By Pat Lefemine
The birds were exactly where I thought they would be. In the total darkness of pre-dawn, I snuck through the pasture to the spot where I wanted to set up. Scouting had determined that the birds roosted in the woods to the North of the cow pasture. At first light, they would fly down to the pasture and feed their way up to the fenced-off alfalfa fields. The key was intercepting them between the roost and feeding areas - making sure they could see my two decoys en route. I found a flat area and took out my ground blind, within 5 minutes It was setup along with the decoys. Now, all I could do was wait.
As the dawn grew brighter, the turkeys began calling from the roost, eventually they flew down. Like clockwork they fed into the pasture and congregated 100 yards in back of my blind. I made one kee kee run (86k sound file) call to let them know there were birds in front of them. A group of gobblers fed within 80 yards of me but I didn't call again until they were within sight. I made 1 series of what I call pleading clucks (76k sound file), then a series of plain clucks (75k sound file). The birds looked in my direction and I pulled on the decoy string to grab their attention (see video demonstration 1 (336k video file), then demonstration 2 (776k video file) ). The birds marched right in - without hesitation. I slowly opened one of the 8 shooting windows (see video demonstration 3 (996k video file) ) and readied for the shot. As they approached, I was happy to see they were all Toms. The first two came in and gave me a ten yard shot. I drew my longbow and focused on the closest bird. My arrow sailed right through him. The bird ran 15 feet then died. The rest of the flock proceeded to attack the downed bird, ripping it's feathers and biting at it's head. I had never seen this display of dominance before - it was eerie.
October 23, 1999. The result of scouting, listening, the right gear, and making a good shot!
Hunting fall turkeys are tough. The birds do not respond well to calling, they are in big flocks, and they are only interested in feeding. But with the right gear, an area with good populations of birds, and the ability to put the arrow into a small target, you too can tag a fall bird!
For fall turkey hunting, scouting and knowledge of your area is critical. You have to know the following things:
- roosting areas
- travel routes to feeding areas
- feeding areas
- makeup of flocks, ie. gobblers, jakes, hens with poults, solitary hens
In the below diagram, we found the birds were roosting in the trees to the North of the Pasture. They would fly down to the cow pasture and feed their way into the 140 acre alfalfa field. After they were in the alfalfa, the turkeys would move without a pattern, until late afternoon. At roost time, they would come back the same way. For this reason, early AM or PM setups worked best.
Since you are trying to lure the turkeys into bow range - in some cases under 15 yards - you will need the proper gear:
Ground Blind - For comfort as well as total concealment, I chose to use a tent-type ground blind such as the one made by Cutting Edge Products. The Hide-Out blind is easily transportable and has eight adjustable shooting windows (which allow you to shoot kneeling or standing). With a center height of 6' 5" tall, it is the only blind I've found which is large enough to accommodate a longbow. Cutting Edge Products Inc.,1616 S. Quintero Way, Aurora, CO, 80017, tel. (303) 750-8398 contact Ron Rockwell.
Decoys - I have tried them all, but have found that those manufactured by CarryLite were the best looking - and functioning. I used to set up a flock of ten birds but have recently had better luck using just two decoys - a jake and a hen. The hen decoy will create a feeding motion when you attach a string to its body. The string is threaded through the decoy's stake and with a gentle tug, will appear to be feeding. For string, I used the smallest, black, string I could find. Fast Flight bowstring material works great!
Calls - I use a diaphragm call along with a slate (when I really need to make a racket).
Camo - Use the darkest pattern you have. Treebark is good or just simply a black shirt and pants. Be sure to use a headnet and gloves. The key is to keep the inside of the blind as dark as possible and to wear clothing that does not reflect light - which could be seen by the turkeys.
Broadheads - Basically any broadhead will work, just be sure your bow shoots them accurately. The kill area on a turkey is the size of a baseball. There are some broadheads specifically designed for turkeys, as well as add-ons to keep your broadheads from passing through but I have never used them. I have used Magnus 2-blade broadheads with good success.
To carry this setup into the field, I use a packframe, and bungee the blind to the top of it.
Blind windows are long enough to shoot kneeling or standing, they can open from the top or the bottom.