Fall Turkey Techniques

In the fall, turkey have only one thing on their mind — food. This makes fall turkey season a much different hunting season than spring turkey. Our upland bird experts share their fall techniques to help you tag a gobbler all your own.

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A Tom turkey struts in northeast Washington. Photo by Annemarie Prince.
  • Turkey have excellent eyesight. If you plan on using the sit-and-wait method, then prepare to be patient and make as little movement as possible. Use of natural blinds, a pop-up, or ground blind will help keep your movements hidden, but be careful of where blinds are placed. Sunlight that enters the blind’s openings may lend to reflections (glasses, phones, cameras, etc.), or make clothing (including camouflage!) appear lighter, contrasting with the outer blind’s pattern, and may blow your cover.
  • When scouting for turkeys, try to find where they’re roosting, and more importantly, where they come down from their roost. Turkeys are fond of roosting near the top of large, tall trees that protect them from predators and harsh elements. After sunrise, turkeys will leave their roost to begin foraging. In the fall, this could be along a forest edge or in more wooded areas. Look for scratch marks that reveal where turkeys have been feeding. To find a roost, look for localized turkey droppings and feathers on the forest floor to start. Consider busting out a crow or owl call to get vocal confirmation on where the roost is; you’ll want to head out before first light to get the best responses. Once you know where the turkeys roost, set up not at the roost, but in the area they come to feed. Ideally, you’d want to use a natural shooting lane (travel corridor) where turkeys emerge from their roost. Make sure your setup is on flat ground, as turkeys won’t cross obstacles to follow your call. You can also set up in areas where birds have been dusting, which indicates that you’re in an area that flocks frequent.
  • As the weather cools off, a turkey’s diet begins to shift. In early fall, turkeys turn to fruits (berries) and other mast-producing shrubs. If you’re lucky to be hunting where Washington’s only oak species (Oregon white or Garry oak) persist, you may find turkeys are after the acorns beneath them.
  • Fall turkey hunting is vastly different from the spring, as turkeys are no longer motivated by the instinct to compete for mates. That said, there is much discussion on using decoys during the fall. Some hunters have found success in pandering to the bird’s social needs — seeing other turkeys in an area may be a source of comfort. Alternatively, they may see a decoy as a territorial threat, and come right over to defend their patch of grass.
  • Want a rush? Try a flush! Many fall turkey hunters will sneak up on flocks, only to run straight at them and cause a ruckus to separate birds. Make sure the birds scatter, as they will naturally want to regroup, then call them back in to your area.

Please note that in Washington, it is unlawful to hunt wild turkeys with dogs, electronic calls, or electronic decoys; it is also unlawful to use baiting methods for game birds.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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