Rutting bucks and fall flocks provide plenty of action for the dual-threat hunter with a pocket full of tags
In quite a few states, fall turkey seasons run concurrently with deer season. High up in a treestand — or comfortably passing time in a ground blind — some hunters like multigame options, combining their effort for both deer and autumn turkeys. When doing so, there are some choices to be made.
So, let’s have a look …
Fortunately for bowhunters, turkeys and deer often share the same habitats, and even game trails. Better yet, some states like New Hampshire offer lengthy and concurrent archery turkey and deer opportunities, when taking both species is encouraged. There are sometimes equipment restrictions that you must pay attention to, like minimum draw weights and broadhead cutting diameters, but for the most part, the archery setup you use for deer will work fine on turkeys, too.
As with bow-only opportunities, some states offer gun hunts for turkey and deer at the same time. Challenge is, what might be OK for deer — say, using a high-powered rifle — may not be fine for wild turkey hunting, depending on the state.
Sometimes it’s not a problem, as on a private Texas ranch where fall turkeys — legally baited too, mind you — are incidental takes for hunters with tags. In other states, that most definitely would be illegal.
Bright fluorescent orange is often identified with rifle hunting for whitetails. In some states, like Pennsylvania, it’s also a fall turkey hunting recommendation (as rifles are legal for either-sex fall birds). While it used to be required, the Pennsylvania lawbook now states: “Turkey hunters are no longer required to wear fluorescent orange material, although it is strongly recommended that they do so.”
In Maine, however, where the last week of fall turkey season overlaps the deer gun season, the law states: “When hunting bears, turkeys, and upland game birds, hunter orange clothing is only required when hunting with a firearm or crossbow during the firearms hunting season on deer, the muzzleloader season on deer, or within an open moose hunting district during moose hunting season.”
The downside is that wild turkeys see color, especially if it moves. The upside: Camouflage not only helps conceal us effectively, but it also gives us confidence. To stay legal, consider mix-and-match options.
Deer hunters positioned over bait in states where it’s legal need to check to see if the ruling is the same for wild turkeys. Some states, like Kentucky and Kansas, permit baiting for deer on private land but not public. In Kentucky, though, baiting turkeys is illegal.
Baiting turkeys, in fact, is illegal almost everywhere in the United States.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.