Hunting: Monday marks opening day for turkey, Southern Zone bowhunting

There should be quite a few hunters high off the ground Monday when the sun starts to shine through

There should be quite a few hunters high off the ground Monday when the sun starts to shine through the trees.

They’ll be sitting/standing in their tree stands, hopefully all with their safety straps on, waiting for the arrival of a big buck. Monday is the opening of the regular bowhunting season in the Southern Zone.

There should be another much smaller group of hunters in full camo, sneaking and peeking or sitting. Fall turkey hunting season also opens that day.

Turkey hunters, remember, this is the first year the Southern Zone deer hunting has opened this early, so be sure to look up before you set out those decoys and sit with your back against a tree. There could be a tree stand above you.

Fall turkey hunting is not as popular as spring, primarily because the birds are not as vocal. Those big old toms that gobble at lovesick hen calls in May are no longer interested. If a fall turkey hunter is asked how he hunts, chances are his answer will be something like, “find them and break them up.” However, I’ve had very good success with patterning them. It’s not easy, but it works for me.

I’d have to say the best way to locate turkeys is to find their feeding areas. Right now, their main focus is on flocking up and feeding. To find them, each hunter really should do a little walking in the woods before the season opens. Look for mast-producing trees along the tops of ridges, corn and other agricultural fields. Find their scrape marks and/or feathers, and you have a starting point.

Anyone who hasn’t had the time to scout has two choices: Get in the woods before daylight and set up where you found birds last or in a previous season, or if you don’t have a last-year spot, enter the woods before daylight and move slowly and listen. Fall turkeys are still a bit noisy on the roost.

Once heard on the roost, there are two choices. The first is to mark the location and leave, return a few hours before sundown, move into good cover in the roost area, set up and wait for their return, or move in before they fly down and hope they come in your direction. My success rate with trying to get close to the roosted birds in the morning has been about 10 percent, which is why I seldom try it any more.

Have you ever been driving within an hour or so of sundown and spotted a flock of turkeys near the road or a woodlot? Chances are very good they’ll be roosting nearby. If you have permission to hunt that property, get back there early the next day and put the move on them. If you can get close without spooking them, chances of getting a bird are good.

When going into a field where turkeys are thought to be roosted, don’t go across an open field, even though it’s dark. Wherever I’ve seen birds, I take the longest way in through the woods. For example, if I saw them the night before near the left side of the field, I go to the end of the field on the right, enter the woods and make my way slowly and quietly to where I think they are. I like to be about 75 yards away.

If I hear them talking, then flying down and heading in the other direction, it’s time for Plan B, which is to take the live shell out of the chamber of my shotgun and run towards them yelling and waving my arms hoping to break up the flock. Bowhunters, if you see a crazy guy in camo running through the woods screaming and yelling, don’t shoot.

Breaking up the flock is a method I believe most fall turkey hunters use. It requires sneaking around in the woods and listening. I try to keep trees in front of me as I move in one direction. It’s much like still- hunting for deer. Take three or four well-placed (quiet) steps and scan the area moving only your eyes. As a reminder, whenever hunting turkeys, use a full facemask and remember, turkeys can see in color and have excellent daytime vision (three times better than a human’s) that covers 270 degrees.


I always use three decoys — two in a feeding position, one upright — whether I’ve just broken up the flock, am setting up before sunup on a roosted flock, walking in the woods or just sitting down where I think birds are nearby. Distance is also an important part of the setup. I place my decoys about 20 paces from where I will sit, allowing me to still have a shot if the birds hang up 10-20 yards out behind the decoys. Although I know my 12-gauge can and has taken birds beyond 40 yards, 10-20 is my comfort range.

Calls depend on the situation. If I break the flock, I alternate between the Kee Kee call, which imitates a poult separated from the flock, and trying to match whatever response I get. I’ve found that toning down my yelps and purrs works better than loud calling.

One last suggestion regarding setup. This time of year, the birds like to flock up, and quite often, they can be coming from all directions. With this in mind, the pos­ition of the setup is very important. I’ve found a portable blind will add stealth. There are fence-like camo blinds about 27 inches high and 80-90 inches long that can be adjusted quickly to fence-in the hunter and are easy to carry, but my long-time favorite is the chair blind. It totally hides the hunter on all sides, something especially important when birds come in from the sides and behind.


The Electric City Friends of the NRA will host its 2012 fundraising dinner on Thursday, Oct. 11, at Settles Hill Banquets in Altamont.

Ticket prices are $40 for ind­ividuals; $120 for the Big Shooters Package, which includes the banquet and a $200 package of bucket tickets and 10 gun table tickets; and the Liberty Sponsor package that includes sponsor hat, Trad­itions magazine, an NRA exclusive weather station and one ticket with a one-in-10 chance to win a Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22. Tickets will also be sold for the 2012 Friends of the NRA Gun of the Year; a Benelli Ultra-Light 12-gauge. There will also be a live auction.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner (choice of beef or chicken) at 7. Click here to purcahse tickets on-line or call Colin Borst at 852-2514.

Categories: Sports

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