While I hardly consider myself an expert turkey hunter, I do give it my all. I’m like the kid who always gets the honorable mention ribbons. My calling is marginal at best. My ability to sit still is sub-standard. Yet in spite of my turkey quest short-comings, I love it, especially fall turkey. Not to mention I’ve picked up a few beginner turkey hunting tips along the way that I thought I might share with those of you still hesitant to get out and try it for yourselves.
When I first started to turkey hunt in the fall seasons I attacked it with an alarming fervor. I mean, turkeys–in the fall. Who in the world could ask for more?
I have enjoyed being able to hunt turkeys in both Colorado and Kansas. Colorado’s season recently ended, but Kansas is open for the rest of the month! The fall regulations are completely different from state to state, and the regulations also differ from spring to fall, so I highly recommend being well versed in the rules for the states you hope to hunt. Well, unless you are a thrill seeker looking for an unannounced visit from your local game warden. Always keep in mind that hunting in different states requires different tactics, gear, and mindset.
Let’s Talk Colorado Fall Turkey Hunting
Hunting Merriams in the mountains of Colorado is so very challenging. The fall turkey hunter is allotted one, either sex, bird. In Colorado, it is illegal to bait any wildlife, so you really must rely on finding roosting areas, feeding areas and being able to call. In the fall, the birds just aren’t responding to calls as much, so a hunter is really relegated to finding the birds and getting into position for a shot. This creates a level of frustration akin to nothing I have experienced. Ahh, but Colorado regulations allow you to use a center fire or rim fire for fall turkey hunting– something like the MVP Predator Rifle in .223. Now that’s what I call a level playing field. The hunt actually becomes a classic spot and stalk which is great fun.
So, what is so appealing about fall turkey hunting in Colorado? My answer of course is what is NOT appealing to fall turkey hunting in Colorado. But since this is a blog, let me simplify this with a list:
- The weather–early fall in the high country is delightfully warm but not hot.
- The game of cat and mouse with this style of hunting is great fun.
- The season lasts about a month so it allows plenty of opportunities to get out and about.
- It’s the perfect time to get out and scout for other game.
I am a minimalist when it comes to taking gear for turkey hunting, no matter what season. I pack very little as there is little need for a huge pack when you are traipsing about the mountains. I do alternate between shotgun and rifle for this hunt. I like to take a .223 on the morning hunts as I have found the birds more at distances not conducive to a shotgun. It is a great option when birds are feeding out in open meadows and there is no option to close the distance. I prefer taking a 12 gauge semi-auto for my evening hunts as there is often a good likelihood of bumping grouse while hiking. If you know me, you know I can’t pass up grouse.
When it comes to ammunition, I don’t have a personal favorite for the .223. Given the difficulty of obtaining that particular ammunition, my favorite is what we have. Easy enough. In terms of turkey loads, I have really taken to using the Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Loads. They are packed with a three stage payload so they perform well at all distances. I have had great success with these shells and highly recommend them.
I will take a very light day-pack with few items in it such as a knife and a call. That’s really it. I leave the pack empty so I can haul birds easily. My pack of choice continues to be the Badlands Kali pack as it is designed specifically for women. The straps are narrow and rest comfortably across the neck and chest. As well, the pack actually cinches down to fit a woman’s waist so weight distribution between the hips and shoulders is even and comfortable.
Let’s Talk Kansas Fall Turkey Hunting
Hunting fall turkeys in Kansas is a completely different game. Hunters can harvest one, either sex, bird per turkey permit. Hunters can purchase up to three additional game tags as well. This becomes the ultimate freezer filling hunt and that is the aspect I love. Given the fact that feeders are legal in Kansas, the hunt becomes a bit easier. I will often hunt from a blind, but if I am having a slow day I will snuggle up with a well-placed tree to wait for incoming birds.
Kansas fall turkey hunting has several appealing factors.
- The weather–once again, I hail from one of the coldest spots in the nation. Nothing is better than warm weather hunting.
- It is fun to get up close and personal with the birds. There are more of them and patterning them is easier.
- If birds are present, it is easier to fill the tag(s). It is a great way to fill the freezer for the winter.
My Kansas fall turkey hunting gear requirements are quite minimal as well. My shotgun choice for Kansas is the same as Colorado, a 12 gauge semi-auto, like the Mossberg 930 Turkey Shotgun, with Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Loads–it’s a deadly combination. I don’t bother with a call as it is not really necessary, and I am not proficient enough for it to do anything but educate the birds. That said, I have found that using a box call from time to time can bring in hens. Go figure.
As mentioned, I hunt turkeys for meat. I am a huge proponent of using as much of a bird as possible (ie. conservationism). I do believe it is my responsibility as a hunter to use as much of an animal as I reasonably can use. Waste not, want not. I do believe this philosophy resonates with women in general. Here is the down and dirty of how I utilize my birds.
- Breast them out
- Skin carcass and remove legs. Utilize legs and carcass meat for turkey soup stock. Simply pressure cook in water and seasonings for about an hour. Hand-pick the meat to avoid tendons and bones ending up in your stock.
- I remove the fans and dry them. We don’t mount any birds but do save the fans.
- I cut the wings off and dry them. I then remove the larger feathers to use for a variety of craft and decorating ideas. They are fantastic in flower arrangements, on wreaths and about anything you can find on Pinterest.
- I pluck the colorful plumage and save the feathers for future use.
- I remove the heads. I then pressure cook the skulls, pick the flesh and soak in hydrogen peroxide. The skulls are gorgeous.
- I do remove and save any beards.
And there you have it! The beauty of fall turkey hunting! One bird alone can yield 3 packs of breasted meat, one gallon of turkey soup stock, a skull, a fan, a beard and tons of gorgeous feathers!
Tip: I keep a small tool box with an Xacto knife, sharp scissors, pliers, small gardening clippers and larger gardening clippers so I can remove feathers, heads, feet, and detail skulls. I also keep gallon size and quart size Ziploc bags to store heads and feathers. Voila!
Now, on to the next bird hunt!
Kirstie Pike is the founder and CEO of Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women. (She also cleans the toilets there.) While hunting is the great passion of her life, building the sisterhood of women hunters and shooters that surround Prois has been one of her greatest accomplishments to date. Prois has been the leading edge for women’s performance hunting gear for nine years and running. Take pride in NOT being one of the guys.