Fall turkey hunting. While many hunters do not have the interest in hunting turkeys in the fall, I personally highly recommend it. I cannot speak for other hunters but I can speak for myself. I enjoy the opportunity to put more turkeys in the freezer. I enjoy another reason to get out and try to pursue those big, wacky birds.
I enjoy the opportunity to scout and pursue these birds during the crisp fall season. I look forward to re-engaging myself into their patterns and their movements. I simply love turkey hunting. Admitting you have a problem is indeed the first step:
I am a self-professed turkey geek.
With that small admission out of the way, we can get on with the purpose of this blog: preparing for fall turkey season. (Yeah, there actually is a purpose to my ramblings.)
Location, location, location!
While some turkey hunters prefer to avoid their spring turkey honey-holes, some have no problem hunting their tried and true roosts. Either way is perfectly acceptable. It really is hunter preference here. Regardless of your where you choose to hunt, try to take the time to pattern the birds if time allows. It will make for a fun and more successful hunt in the long run.
Personal preference (points that is)
In many states, there are specialty draw units for fall turkey seasons. Additionally, some may require preference points. If you truly enjoy turkey hunting in the fall, it is worth your time to peruse your state harvest statistics and determine where some of these specialty units are.
Learn the rules of your state and the dates when applications are due. A few years of points could land you a fall tag worthy of the giddiness of any turkey geek. I should know. The other bonus, only turkey geeks put in for fall points. Bingo.
Pack the pack
If you pack is anything like mine, it is in a constant state of transition. It moves from turkeys to upland hunting to waterfowl to big game. My pack has taken a personality of her own and I have since named her Jackie. I am constantly astonished by what I find in Jackie as I move from season to season.
This year, while loading up for fall turkey, I found a weird variety of granola bars of varying ages, a dull knife, a dried up pack of baby wipes and a fuzzy peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I do believe it could technically qualify as a superfund site. This resulted in a cleaning frenzy of unparalleled vigor. Let’s face it. Jackie is gross.
Once sanitized, this is what I personally cram in my pack for fall turkey season:
- Knife: Your choice of brands- just take one
- Compact knife sharpener: I need this in my life. I am hard on knives.
- Cords: I keep a ream of small nylon rope in my pack at all times. During fall turkey season, this isn’t so I can MacGyver a parachute out of a ball point pen and a jacket. It is simply there in case I have to hike out a distance with a turkey. I have found my pack doesn’t really hold a turkey, no matter how I try to stuff it. I destroy the bird. The cording allows me to help contain the bird and fasten my pack. Nothing glamorous. For anyone who has tried to carry a bird for a distance without a pack can attest to the fact that the bird that weighed 20-pounds at the beginning seems to weigh 82 ½ pounds after a mile or two. And, riddle me this, why does carrying a turkey result in hand pain that rivals the pain of childbirth?
- Zip ties: Yep. Love them. Not only for attaching tags to the carcass, but also for MacGuyver’ing a parachute out of a ball point pen and a jacket. Okay… just kidding.
- Gallon Ziploc bags: Lots of them rubber banded together. Perfect for meat, turkey fans, feet, beards or any other miscellaneous turkey part. Even skulls. I really like to disassemble the birds early and compartmentalize them into sealable bags perfect for tossing into my cooler.
- Shears: I keep industrial shears on hand to remove legs, heads, and wings. It’s much easier to use these shears and it helps salvage my knives (at least for a while).
- A trash bag (or two): I have found that on too many hunts, I had no where to keep unusable portions of the carcass. So rather than tossing the carcass with all of it’s various floating pieces in the bed of my truck, it is exponentially easier to stuff that into a trash bag. I know- brilliant!
- Trigger call: I keep a trigger call in Jackie for fall turkey season. I don’t use it often; the birds are not all that responsive to calls this time of year. Yet, for some reason I feel compelled to bring it. I suppose this is a topic for another blog.
Well heck! This time of year you can use a variety of weapons depending on your state regulations. Bows, shotguns, crossbows and even center fire rifles may be appropriate. The choice is entirely up to the hunter.
I personally prefer the Mossberg 930 Semi-Auto for all of my turkey hunting. It has a good length of pull and the kick is tolerable. It weighs in at 7 ½ lbs. which I find favorable.
I also appreciate the fiber optic sight which functions very well in lower light. I only use Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Loads is for any of my turkey hunting. They offer a three stage payload so they pattern more tightly and reach farther.
Essentially, know the birds. Pattern the birds. Set aside some time to hunt. Fall turkey hunting is entirely different than spring hunting. It basically comes down to being in the right place at the right time. I find that fun. Not as fun as spring turkey hunting, but fun nonetheless. But do not get me wrong. Fall turkey hunting isn’t necessarily easy. That said, when I harvest a fall bird, I am equally as excited.
Here’s the good part: I personally love to use as much of the bird as I can.
On a serious note, I believe that if I take the life of any animal, it is my responsibility to use as much as I can so that life is not taken in vain. Interestingly, so do most women. It borders on obsessive, it really does.
- Meat: OF COURSE we take the meat. I pull the breasts and cut them into usable portions for two. You can use these portions for any recipe that requires any sort of poultry or wild game bird. Here is another reach. I am a huge proponent of companies like Blue Apron. I utilize Blue Apron food services because I love the recipes and the convenience. I purchase the vegetarian meals and add wild game to those recipes.
- Legs: For me, I feel the legs are not as palatable as they should be. So, I take both legs and pressure cook them with broth stock, seasoning, red pepper and garlic. Once done, I had pick the meat from the bone. Tip- make sure you pull it into small pieces or you will end up with bone shards and tendons. Neither of which result in good dinnertime conversation once encountered in a meal. I freeze the stock for use at later dates. You can make ANY sort of soup out of this and it is seriously the most satisfying part of the bird for me.
- Wings: I cut the wings and dry them in the shed. I only do this so I can pull the beautiful wing feathers for décor or sharing with friends.
- Tail: I do keep the fans. I dry them on a wooden surface. I love the fans as they are really what differentiates turkeys from all other birds.
- Beards: Yes, I keep the beards. But I am probably the only person who just keeps them in a ziplock bag. While they are cool…you have to admit they are sort of weird. Don’t pretend you don’t agree.
- Skulls: I know this admission will result in raised eyebrows, but here goes. I like to boil the skulls of all turkeys as they are beautiful skulls. I pick the flesh. Then pressure cook the skulls to loosen the remaining flesh. I re-pick the flesh. I then soak the skulls in Hydrogen Peroxide which help de-flesh the skull and whiten it. Once done, the skull is truly beautiful. This year, I am going to purchase Dermestid Beetles to attempt de-fleshing my skulls. Again, stay tuned for another blog.
- Back feathers: Turkey feathers are gorgeously iridescent. They are stunning. I pluck the best and place them in bags. The feathers make great decorations and crafts. You can make stunning wreaths, wedding decorations, table décor, and jewelry. Peruse Pinterest. Honestly, there are so many fabulous ideas out there.
I suggest getting some ideas prior to hunting, as it will better help you process your bird.
So that’s it! Fall turkey hunting. If you have not tried it, I recommend it. I find it quite fun and it provides more game and soup for the freezer. If you already love fall turkey hunting and feel you too need an intervention, just remember that admitting you have a problem is the first step.
Until next time…