Taking a fall longbeard is the ultimate turkey hunting challenge. Pictured here a New York state autumn gobbler the author tagged last November. Steve Hickoff photo
By Steve Hickoff
While many target autumn turkey flocks composed of brood hens and birds of the year, still others focus on the ultimate fall challenge: taking a second-season longbeard.
SEASONAL DIFFERENCES: In the spring, a gobbler is primarily attempting to call hens to his roosted or ground-standing position. In the fall and winter, he’s declaring his proud presence, and possibly gobbling during daily efforts to maintain pecking-order status, or move ahead in rank, as he fights other male birds.
GOBBLER CALLS: If you locate a vocal fall gobbler by yelping at the turkey and it responds to you, try gobbling. Gobbler calls, when used sparingly, can draw responses from adult toms, super jakes, and young male turkeys. If you’ve scattered the flock on foot, or with a dog where legal, listen as the gobblers regroup. Sometimes they’ll gobble when lost or looking for other turkeys (yes, even in fall). Call as they do.
DIFFERENT YELPS: Gobbler yelps are deeper and have a slower cadence than the higher-pitched hen yelps we often use in the spring.
In my fall hunting experience, friction calls imitate gobbler yelps best, though resonant diaphragms also work. Often three deeper, slower yelps—yawp, yawp, yawp—will get a “super jake” (a year-and-one-half-old male turkey) or mature gobbler’s interest. Like the cluck, it’s a questioning call that seems to say, “Where are you? I’m right here.”
CALLING TIP: As slate yelping for gobblers goes, run your striker closer to the call’s center point than the rim. While holding the peg like a pen, draw it toward the call’s middle with the one, two, three yelping rhythm of a gobbler. Experiment with strikers on your call of choice.
TRUMP CALL: Aggressive purrs can interest male birds into approaching your position. Just as a crowd gathers during a street fight to see what’s going on, gobblers will investigate the location where such sounds indicate fighting turkeys. You can hold the lid of your cap, and smack it against a tree or your leg to imitate wings colliding as you purr, “cutt,” (fast clucking and yelping), and gobble—so long as the turkeys are out of sight, and won’t chance at seeing your movements. Used sparingly, it sometimes works.
In the end, if you don’t manage to fool a fall longbeard, you can always shift your focus to family flocks and try for a legal either-sex autumn turkey. There’s nothing better on Thanksgiving Day than a wild bird.