September 26, 2013

A long season and generous bag limit make fall turkey hunting attractive

PRATT – Ever heard of a turkey hunting dog? How about a “kee-kee-run” call? If you’re like most Kansans, you probably haven’t. Fall turkey hunting doesn’t have the same tradition with Kansas hunters as spring hunting does. And that may be one of the reasons why those who hunt the fall season enjoy it so much.

The 2013 Fall Turkey Season is open Oct. 1-Dec. 3 and Dec. 16-Jan. 31, 2014, providing hunters with almost four months of hunting opportunity, minus only the 12-day firearm deer season. The state is divided into six turkey hunting units, and all but one are open to fall turkey hunting. Unit 4 in the southwest is closed during the fall season. However, depending on which unit they hunt in, hunters may take as many as four turkeys of either sex during the fall season.

All hunters must have a turkey permit and a valid hunting license to hunt turkeys in Kansas. Residents 15 and younger, 75 and older and hunters hunting on land they own are exempt from hunting license requirements. Hunters who purchase a fall turkey permit, valid in units 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, may also purchase up to three turkey game tags valid in Units 2, 3, 5 and 6. Resident permits are $22.50 for hunters 16 and older and $12.50 for hunters 15 and younger. Resident turkey game tags are $12.50. Nonresident turkey permits are $32.50 and nonresident turkey game tags are $22.50.

One reason the fall turkey hunting tradition isn’t strong is that it is overshadowed by Kansas’ well-known pheasant and quail hunting, as well as the outstanding deer and waterfowl opportunities. However, strong turkey populations and low competition from other hunters should make the fall season worth trying.

Hunting techniques are different during the fall season. In the spring, turkeys are well into their nesting season and only toms (birds with a visible beard) are legal to harvest. Spring hunters commonly use calls simulating a hen turkey to attract toms into shotgun range. During the fall season, turkeys are gathering into winter flocks and their focus is finding food. Fall hunting is often a matter of finding birds, scouting their feeding areas and setting up an ambush point. Pop-up blinds are very effective for turkey hunting because keen eyesight is the wild turkey’s main line of defense. Movement at the wrong time is the hunter’s biggest enemy.

Calls can be successfully used in the fall, using turkeys’ natural instinct to seek safety in numbers. A hunting technique common in southern states is to break up a flock of turkeys, sometimes using a dog to scatter the birds, then hiding quietly as the birds begin to re-group. Birds will make a “kee-run” call to locate flock members, and the hunter can use this call to an advantage. Again, good camouflage and well-timed movements are keys to success.

Pick up a copy or download (www.ksoutdoors.com) the 2013 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary and the 2013 Kansas Hunting Atlas for more information about turkey hunting regulations, license fees, unit maps and public hunting areas. Permits and game tags are available wherever licenses are sold and online.

Turkey hunters now have more flexibility in the equipment they can hunt with because of recent regulation changes. This fall, hunters may hunt with crossbows, in addition to compound, long and recurve bows, and any gauge shotgun using shot size 2-9 is legal equipment.

October is a great time to be afield, and fall turkey hunting is a challenging and unique experience. It’s also a great way to put a delicious meal on the table for Thanksgiving or a special holiday dinner.