There is not much that kicks off the end of winter quite like a little pre-season scouting for turkeys. As with any type of hunting, careful scouting prior to the hunt is critical to your turkey hunting success. Those dedicated hunters, who put in the effort and time beforehand, greatly improve their chances of outsmarting a wise, old tom.
For the die-hard hunter, pre-season scouting for turkeys comes with plenty of advantages. Hunters who can locate a couple dozen noisy toms prior to opening day tend to outwit a gobbler quickly and often encounter multiple birds throughout the season. As the season approaches and winter begins to give way to spring, turkey hunters see more wildlife, hear more animals, and experience nature in a way many people will never have the pleasure of experiencing.
The first thing to consider when pre-season scouting for turkeys is understanding your hunting property. Obtain high quality maps, both topographic and aerial photographic maps. The maps will give you a little insight into a few locations to begin scouting. Take those maps to your hunting property and compare those to the actual terrain to eliminate unlikely locations. As you start physically scouting your property, be careful that your tromping around does not spook the birds. If you spook the turkeys, there is a really good chance they will relocate to another area. You can reduce this chance by staying close to the property edges and using binoculars to scan the area, before you enter and walk around.
Then you can begin searching for turkey signs. Look for feather, scratching, droppings, and any other turkey activity. The best tactic for locating roosting areas is scouting during the daytime hours while the turkeys are visiting their feeding areas. This allows you to enter their bedrooms without spooking them. If you spook them from their roost, they will likely find another place to roost, and your search will start all over. After locating roosting areas, begin looking for their feeding locations. As long as an area provides a food source, turkeys will continue using it daily. Once you locate their roosting areas and feeding locations, the next thing to do is determine an actual hunting spot. Look for a large tree, a downed tree, or a brush pile. These are excellent hunting locations that offer plenty of concealment. Just keep in mind that you need a clear shooting path from your spot.
The next thing to consider is timing. You need to begin your scouting trips at least two weeks before your hunt, and you need to continue until your hunt to guarantee the turkeys are still using the area. Once you begin scouting, it only makes sense to scout during the same time of day that you plan to hunt. Otherwise, you may locate turkeys that will not be around during different times of the day. This tells you when and where the turkeys will be when you are ready to hunt. There is no point in scouting during midday, if you are planning to hunt at dawn or the roost.
Once you locate a few turkeys, don’t worry if you only see hens. Whenever you find hens, you can almost guarantee that toms will be nearby. If you can hold out, it’s very likely you will encounter toms in the same area. Besides, old toms are looking for hens this time of year. Where you find one, you will find the other.
Let’s face it. You obviously have to hunt where the turkeys want to be, if you want to be successful. The only way to guarantee any chance of success is to dedicate the time to scout prior to turkey season to figure out where those turkeys like to hang out. Turkeys have a regular daily routine. Pre-season scouting for turkeys provides essential information that will aid in unlocking their movements. Be mindful of your scouting techniques. It is easy to waste a lot of time scouting unproductive locations. At the same time, scouting too much is just as detrimental. You do not want to feel like you are running a marathon. Remember, you are supposed to have fun while turkey hunting.