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Breaking Up A Flock

Copyright © 1998 - 2021  Roger W. Raisch * Nadine Adele, all rights reserved


The SECRET to being successful on almost all fall turkey hunting outings is to roost a flock the night before the actual hunt. The second-best method is finding a flock in early morning before they have flown down.  If neither can be done, flocks can be flushed during the day, but getting them properly separated is often very difficult.


How To Flush Birds At Night


You should be in the expected roosting area at least one hour before sundown.  On a clear, calm day turkeys will start flying up to roost around sundown.  On a cloudy, stormy, dark day they will go to roost earlier.  The experienced turkey hunter can use these facts to great advantage.  For example, if you do not hear turkeys fly up within a few minutes of sundown, chances are good that you are not close to a flock.  You should move quickly to another roost area to listen.  Listen from the top of the major ridge system in the area.  You can more quickly along a ridge than across hollows.


As the birds start flying up you will hear the flapping of wings and noise from small branches breaking as the birds land.  These sounds are distinctive, but must be heard a few times before they become familiar.  Smaller wing flapping sounds will be heard as some birds fly to higher limbs or they are chased to another limb by another member of the flock.   As the flock starts to settle down you may hear a few birds cluck softly to each other.  If you have not roosted any birds and it is past fly up time, you may get an answer from a roosted bird by making a few clucks or kee-kees with your turkey call.


Assuming you have heard birds fly up or they answered your calls, the next steps are every bit as important as locating the flock.   Wait at least 20 minutes after sundown before trying to flush the flock, 30 minutes in late fall when the leaves are off the trees. If you try to flush a flock too early, the birds will see and hear you coming and fly away together in the same general direction.  You want them to go in many different directions.  After it is darker, your chances for a proper separation are greater.  In early fall when young birds haven't had many encounters with humans, and when leaves still remain on the trees, the birds may not flush easily.


How To Execute The Flush


When the time has come to flush the flock, do it quickly and quietly.  Walk steadily and be as quiet as possible as you approach them.   When you see or hear the first bird flush, start running toward them.  After more birds start flying, begin yelling and making as much noise as possible.  If you have a gun along, fire a shot or two into the air to flush the birds.  If they generally fly off together, fanning out onto the next ridge, move quickly to that spot and re-flush the birds to separate them even further.  When flushing turkeys that are on roost or on the ground, try to approach them from above or on the same contour.  If you approach from below, they will flush, but not scatter as well as you want.  If a flock is on the ground and you try to run uphill at them, they will run rather than flay and you won't be able to catch up.  You will get closer and scatter turkeys best if they are approached from above or on their level.


Flushing Turkeys In Early Morning Or During The Day


Despite your efforts to roost a flock of turkeys, you will return home often without the foggiest idea of where the birds are.  You will not know what to do the next morning.  Try being in another likely roost area at least 30 minutes before sunrise the following morning. Listen for turkeys to start calling on their own or try to get a roosted bird to sound off by making tree yelps, clucks, kee-kees, kee-kee-runs or yelps with your caller. Listen for only a few soft tree yelps, clucks, a yelp or two or maybe a single kee-kee-run in response.  Keep moving through the woods, stopping in likely roost or feeding areas to call.  If you get a response and it is before fly down time, or if the day is dark or overcast and you suspect the flock is still on roost, stalk quietly and quickly to get close.  When you see or hear the roosted birds start to fly, flush them in the previously described manner.


If you don't locate turkeys by fly down time, the task of separating a flock properly is more difficult. Continue stalking through the woods, stopping near feeding areas to call.  Even if birds do not respond you may hear them scratching in the leaves on a quiet day.  Once you have located turkeys, stay out of sight as you make your slow, quiet stalk.  Try to get as close as possible to the flock or get ahead of them in a position where they will pass by.  If you are going to try to flush the flock you need to be as close as possible--within 50 yards. As soon as you are close enough, or the birds start to run or fly because they have detected you, run at them as hard as you can.  The gun hunter can fire a round or two in the air to get the turkeys flying.  If the flock does not split adequately, follow them immediately and go quickly to the place where they landed.   Many will have landed in trees and you should flush them again.


How To Read The Flush


The proper evaluation of a flush will help you determine what calling and hunting tactics to employ.   Time of day, the number of turkeys, their age and sex and how well they separated are questions that need to be answered.  The first issue to decide is whether the turkeys were separated well.  If not, you will be wasting valuable time calling and waiting for their return.  If they scattered in all directions or if they fanned out and you re-scattered them, they should return and be responsive to your calling.  On the other hand, if you simply scared them and they all ran or flew off together and you didn't find them again, you'd better start looking for another flock to hunt.


The number of birds involved and their age and sex will determine what calls to make and gives you a general idea as to when they may return.  A flock numbering greater than 10 usually indicates an old hen or two with young poults.  A group of 18-month-old gobblers (last spring's jakes) will often number from 4 to 10, while old gobblers will normally number from 2 to 8.  But to be sure, try to observe the turkeys before you flush them.  What are they?   Even in you are uncertain of their age and sex, given a good scatter, you will have action at the appropriate time.


When and Where Will The Flock Regroup?


The when part of this question generally depends on the age and sex of the turkey flock and what time of day they were separated. Young birds that have not been hunted before will begin to assemble and call within 15 to 30 minutes if they are separated at nearly any hour of the day.   Young turkeys that are separated at night will begin calling and regrouping at fly down time in the morning.  If flushed off roost before fly down time, they will usually begin calling within 30 minutes.  If scattered during the day, they will normally start calling within an hour.  Old gobblers will get back together when they feel like it.  They are very unpredictable.  Even if scattered at roost time, they may take the better part of the next day, or even longer, to regroup.


A scattered flock will regroup near the original point of separation if they were split well and individual birds went in several different directions.  But remember, turkeys can't count, so some birds may not return because they got together at the landing point and decided to stay there.


Scatter A Fanned Flock Again


A flock that fans out in one direction and does not separate well needs to be followed up and flushed again.   Most of the turkeys will be nearly back together.  They can see and hear one another easily and will regroup within a few minutes after they start calling, leaving you empty-handed.  A fanned-out flock should be broken up again quickly after they land to achieve the desired results.   Take your stand in the middle of the first landing spot.  Chances are good that birds will come back to that location to regroup.




There is no secret method to predetermine the exact spot on which a flock will reassemble.  I have witnessed them get together in an open pasture, in the middle of deep woods, in an open glade or at the edge of the woods.   Make your best guess on where they are going to regroup, set up quickly at that spot, start calling and hope for the best.  With experience, selecting the correct reassemble point will become easier.



Subjects in the Secrets Library
About Turkeys
Spring Hunting Tactics
Fall Hunting Tactics
Camouflage & Concealment
Turkey Calls & Calling
Check List & Misc.
Bow Hunting Tactics
Safety & Ethics
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