Missouri is home to numerous large reservoirs and rivers with shorelines consisting of large expanses of public hunting ground. These properties are often hard to reach by way of land, leaving them void of hunters. With a little extra effort and a boat, you can secretly unlock the door to excellent fall turkey hunting.
Spring and fall turkey hunting are two totally different games. During the spring, it’s all about the ladies. A mature gobbler spends his days chasing and guarding hens. During this time, you can coax gobblers to their demise by convincing them you’re a hen looking for love.
Fall turkey hunting is completely different. Gobblers bunch up in the fall and spend most of their time feeding. They don’t gobble regularly like they do in the spring while chasing hens, but they still vocalize. There’s plenty of ways to kill a fall gobbler. Busting up a flock and calling them back together is an exciting favorite tactic.
Scouting is key to locating flocks of gobblers in the fall, and using a boat may be the greatest way ever to scout for turkeys. With a boat you can cover a lot of ground without laying a foot on it. From the comfort of your boat seat while casting for bass or crappie, you can effectively scout fall turkeys.
You need to be on the water at sunrise and sunset listening for turkeys coming off and going to roost. On a reservoir, slip to the back of a cove so you’ll be able to hear turkey activity on each of the opposite peninsulas or in the mainland woods. Since fall turkey flocks are generally large, if the birds are there, you’ll be able to hear their powerful, heavy wing beats as the fly. You’ll also hear yelping, cutting, cackling and even the occasional gobble. On a river, slowly cruise the bank back and forth along the timber you expect to hunt until you locate turkeys.
Once you have located a flock, you need to strategize on breaking them up and bringing them back together. If you are hunting alone, the tactic is fairly simple. Sneak into striking distance of the flock and rush them. You can do this first thing in the morning, blowing them off the roost, or you can bust up a flock once they’re already in the ground. Run right into the center of the flock. Bang sticks together, kick the leaves on the forest floor and wave your arms. The birds should take off flying in every direction.
If you’re by yourself and the flock is on a peninsula, rush the flock from the mainland side, so they’ll fly to the end of the peninsula essentially cornering themselves. Some may fly across the water, but assuming the landmass you’re hunting is large enough, most should stay on the peninsula. Now sit down, wait only a few minutes and start calling.
Ideally, you’ll be hunting with partners when you locate gobblers on a peninsula. Put hunters in the upper inside corners of where the peninsula meets the mainland and have one hunter bust the flock by rushing in from the end of the peninsula. The birds should scatter towards the hunters.
Hunting from ground blinds and using a couple of immature gobbler or Jake decoys may not be necessary, but it sure holds an advantage when a forest full of eyes is bearing down on you. One man tent chair style ground blinds that fold up and can be carried with backpack straps are perfect for hunters planning numerous sets in a single day.
Gobblers talk to each other just like hens and poults, but they talk slower, deeper and more matter of fact. They yelp, cluck, cut, purr and put. You can bring gobblers back together using any of these calls. Sometimes they won’t talk back, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Try whatever it takes to get a response, then match the live bird with the same calls of equal intensity. But even if you don’t hear anything, keep your eyes open, because gobblers often show up without making a sound.