Wild turkey hunting kicks off in the beginning of fall, which means there’s plenty of pickin’s to choose from to adorn your Thanksgiving table. Hunting turkey in the wild is often considered an ethical solution to mass-produced turkey farms, and a great way to kick off the holiday season. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned hunter who’s never experienced the fall hunt, here are a few tips for first time turkey hunters.

1. Scouting the Flocks in the Fall

One of the advantages of hunting wild turkey is that, unlike in the spring season, hunters can bag birds of either sex. So as you scour the field for gobbling flocks, don’t be worried that you’re about to get the wrong bird. Below are the signs to look for when scouting areas for turkey game:
Turkey droppings will generally tell you the sex of the bird. Male droppings are generally j-shaped, while female’s droppings are more bulbous.
Just like other birds, turkeys sometimes take dust baths. During a dust bath, turkeys lower themselves and roll around in loose soil and shake in the dirt to rid themselves of potential parasites and irritations.
Where there’s a feather, there’s a bird. Turkeys tend to drop feathers near their roost, where droppings may also be found. 
If you’re hunting wild turkey, be sure to look up. Turkeys sleep in trees for protection, and you can often find entire flocks resting in pines, oaks, maples, and other large trees.
Turkeys rake the floor with their feet to uncover their food, so they leave piles of leaves behind them. Several little piles of these leaves indicates that a flock has recently fed in the vicinity.
Turkeys travel together, so where there’s one track of footprints, there’s bound to be dozens more. Their tracks lead from their roost to the feeding zone and back. If you see tracks of different sizes, you’re likely scouting a flock with turkeys young and old.

2. Where to Find Them

While the weather is warm, wild turkeys will browse harvested fields. They’ll also overturn cow pies to find insects underneath. When the temperature begins to drop, you’ll have to head to wooded areas to find your bird. Count on finding heaps of turkey droppings and feathers at the bases of tree trunks where flocks of turkeys rest. 

3. Turkey Calls

Turkeys make unmistakable calls, and “gobble gobble” doesn’t cover it. Turkeys are highly social animals who rely on each other to survive. This makes them responsive to turkey calls, which you’ll need to imitate to attract a flock.
Kee Kee Run 
This is the call you use to scatter a flock of hens and poults. The “kee kee” sound is what a poult makes because it’s too young to yelp. Expect a high-pitched whistle that sounds like “hurry, hurry, hurry” or “boy, boy, boy.”
There are two different yelps: the lost yelp, and the gobbler yelp. A lone turkey will make a yelp to signal that they are lost, and it comes in a series of 10 to 15 plaintive yips. This call helps you locate flocks of hens. The gobblers make low, slow yelps. Imitate this sound to attract large males.

If you haven’t yet mastered your gobbles and yelps, make it easy with a professional turkey calls from Knight & Hale

4. Nabbing the Bird

It’s one thing to find the flock, and it’s another to pick a bird out of the pack. There are a few tried and true methods that never fail if done correctly.
Scatter the Flock
Sneak as close as you can to the flock without disturbing them, then rush them so that they scatter in all directions. Your goal should be to scare them away from each other to encourage isolation. Then, simply sit down where you stand, wait a few moments, and start calling. The turkeys will return to you within about 10 minutes.
Stake Out a Roost
Locate a roost, and set up beneath it before the sun rises. When the morning comes, you may find as many as 60 birds flying down, which makes for easy hunting. 
Challenge the Flock
A flock of turkeys is always ready to challenge another flock. Simply set up between their roost and their path to breakfast, put up a decoy, and yelp occasionally. You’ll have an aggressive flock hurtling toward you in no time.
Get a Gobbler

Challenge a big gobbler by imitating their low yelps. A feisty gobbler may soon come into range.
If you’re a novice to turkey hunting and need a bit of one-on-instruction, consider hiring a guide to make your first experience a good one. Sites like Guidefitter.com can help you connect with skilled hunters, guides, and fishermen that can make any outdoor adventure a success. Whether you’re looking to nab your first wild turkey or you’d like to learn all about the art of bass fishing, you can find seasoned professionals to guide you through the process. 

Not into hunting wild turkey this year? Shop for turkey online at Fossil Farms for premium meat. Otherwise, follow these fall turkey hunting tips and you’ll be well on your way to the best Thanksgiving dinner you’ve ever had.