The Great Outdoors: Hunters Gearing Up for Fall Wild Turkey Season

wild-turkeysPennsylvania’s fall wild turkey season begins in just a few days and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

The spring gobbler season, justifiably, is the glamorous one. Who could argue with big gobblers strutting, sounding off and providing one of the most impressive shows that nature can provide?!

The fall season has always held a certain fascination for me for a variety of reasons. 

When I used to hunt bear, trips afield for fall birds were also a de facto scouting trip to see where the bruins were spending time.  Most of the bears I’ve seen over the years were spotted while I was hunting turkeys. I definitely didn’t see many bears during bear season!

The same is true for deer season. 

While I have a pretty good idea where I’m going to be on the opening morning of buck, it never hurts to keep up with what’s currently going on. There’s no better time to be out than when the bucks are in the rut and are more easily seen during the day.

One of the other neat things is the scent of wild sassafras on a damp or wet morning. I can almost smell it even now.

Some of my most vivid memories of time spent outdoors have happened during the fall season.

One such occasion happened more than 20 years ago in Jefferson County between Falls Creek and Reynoldsville. I parked along the main road and footed it the rest of the way along an old dirt road that led to a camp. Things were usually quiet on the walk in as the critters generally avoided the open woods close to the road. Once I got back a half-mile or more is when things started to become interesting.  

The grapevines were more numerous, and the small patches of mountain laurel gave wildlife a place to hide. With a number of mature oak and wild cherry trees, there were plenty of food sources available. I did find turkeys that morning, but I didn’t manage to connect, missing one cleanly and not being able to get a shot off on a few other occasions. What really made the hunt was when it was all but over.

I had decided to return to the Jeep, and as I made my way off the top of the hill, I could hear a loud sound that I didn’t immediately identify. After a few more steps and more loud clacking, I started to suspect it was two white-tailed bucks fighting.

As I crept closer to the racket they were making, my excitement built. Then, all of a sudden, there they were. It was almost a scene from a wildlife painting with both mature, 8-point bucks facing off and one doe each on their flanks. They’d butt heads and push each other around a bit before backing away from each other to take a break.  What a time to not have a camera! The show continued for what seemed like several minutes, but at some point, one of the does noticed me, and it wasn’t long before all four deer took off.

Over the last 14 years, having Brandi with me always made turkey chasing more preferable than sitting in a tree stand.  Once she was trained on chasing cottontails, there were times I could leave her to do her thing while I was nearby looking for the big birds. And, if I didn’t return to where she was first, she always tracked me down.

Then, a few years ago, when it finally became legal to hunt turkeys with dogs, I could mix all our favorite pursuits. I just wish I was as good with the shotgun on the birds as she was in flushing them out!

The other neat thing about fall turkey season is when that first snowfall blankets the ground.  Certainly, it’s not hard to see where turkeys have scratched in the leaves looking for something to eat, and getting their general direction of travel can also be detected in the leaves. However, with snow, it becomes a whole lot more fun.

Hopefully, this fall will provide some more memorable hunts.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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