As spring slowly get closer, many of us turkey hunters are dreaming of getting into the spring woods to take down a big ol' boss tom. However, just as deer hunters scout during the winter for their fall setups, turkey hunters also have an opportunity to prepare before the season arrives. Just like any kind of scouting, it all starts with having the right items available and having a game plan set of where to start your scouting. First item to have in your arsenal is a good pair of optics. This will come in handy during those long days driving for miles and miles looking/"glassing" for birds (photo to left credit to Jeffrey Solberg).
The next item to have in your gear bag is a set of scouting cameras. We highly recommend you pick up a couple Covert Scouting Cameras (www.covertscoutingcameras.com). Using trail cameras can greatly increase your chances at taking down that big tom. I had years where birds were routinely using the same route/trail to go up to roost or to go to their strutting location. Some individuals get so involved as to even use a wireless camera to have pictures readily sent to their phone to keep track of their birds.
Lastly, the most important thing to have with you is a little bit of time. Scouting can be done prior to a hunt, but a prelonged scouting period will help locate multiple birds to hunt during your particular season.
To begin scouting, what we tend to do around the end of February to beginning of March is begin looking at different maps
(ie. Google Earth, Aerial Maps, etc.). From there I begin to look for areas with a nice south facing slope (especially if an early season tag is drawn) or for secluded fields. Birds will be drawn to the southern slopes due to the fields being more green and also easier for a boss tom to display himself in the sun. As for the secluded fields, a sense of protection is part of this game plan in a turkeys point of view.
Next, if minimal moisture is around, start looking for bare areas where turkeys can dust themselves. This is needed to keep their feathers free of excess oils and flaked off skin. Lastly, having a good food source will always be a great thing to have on your side, whether it is a food plot, cut soybean field, or chopped corn field. A turkey needs to eat right!?!?!
Now getting down to the more physical part of scouting. Time to
get off your couch, turn off the sportsman's channel, and hit the woods. Now that you have begun your in depth scouting, these are the things you should be looking for. Roosting trees (turkey
droppings and feathers will be very prevalent around these trees), dusting "bowls", scratch areas (turned up leaves, scratch marks in dirt), and finally the most obvious is turkey tracks. There is no real science to this part. If you find two or more of these items, you are most likely in a frequented turkey area. One thing that I personally do not get too excited about, is when I stumble upon a feather or two. Sure, this means that a turkey was in the near vicinity, but it may have even fallen off a turkey during fly down out of the roost. Well that does it for your quick tutorial on turkey scouting. Turkeys may not have the brain that a majestic whitetail does, but having your homework done prior to hunting will definitely increase your chances in harvesting a big boss gobbler. Good luck scouting and hunting for a big longbeard this upcoming spring.. If you have more questions regarding your upcoming turkey hunt, please drop us an email. We will be glad to answer them!