Quest for First Fall Gobbler During Tough Times
Missouri has so much to offer hunters in the fall, including excellent turkey hunting. But according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, this year’s October 1-31 fall firearms turkey season could be tough.
According to an MDC press release, “This year’s annual wild-turkey brood survey shows statewide turkey production was below average likely due to a combination of poor nesting success and low poult survival from strong storms during spring and early summer”
The excessive rainfall and drastic flooding Missouri experienced this year negatively impacted turkey production.
“We undoubtedly lost quite a few nests to flooding this year,” said Jason Isabelle, MDC turkey biologist. “Even for the nests that escaped the high water, hens that are wet during incubation give off more odor than they do when they’re dry, which increases their chance of being located by a predator.”
Enter a turkey-hunting hero. Ray Eye is one of the great fall turkey hunters of all time, he makes killing October toms seem easy when so many others believe it is a difficult endeavor. With a little experience and effort in learning, you can become a successful fall turkey hunter. I’m after my first fall gobbler in the Ozarks this year, and I’m asking my buddy Ray Eye to help me check that box on my bucket list.
For many hunters, myself included, fall turkey hunting is too often overlooked. There are a lot of other outdoor options in the fall, and many spring turkey hunters are unsure of how to pursue fall birds. But many of those who are regularly successful in punching their fall tags say it’s easier than you may think.
“It’s not all about breaking up a flock. If you call with gobbler yelps in the fall, they will gobble and they’ll come, often times in bachelor groups. It’s a territorial thing. And to me it’s the prettiest time of the year. While spring is my favorite time to hunt turkeys, fall is my favorite time to be in the woods,” said Bobby Whitehead, editor of Outdoor Guide.
Turkeys can be patterned in the fall. If a hunter knows the local birds regular roosting feeding areas, then the hunter may be able to set up on a travel route. This tactic has worked for me in the past. After watching turkeys on numerous occasions during scouting trips, I’ll set up on a particular field edge in hopes of catching a turkey on his way from his roost to feeding, or vice versa.
On the good news front, Isabelle said that where acorns are abundant, turkeys spend more time in forested areas and do not have to range far to locate food.
“When we have a good acorn year, turkeys aren’t spending as much time in open fields where they’re very visible to hunters,” said Isabelle. “Couple that with restricted movements due to an abundant food supply in the woods, and the effects on the overall harvest can be substantial, particularly in the Ozarks.”
I’ve started studying fall turkey hunting. I’ve watched some of Eye’s videos, and have read a number of articles about fall turkeys. I’m excited for the challenge of taking my first fall gobbler in the Ozarks. But even if I don’t get one, every minute I spend in the woods is cherished.
“It’s just great to be out there. All the colors, it’s cool, no bugs, lots of turkeys and few hunters. It’s perfect. And most people hunt mushrooms in the spring, but it seems to me even more edible mushrooms pop up in the fall, like chanterelles, oysters and hen of the woods,” Whitehead said.
See you down the trail…