Turkeys in the fall

The fall shotgun turkey season differs by allowing hunters to take birds of either sex.

Beginning Saturday, it is turkey time again for shotgun hunters with Kentucky’s fall either-sex season.

The first of two autumn shotgun seasons, the early hunt spans the week of Oct. 24-30. A second week of shotgun hunting comes Dec. 5-11.

There are more generous periods of turkey hunting in the fall for archery and crossbow hunters, but the days for shotgun hunters offer obvious advantages in placing shots on target.

Lacking in the fall hunting period is the activity related to the breeding season of the spring, when the traditional turkey hunting season is scheduled. At that time, hunting is centered around the attraction of gobblers to hens, bringing calling and decoys into play to lure excited gobblers to the gun.

Without the breeding cycle overlapping the fall hunting period, hunters are primarily reliant upon ambush tactics. Offsetting the enticement of the breeding period, autumn season hunters are afforded the flexibility of being able to take any turkey, both gobblers and hens.

The autumn hunting opportunities, indeed, are primarily based on a surplus of hen turkeys at this time of year. These birds are increased in numbers by the past nesting season, including a large number of hens from which natural mortality over the next few winter months would take a significant toll even if they were not hunted.

Most autumn hunting is a matter of locating larger fall turkey roosts and scouting out common travel routes through area habitats through which clusters of birds from the cool-season roosts move to feed on daily rounds. Fall shotgun hunters simply set up to encounter turkey flocks during their daily movements, often building impromptu blinds or using portable blinds to help avoid the sharp eyes of the wary birds.

Another way that a fall turkey hunter can get bird action with a touch of spring season excitement is referred to as a scatter and call-back. If a hunter can identify a turkey travel route, he may wait until a flock comes along, then burst out of hiding and run straight for the flock, shouting and otherwise creating an immediate panic.

Done right, a flock made up mostly of young birds will react by fearful flight, breaking up and flapping/running away in scattered directions. As soon as the flock is scattered, the hunter catches his breath, sits down in ambush position and begins calling with light hen yelps, beckoning the young birds to return and reassemble.

Young birds tend to grow lonely immediately after a scatter and are highly susceptible to the feigned sounds of a mama turkey. The call-back ploy often produces incoming birds in somewhat the same sense as hen sounds used in the spring. And whatever turkeys respond, they are all in season during the autumn hunting stints.

Hunters gearing up for these autumn birds will encounter regulations like those of the spring gobbler season, although the gun hunting opening Saturday — as does archery and crossbow hunting — will require a fall-specific turkey permit.

The bag limit for the fall turkey seasons (including two shotgun seasons along with archery and crossbow seasons) is four turkeys, either hens or gobblers. However, only two turkeys can be taken by shotgun. Additionally, restrictions allow only a single turkey with a beard of 3 inches or longer in the limit. No more than one turkey can be taken on any single day of hunting.

• Last weekend’s muzzleloading firearms season for deer across Kentucky was marked with excellent weather on Saturday and scattered rainy conditions on Sunday’s second day. Between the two days, hunters scored tolerable successes statewide.

Telecheck records indicated about 4,700 deer taken by hunters bearing front-loading firearms during the two-day hunting period.

The all-ages muzzleloader season comes a week after Kentucky’s early firearms deer hunting weekend for juniors, kids ages 15 and younger. The adult-chaperoned kid hunters, suffering some poor weather conditions, were reported to have taken more than 2,800 deer statewide.

The early youth hunt and the early muzzleloader weekend is all the firearms deer hunting that occurs statewide until the modern gun season opens on the second weekend of November. This year’s gun season is slated Nov. 14-29.

• Fishermen and any other boaters on Kentucky Lake’s Jonathan Creek embayment are cautioned to be on the lookout for Asian carp netting operations there Nov. 2-13.

Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources and TVA will be netting invasive carp in Jonathan Creek and its northwest arm as a part of a research project.

KDFWR spokesmen say boaters should be alert for marking buoys and yellow flags that show the location of placed gillnets.

Parts of Jonathan Creek will be blocked to fish passage for 12 days. During this time, biologists will capture silver carp to implant them with internal telemetry devices to track the fish during herding efforts, noting their response and movements.

The purpose is to evaluate the herding of silver carp as a mass netting technique attempts to reduce numbers of the exotics.

The KDFWR says boat passage in the research area is possible with extra caution. To pass over marked nets, a boater should turn off his motor and trim up the outboard, pushing down the net for clearance if necessary.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.

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