To some, fall hunting in Nebraska means deer. For others, it’s waterfowl. To the upland bird hunter, it’s likely defined by prairie grouse, bobwhite quail and pheasant. To a very small – and I mean small – group of hunters, it means wild turkey. Only about 5 percent of our more than 175,000 hunters in Nebraska chase turkeys in the fall. This is a true head-scratcher as Nebraska may be the best state in the union for hunting turkey right now – and very few of us take advantage of this opportunity.
If you chase or have chased turkeys in the spring, you likely have everything you need to be successful during the fall season. But you may find it a good idea to change your tactics just a bit as the main focus for the birds is no longer love, but food and, well, being a turkey.
Wild turkeys are flock-minded, and you will find three-different kinds of flocks during the fall. One of the more common types is hens with this year’s hatch. The other two types of flocks are all male and often separated by age, younger toms in one flock and the mature toms in another. Remember, turkeys love to break the rules and there are times this can all be tossed out the window – especially as it gets colder or snowier and flocks merge.
One of the easiest methods for hunting turkeys in the fall is to set-up near their current food source and wait. Make some hen yelps and clucks to help move the flock toward you a bit faster, but this is often unnecessary. Early in the season, food can be plentiful and often includes acorns and insects or bugs along with whatever seeds turkeys can find. Waste grain (corn and beans) becomes more prevalent in the diet as it is available and the temperatures drop. Scouting is the best way to find out what the birds are eating in your area and when.
Another commonly used method involves scattering a flock of turkeys and then calling them back. This technique makes use of the turkey’s urge to regroup – usually the younger the turkey the greater the urge. However, this may take minutes, hours or even days. First you need to scatter the birds. You need the birds to separate from one another – not just run or fly-off. The flock has no reason to regroup if they all just landed together.
Next comes the calling. After you have settled into a good hiding spot and the area has calmed down a bit, you may begin to hear the turkeys calling to locate one another – if so, answer them. However, if the area remains void of turkey noises, don’t fret as you can sometimes start the conversation yourself. My preferred call is the kee-kee, which is a whistle that can turn into a yelp. Always be sure to answer any turkey sounds you hear – this will help keep the birds coming in your direction. Lastly, be ready when the birds appear because it can happen suddenly, especially if one or two sneak in without ever making a sound.
Regardless of the method you choose, you have a good chance of an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with one of the most interesting birds in Nebraska & thanks to some good nesting this is the year to do it.