By Will Allen
After watching the same group of turkeys on the same hillside two evenings in a row, I decided it was time to put some meat in the skillet. After sneaking up the hill and finding a giant oak to sit next to, the trap was set. There would be no calling or decoys. This is fall turkey hunting and these birds were working a pattern. An hour after I sat down, the first turkey emerged from the woods and into the pasture. Four more followed before one hen raised her head up and glared at me.
Something seemed out of place to her and she scampered back into the woods while setting off alarm bells for every other turkey in the flock. The field cleared off and I was left scratching my head. I moved down the tree line about 15 yards and set up again. These birds want to be in this field, I surmised. The entire flock fed in front of me 45 minutes later. This time the bark of my shotgun would send the flock back into the woods, minus a gobbler.
I didn’t intentionally break up the flock but getting spotted essentially did just that. But it didn’t matter. Those turkeys wanted to be in that field and nothing short of a cannon going off was going to stop them. My favorite strategy for fall turkey hunting is combining good scouting with the right setup. I find a flock’s feeding pattern and try to either meet them in their feeding spot or on the way. I save my decoys and calls for the spring season.
If I’m set up on a trail leading into a feeding zone and turkeys don’t appear, it’s time to get on my feet and this is where the flock break up comes in. Move through the woods slowly. Look for heads to pop up and check surrounding fields as you go. If you’re alert, sometimes you can get a bird when he lifts his head up. If not, no big deal. You have probably found a preferred feeding area. Sit down and be still. It doesn’t work every time but there is a good chance these birds will be back.
Breaking up flocks is solid strategy for killing fall gobblers. But there are some cases in which I would advise against it. If you’re hunting a heavily pressured piece of public land, breaking up a flock of turkeys will help other hunters but probably isn’t going to bring turkeys back to you. In this case, waiting out the birds is probably the best way to go. Breaking up a flock isn’t a good idea if there is only a few hours left in your hunt. It is probably going to take an hour or two for the birds to settle down and come back into the area. If you’re pressed for time, a sneak attack is the best option.
How about breaking up a flock of turkeys on private land near a lot line? Turkeys don’t care about lot lines. If you’re reasonably sure no one is hunting the neighbor’s property, go ahead and bust them up. If they run onto the neighboring property it is no big deal. They have probably already been over there at some point during the day. If what they need is on your field, they will be back.