When I think of Fall, I usually think of bowhunting, musky fishing and eating turkey…not hunting turkey. But this year that all changed.
I belong to several online hunting forums and have made quite a few acquaintances on these various social channels. Even quite a few through my own website AdventuresWithKen.com over the last several years. Well, this one gentleman Nick Dalasio, connected with me on Facebook as well, so we both see of the latest activities through our posts. This time last year, I saw Nick post some pictures of himself turkey hunting in the Fall. I was quite fascinated by this as I thought it looked extremely interesting. Since having suffered a massive heart attack in 2016, I`m not supposed to be actually lugging around deer as I used too, and I certainly love Spring Gobbler hunting, so I thought this just might be an ideal solution to my quest for some Fall hunting.
But I didn`t have a clue how to exactly do it nor what was involved especially hunting turkeys with a dog.
Nick recently posted a few pictures of himself with “Maizy” out in Nebraska and Kansas with a couple of Turkeys on their recent western hunts. As I congratulated him on one of his posts I said, “That`s really awesome Nick, I would absolutely love to learn how to hunt turkeys in the Fall” and with that, he graciously offered to take me. As a matter of fact, he even offered to come up to my neck of the woods to chase some birds….. two and a half hours away! I immediately jumped at the offer and said just tell me what day and I`ll take off as I had three days left of vacation time this year. He said “How about Monday, October 30th?…. I said, “Sure, sounds great” – He said, “We`ll see how the weather forecast looks that weekend before and if it looks like rain, we`ll pick another day” –
On Saturday the 28th he texted me and said, Let`s move our hunt to Tuesday as Monday was going to be a wash-out. So the stage was set for our Halloween Fall Turkey Hunt on the 31st and I was so excited. Heck for that matter, I could hardly sleep the night before anticipating chasing those Fall turkeys the next day.
Like I said, this was all new to me……..and to be perfectly straightforward, I told him that while I knew where they usually were in the Springtime, I really was unsure as to their whereabouts in the Fall. Nick said, “Well if they`re around in the Spring in these areas, more than likely they`re in the same general areas come Fall” – But the element of uncertainty lingered in my head, as I was going to feel really bad if he drove all the way up here and I couldn`t put him and Maizy on any birds.
We met at 9 am Tuesday morning at Pequest Fish Hatchery as this was right down the road from the areas I planned taking him to hunt. As he parked his truck, I jumped out of the Murano and eagerly greet and thanked him for coming all the way up here to hunt with me. And there was Maizy his Turkey dog. Nick got her three years ago, mostly because he didn`t want to keep paying a guide and wasn`t getting enough invites from other turkey doggers to tag along. He bought Maizy from a man in Carter Virginia and actually Virginia is where turkey dogs got their start you could say. Down there they refer to any mixed bird dog as a “Dropper” dog, a generic name. He said he believes Maizy is 3/4 English Pointer, 1/8 English Setter and 1/8 coonhound of some kind.
Our first stop was going to be only about a mile or so away, I explained to Nick that there were a couple of un-managed fields at the top of the hill, one being a cornfield that was usually planted but never got harvested. Many times I had bumped into turkeys in this area so I thought this might be worth a shot. The thing that`s interesting with Fall Turkey hunting is the fact that you can hunt all day long, compared to Springtime season whereas you can only hunt til noon each day until the last week, then you are allowed to hunt all day. However, whereas you can hunt for five weeks in the Spring, you can only hunt one week in the Fall season.
As we worked out way into the woods, Maizy began working hard scouring the countryside. Nick explained that she is solely trained to hunt and “bump”/flush turkeys and that she knows what her job is when he lets her loose. He also said that when she got into a flock, she would start barking and going off in all directions, busting the flock up. We worked the hillside for a good hour and a half then made our way back to the vehicles to go to another spot. We came upon a bowhunter when we got back to the vehicles and he told us that he and eight other guys, all from Vermont, had been hunting the area for ten days. Nick quickly asked if he had seen any turkeys. He said he had and told us where they had seen birds recently. I told Nick that I had a general idea where he was talking about and said let`s give it a shot.
The area that the bowhunter was referring too was about two miles down the road from where we were. Once we got there, we walked the parameter of a somewhat cut edge of a cornfield towards power lines. Maizy was working her way along the woods near us as well. When we got to the power lines, we could walk either down to the left or up towards the right and after a couple minutes, I suggested that we go to the right. We no more than took a half dozen steps uphill, when all of the sudden, a flock of turkeys burst into the air behind us! We watched as about eight or ten birds took to the air and flew down the power lines and into the tree line. Obviously Maizy didn`t bust this flock as she was still in the woods and more than likely on the flock`s scent.
So Nick got her out of the woods and said “Even though she didn`t bust them, let`s go down the hill and set upon them for an hour and see what happens” – We went probably a hundred yards down the hill and cut into the woods a bit. I set up in a clearing that gave me visibility of about maybe thirty to forty yards and Nick sat up thirty yards or so from me with Maizy by his side. I was absolutely amazed at how well trained his turkey dog was. Nick tied her leash off to a tree right near him, she laid down as he actually covered her with a blanket, and she seemed to actually go to sleep. Now the wait. Again, the idea in the Fall, is that when the flock breaks up, they will want to re-group and the young poults and hens start calling each other back. So we sat a good hour or more before Nick attempted any sort of calls. To me, this was so interesting as I had never seen this done nor for that matter, was really sure what a turkey sounded like in the Fall when they try to call each other back into a group.
Nick explained earlier that morning that the main calls that he uses in the Fall are the kee-kee run whistle and a kee-kee diaphragm mouth call. He said he would also be using an aluminum pot-call, same as you would use in the Spring for the hen yelps. He told me he likes to mix up the calls a bit because not all birds sound the same when they are calling each other back together. The kee-kee run is pretty much just that: A little turkey. Used in the Fall, it`s an indication that the young turkey is lost and wants to be found. The sound is a series of attempted yelps. Brood hens and other members of the flock will respond with yelps and kee-kees when hearing the kee-kee calling of the lost poult. High pitched “pee-pee-pee-pee-pee” sounds is the only way I can think to describe it. As a turkey gets an actual yelp out, the call becomes known as the kee-kee run.
After an hour or so of sitting, Nick let out a couple of kee-kees with his mouth call. Twenty minutes or so goes by and he does another series of calls on the mouth call and mixes in the whistle as well. Silence for another good twenty minutes. Then he kee-kee whistled briefly and then it happened. I heard the same exact sound coming down the hill towards us! My heart started pumping with excitement, as I heard to turkey calling as it gradually worked its way towards us. It was really becoming difficult to hear the whistling call of the young turkey, because of the strong winds that began to kick up. To me it seemed like the bird stayed up on the hill somewhat veering off into the woods on the other side of the power lines.
Nick got up came over and said, I think they went down the hill Ken, what do you think? I said, No….. I`m pretty sure they`re up the hill from us on the other side. It was hard to tell with the strong wind blowing. After some scouting around the bottom with the dog to no avail, we headed back up to where I was certain I had heard that lone bird.
We hiked back up the hill about seventy yards up and across from where we had the first set-up, and both heard several kee-kee whistles nearby. It sounded like a few birds fairly close and not that far in the woods. Nick suggested setting up quickly to see if he could get them to respond. I carefully pussy-footed about twenty-five yards in the woods and he set up a little way catty-corner behind me to call. This time he began working the mouth diaphragm almost immediately in order to see if he could get a reaction. After roughly twenty minutes, we heard nothing at all and he said, “Let`s walk into the woods a bit” –
Maizy ran way into the woods ahead of us and was out of sight when all of a sudden she started barking crazy! Her barking indicated that she had found the flock and was doing her job by busting them up. We listened intently as she ran back and forth, barking as she kicked up each and every turkey. Nick turned to me smiled and said, “Now we`re going to have a chance” – After the barking subsided, Maizy came back to us as happy as could be, as she had done her job and she knew it. Curious and excited I asked Nick, “Ok…. so now what?” – He pulled out his GPS and explained how it showed Maizy`s “turkey-busting” pattern and that now we would go to that exact spot, one hundred and fifty yards away, and set up. We hiked to the exact spot she kicked up all of the birds and strategically set up. Nick instructed me to get in the opening, against a tree, looking down towards this small gully. He graciously said, “We`ll set up thirty yards or so above you, ……I want to see you get the shot if we get one” – Now the waiting game began again all over.
Nick gave it about forty-five minutes this time, before letting out some light kee-kees on the whistle. He waited another good thirty minutes before softly yelping on the aluminum pot-call. Then another thirty minutes of silence. Next, he let out some light kee-kee whistles. All of a sudden, I heard the now-familiar kee-kee whistles coming up on the right of me. Not all that close, but coming in our direction. I quickly shot Nick a text saying I have a bird out to the right of me. The turkey seemed to veer off and move away further from us. You have to remember, we`ve been on this same flock now for a few hours, and they definitely get smarter the more that you encounter them. At 4pm, almost directly in front of me, a little left of the gully, I heard a turkey whistle. This was probably the closest bird I had heard all day.
Then silence for twenty minutes. Nick called ever so lightly with the kee-kee mouth call. Nothing. The bird stopped kee-keeing altogether.
Then I was in for the thrill of the day………. twenty-five yards down the hill and tad off to the left, out walks a young turkey! Heart pounding, I slowly shouldered my Browning 3.5 inch A5 and put the bead on the turkey`s head, then slowly squeezed the trigger making the Browning bark.
Yesssss! I had just shot my 1st Fall Turkey ever. I quickly stood up and gave Nick a thumbs up. He came down, and said, “Well you just made my day Ken Beam!” Man was I ever ecstatic! After our congratulatory handshakes, Nick looked at me and asked, “Would you mind if we set up again right here?” Bewildered I replied “Sure….. but even after I just shot?” – He said, “Yep…… they`re still trying to re-group and your shot will have very little effect on them”
So we sat together, side by side against the same tree I had just shot the bird from. He said, “Let`s give it another forty-five minutes by that time we`ll be about out of light” –
This time he started yelping with the pot-call after sitting about twenty minutes. He explained that the birds were still trying to re-group before dark and in a matter of minutes, we heard the familiar whistle as a lone bird worked towards us. But the sound never got all that close and after forty-five minutes we picked up, headed back to the trucks and called it a day. He explained on the way back that because we had been chasing this same flock for several hours, they get wise to the calling quickly. He told me that spot would be a perfect set up tomorrow morning at first light because they never re-grouped before dark and would roost wherever they had ended up that evening. Unfortunately, I had to get back to work the next day or I would`ve attempted this.
What an amazing Fall day in the woods. I couldn`t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to learn an entirely new style of hunting. Walking in the cool crisp Fall air, listening to him masterfully call those Autumn birds and observing Maizy the turkey dog work made the day`s adventure simply enthralling.
And getting my first Fall Turkey was simply icing on the cake. Now next Fall can`t come soon enough.