Turkey hunters, it’s never too early to strategize
Here it is, late March and I’m getting antsy about the upcoming turkey season. May 1 is only a few weeks away but, I’m already planning my hunting strategy. Years ago, a national outdoor magazine featured an article entitled “Ten Rules for Finding Fall Turkeys.” The first rule stated, “find the flock.” When my friend and I saw the article, I looked at him and said, “if we could find the flock we wouldn’t need the other nine rules.” We laughed at that for years until he passed away a short while ago.
As the article stated if you’re going to hunt turkeys you have to know where they are. Weather permitting, my spring scouting begins in mid-April and if I’m going to hunt an area, I want to make sure there are turkeys there. If the weather is rainy, I’ll drive around the back roads bordering the properties I hunt with a pair of binoculars at hand. At this time of year, hen gathering and mating are going on and if I see a group of turkeys it’s usually a mature tom or sometimes even several, traveling with their hen harem. I note the time of day I see them and how many toms I see.
If there is still snow on the ground I like to check various farm fields. The snow can tell me if turkeys are frequenting the area even if I don’t see or hear any. One of the farms I hunt is a dairy farm and I always take a walk around the property and check for scratchings or droppings. It’s easy to tell male from female turkey droppings because a tom’s is “J-shaped” while a hen’s is spiral in shape much like the curl on a soft ice cream cone. I pay careful attention to these farm areas, especially those where manure has been spread. Turkeys can’t seem to resist a “hot lunch” and may regularly feed on the undigested corn and other grain passed in the cow manure and their presence can be easy to spot.
To determine where the birds may be roosting, I’ll get up early in the morning and just listen. I have a spot on one farm I hunt where I can hear any bird that gobbles even if he’s high on the hill or in the valley below. Later, in the days before the season opener, I’ll go back to that location and just sit and listen to determine where the birds are likely to be on opening day.
The one thing I don’t do is to use any turkey calls. The last thing I want to do is to have a mature tom come to my call before the season opens. If I don’t hear any birds sound off as daylight approaches, I’ll use an owl call and try to get a response. All I want to know is that there are birds in the area.
Setting a trail camera along a woodland road that winds through the woods is also a good tactic that often works for me. Turkeys seem to use these roads when they travel through hardwoods so, a trail camera can tip you off even on mornings when the birds don’t gobble.
Finally, just because I’m looking for turkey sign doesn’t mean I’m not on the lookout for new deer hunting locations. Trails or rubs I may have missed in September or October are easy to spot now and I’m always evaluating these spots for their potential as a bowhunting site. I’ve often said you don’t have to be a good caller to bag a spring tom but, you just have to be a good scouter.