Every good hunter knows that the true hunting season starts way before opening day. If you want to be successful, you have to do your homework. And it all starts with scouting. If you don’t know where the turkeys are, you may be wasting your time. And for many of us, that’s a luxury we just don’t have. Not to mention, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of going out anyway! So, here are my 7 favorite scouting tips for finding and bagging that bird:
- Don’t scout too early! Wait, didn’t I just say that the season starts way before opening day? Well, yes, but remember turkey patterns and habits change with the seasons. What they were doing in January and February is not what they are doing in the spring. So, start your scouting 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time, not 2 to 3 months.
- Know your land. If you are hunting your own land or land you are really familiar with, then you’re probably okay. But, if you’re hunting public land, you need to do your homework. Become familiar with the layout; the best place to start is with a map. After studying the map, you can get out there on foot and really explore. You can then use your map to mark down your findings. Where were they roosting? Where did they fly down? Did you find good feeding zones, strut lanes? Mark it all down on your map; it will come in handy for patterning the birds, and especially for next season if you plan to return to that location.
- Use trail cameras. Everybody uses them for deer; so, why not use them to scout out a big tom? The best place for those cameras is in strutting zones. Sure you can put it on the trails and catch the birds walking in and out and scratching around in the woods, but in all reality, your strutting zones are where you are most likely to bag that big old bird anyway. Not sure where the strutting zones are? Try placing your cameras on open fields, food plots, field edges, and ridge tops.
- Scout during different times of the day. Get out early and see where their fly down spots are. Find their afternoon feeding and strutting zones. And, be there when they take roost. Don’t do this just one or two days; get out there as much as you can. I know it’s not always easy, but the more you go, the more you know! Frequent scouting is the secret to patterning the birds.
- Be invisible. The last thing you want is for the turkeys to know you are there, especially if you are getting out there and scouting frequently. If you’re on foot, wear your camo, stay off of the main trails, and keep quiet. This is not the time to be calling and alerting the birds to your presence. And, remember you don’t always have to get out of your vehicle to scout. Pull over and watch them fly down in the mornings, or roost in the evenings. There is a lot you can see and observe without ever stepping foot out of your vehicle. Just grab your binoculars and sit back and relax.
- Know your turkey sign. Look for droppings; gobblers have j-shaped droppings and hens have spiral-shaped. And, the larger in diameter, the larger the bird. Look for scratchings; these are the locations where turkeys are looking for food. Also, you may find a large amount of feathers near roosting trees. Let’s not forget dust bowls! Turkeys often rest in these bowls and throw dirt on themselves in order to groom; and, they often return to these bathing spots. So, if you find a dust bowl, it may be a great spot to set up. And, last, look for tracks! If you see tracks, then you know they’ve been there. Of course, it does not necessarily mean they will be back, and that’s why you want to scout more than once if possible.
- Last, but not least, find the hens. Yes, just like with deer hunting, you want to find the ladies! Spring turkey season is breeding season. So, even if you haven’t been lucky enough to find that big ole tom you are looking for, just keep an eye on the ladies. If you know where the hens will be, then you know where the toms will be.
So, there you have it. These are just a few of my favorite tips. There are so many more out there! Just do your homework. The more you educate yourself, the better your chance of success! Turkey hunting is a challenge and you need to prepare. I wouldn’t advise just going out there on opening day and winging it, but every year there are those hunters that do just that, and a lot of them even get lucky! As for me, though, I will continue to do my preseason scouting. I mean, what’s better than being out in the woods anyway! Spring turkey scouting is also a great chance to look for deer sheds and maybe even those early mushrooms. So, make the most of it and get out there!
Do you have any favorite scouting tips? As always, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share your thoughts or tips below, or you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, I am always looking for great stories, guest posts, and recipes.