Fall turkey hunting can be challenging, but satisfying
Many hunters who spend hours and weeks preparing for spring gobbler season take a casual approach to hunting fall turkey.
That is unfortunate because taking a mature fall turkey, no matter if its is a gobbler or a hen, can be as challenging and as unique of a hunting experience as calling a spring gobbler. It all depends on how one chooses to hunt these magnificent birds - or if one serves as an adult mentor and transfers their fall turkey tag to youth younger than 12 years of age participating in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Mentored Youth Hunting Program.
Bows, shotguns and rifles are legal sporting arms for hunting fall turkey in all Wildlife Management Units other than 2B. In local WMUs the season begins Saturday, Nov. 2, continues through Friday, Nov. 22, then reopens Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, for three days through Saturday, Nov. 30.
Fall turkey season varies by WMUs, and here are the dates:
WMU 1B: Saturday,-Saturday, Nov. 2-9, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMU 2B: Saturday-Friday, Nov. 2-22, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMUs 1A, 2A and 2D: Saturday-Saturday, Nov. 2-16, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D: Saturday-Friday, Nov. 2-22, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMUs 2F, 2G and 2H: Saturday-Saturday, Nov. 2-16, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E: Saturday-Friday, Nov. 2-22, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 28-30; WMU 5A: Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 5-7; WMUs 5B, 5C and 5D: Closed to fall turkey hunting.
Fall turkey hunters must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees at all times when moving.
This may be removed at a stationary calling location, providing a minimum of 100 square inches of fluorescent orange is posted within 15 feet of the location and is visible 360 degrees.
In WMU 2B hunters when moving must wear a hat containing a minimum of 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange material, visible 360 degrees at all times. Fluorescent orange is not required in this WMU at stationary calling locations, but is strongly recommended.
Obviously, rifles allow a hunter to ambush a bird at longer distances than shotguns, and while legal, this goes against the ethics of veteran turkey hunters. Hunting fall turkey provides an ideal spot-and-stalk hunt that is just as exciting as pursuing any big game.
Unlike hunting spring gobbler, where it is illegal to stalk birds, hunting fall turkey requires searching for a flock, unless one is fortunate enough to roost the birds in the evening and then move into the area the next morning before daylight.
At one time, the accepted technique used to scatter a flock was by running at the birds and shooting into the air.
Fortunately, greater emphasis is now placed on safety, and the recommended method to scatter a flock is by running - preferably with an unloaded firearm - and shouting. There no greater jaw-dropping sight to be experienced in the wild than seeing a dozen, two dozen or even more turkeys scatter in every direction when a flock is broken.
It is important to scatter the flock in different directions, because as soon as the birds sense the danger has passed, they want to reassemble, but will continue in the direction they are going if they fly off as a group. Once a flock has been scatter, the game is on, and although it will often seem like an eternity, a hunter should wait a minimum of 15-20 minutes before calling to a flock that contained both mature gobblers and hens and jakes.
Usually, the first birds to return looking for the hen they hear are birds of the year or one-year-olds. Young birds are usually followed to the calling by mature hens, but very often mature gobblers will often wait as long as an hour before returning to the flock.
As the birds begin to assemble, they normally become more excited and begin calling to each other, which in this age of Social Media provides an excellent opportunity to record some video to share with friends on Facebook.
Keep in mind, however, although the birds are happy to reassemble, they are always alert and using their keen eyesight to search for danger.
Seldom will the birds remain in shooting range long enough for the entire flock to reassemble, so holding out for a gobbler often results in not filling a tag. Many hunters, however, enjoy taking a bearded hen in the fall to have mounted.
Although bearded hens are also legal game during spring gobbler season, seasoned turkey hunters pass on them.
Killing a bearded hen in the spring that may be carrying eggs in reality results in not only killing that bird, but the dozen or more eggs she is carrying.
Yes, hunting fall turkey is not only unique, but satisfying as well.