.
The rest of your gear will vary by the weather. Oh, and don't forget your turkey tags.
A freshly shot turkey on Thanksgiving is a rare treat that will have the whole family smiling ear-to-ear.
There's nothing quite like feasting on a bird fresh from the field.
If you're looking to thumb your nose at butterball and bag your own dinner this Thanksgiving, check out our merchandise. We specialize in hunting gear tried and tested in the rugged backcountry of the Rocky Mountains.
We only sell gear that we'd use ourselves.