Five techniques to help you bag a turkey in Washington this fall
Helpful tips for hunting this sharp-eyed game bird
NOTE: Wildfires are burning in parts of Eastern and Central Washington, causing some trail, road, and campground closures. If you are planning an annual hunting trip or another outdoor adventure, first check that your destination is open. Stay tuned to local news sources for evolving information as conditions and closures can change quickly. Up-to-date information on wildfires in Washington is available on the InciWeb site. WDFW has created a webpage for our wildlife areas that are currently impacted and will keep it updated as we receive new information. Our thoughts are with those impacted by these fires as they work to recover.
Washington’s fall general season for wild turkey is coming up fast, so WDFW has gathered fall techniques here to help your season be a successful one. The season starts Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31 in most 100-series game management units. Visit wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations to see all fall turkey season opportunities.
1. Turkeys 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.
Be careful of where blinds are placed. Sunlight that enters the blind’s openings can lead to reflections (off glasses, phones, cameras, etc.) or make clothing (including camouflage) appear lighter, contrasting with the outer blind’s pattern, and might blow your cover.
2. 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 response.
Once you know where the turkeys roost, set up not at the roost but in the area where they come to feed. Ideally, you’ll want to use a natural shooting lane (travel corridor) where turkeys emerge from their roost. Make sure your setup is on flat ground because 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.
3. 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 enough to be hunting where Washington’s only oak species (Oregon white or Garry oak) persist, you might find that turkeys are after the acorns beneath them.
4. Fall turkey hunting is vastly different from the spring because 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 might be a source of comfort. Alternatively, they might see a decoy as a territorial threat and come right over to defend their patch of grass.
5. 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 — they will naturally want to regroup — then call them back in to your area.
Do you have other techniques you want to share with fellow hunters? Post them in the comments below for discussion. Please note that in Washington, it is unlawful to hunt turkeys with dogs, electronic calls, or electronic decoys. It is also unlawful to use baiting methods for game birds.
Remember that if you purchased a turkey tag in the spring but didn’t harvest a bird, you can use that tag for a fall harvest.
For more information on turkey hunting in Washington, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/migratory-waterfowl-upland-game.