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Scouting for turkeys: How to find the perfect turkey spot

Turkey hunting is fun and challenging, but the first step to tracking down an elusive tom is learning the art of scouting for turkeys. Whether you're a seasoned turkey hunter or just starting, scouting is the secret ingredient to a successful turkey hunt. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about scouting for turkeys, from the perfect time to start to locating turkey roosts, feeding areas, and travel routes.


The perfect timing to start scouting for turkeys

Scouting for turkeys is the first step towards a successful hunt. Knowing when to start scouting can significantly improve your chances of finding the best turkey hunting spots.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s smart to start scouting for turkeys during late winter while turkeys are still in flocks. At this time, birds will often congregate around easily accessible food sources to conserve energy – especially in northern climates with harsh winters. Turkeys break out of winter flocks into subgroups of hens, jakes, and gobblers when springtime finally arrives. Find a wintering flock, and you can bet that the immediate area will offer productive spring turkey hunting.

While scouting for turkeys in late winter is a great starting point, MRI (Most Recent Information) is what matters most when you’re ready to head afield. Scouting for turkeys should be a perpetual process, beginning any time before your hunt and continuing during every moment when your boots are on the ground. Keep note of all your scouting observations, because typically if you find an area with good turkey sign, it will be worthy of your attention year after year.

« No matter how good you think your memory is, you’ll never remember all the birds you see or sign you find in the field, » explained Josh Dahlke, host of HuntStand’s “Turkey Posse” series. « That’s why it’s important to use a mapping app like HuntStand – because you can save all your scouting intel on the fly. I can’t count the number of times I’ve revisited spots where I’ve found something as simple as a track or a feather, and then ended up killing a gobbler! »

Why is spring the best time to hunt turkeys? Simple! This is when turkeys breed, and when they’re most visible and active on the landscape. Turkey breeding is driven by photoperiod – as daylight hours increase, testosterone ramps up in gobblers and hens become receptive. The exact dates of peak spring breeding vary slightly by location and climate, with action kicking off earlier in the warmer southern states and into Mexico. Biologically, springtime turkey breeding is critically important so hens can nest and raise a successful brood during summer, allowing poults to grow in skill and size to avoid predators and prepare for the challenges of winter.


Mastering e-scouting for turkeys

Preparation is critical to turkey hunting, and one of the most effective ways to prepare for a successful turkey hunt is through e-scouting. By utilizing online resources, mapping tools, and researching turkey behavior and patterns, you can significantly increase your chances of locating and harvesting a turkey. Here are some tips to help you master e-scouting for turkeys:

Online resources for turkey scouting: The internet is a goldmine of information for turkey hunters. Various websites, forums, and social media groups are dedicated to turkey hunting. These platforms provide valuable insights and experiences shared by fellow hunters. Tap into these resources to learn about popular hunting locations, scouting techniques, and tips from seasoned hunters. Localize your sources so they’re most relevant to the area where you plan to hunt, as strategies can be radically different depending on location and turkey subspecies.

Mapping tools to identify potential turkey habitats: Specialized hunting apps such as HuntStand can be incredibly useful in identifying potential turkey habitats. Look for areas with mixed habitat types, such as a blend of open fields, hardwoods, and water sources. No matter the subspecies of turkey or habitat type, all turkeys need a reliable place to roost off the ground (preferably in mature trees) and access to water. Areas with consistent agriculture are a big bonus – turkeys will feed on waste grain and insects in ag fields. By pinpointing potential turkey hotspots on a map, you can plan your scouting trips more effectively. You can also use mapping apps to identify land access, whether public land or private parcels where you might ask for permission to hunt.

« When I go through my annual e-scouting ritual before turkey season, I start by marking all the areas that are most likely to hold birds. These are my A spots, » Dahlke noted. « But if you want to find consistent success – year after year, throughout the entire spring season – it’s all about options. I want A spots, B spots, C spots … You never know where gobblers might roll through as dynamics change in the woods during the season. »

Researching turkey behavior and patterns: Learn about their feeding habits, roosting locations, and mating rituals. This knowledge will help you identify areas where turkeys are likely to be found at different times of the day. Online resources, books, podcasts, hunting magazines, and organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation are great sources of information to deepen your understanding of turkey behavior.

Combining these e-scouting techniques can help you gather valuable information that will give you an edge in your turkey hunting adventures. Remember, e-scouting for turkeys is just the first step. It is essential to spend time in the field, observing and adjusting your tactics based on real-time observations.


Deciphering turkey sign

Learning how to read turkey sign is critical when scouting for turkeys and finding your perfect turkey hunting spot. Here are some key aspects to focus on:

Identifying turkey tracks, droppings, and feathers: Turkey tracks are distinct and easy to recognize. Look for tracks that are about 4 inches in length and consist of three toes pointing forward and one toe pointing backward. Turkey droppings, also known as scat, are cylindrical in shape and typically found in areas where turkeys feed or roost. Feathers can also provide valuable clues about their presence.

Understanding the significance of scratching and dusting areas: Turkeys use their feet to scratch the ground while foraging for food. Look for areas where the leaves and soil have been disturbed, indicating that turkeys have been feeding in that spot. Dusting areas are shallow depressions where turkeys take dust baths to rid themselves of parasites. These areas often have loose soil and small feathers.

« Turkey scratchings can be like a highway, » said Dahlke. « They will almost always be directional, because the birds will scratch the ground as they’re traveling on their daily route. They’re trying to turn up fresh green chutes, insects, and other food on the forest floor. If you find fresh scratchings, be sure to come back and call in that area multiple times, at different times of day. »

Recognizing turkey vocalizations and their meanings: Turkeys are known for their various vocalizations, each with a distinct meaning. The most common vocalizations include gobbles, clucks, purrs, and yelps. Familiarize yourself with these sounds and their interpretations to better understand turkey behavior and locate their presence.

By honing your skills in reading turkey sign, you can become more efficient in finding a successful turkey spot. Remember to stay observant, and always respect the wildlife and their habitats.


Locating where turkeys roost

Knowing where turkeys roost is one of the most important aspects of turkey hunting. Identifying where turkeys spend their nights can significantly improve your chances of a successful hunt. Here are some tips on how to locate where turkeys roost:

Identifying suitable roosting locations: Turkeys prefer to roost in tall trees that provide both protection and a clear view of their surroundings. Look for areas with large trees such as oaks, pines, or cottonwoods. These trees not only offer sturdy branches for roosting but also provide ample cover.

Recognizing turkey roosting habits and preferences: Turkeys have specific habits when it comes to selecting roosting sites. They often choose locations near water sources, such as rivers or creeks, as well as areas with abundant food sources. Pay attention to their feeding patterns and tracks to determine potential roosting spots.

« Turkeys in the western or southwestern states, or anywhere with limited mature trees, will often roost in the same spot every night, » said Dahlke. « These are often referred to as traditional roosts. You don’t want to hunt the birds right on a traditional roost, but rather catch them somewhere away from the roost on their travel route. If you hunt traditional roosts carefully and conservatively, the birds will return every day, giving you and your buddies chances to kill multiple gobblers from the same roost. »

Using calls to locate roosting sites: Turkey calls can be valuable tools in finding roosting areas. Start by using owl hoots, crow calls, or coyote howls – these calls can trigger toms to “shock gobble” and reveal their location. If you can’t trick toms into talking with locator calls, try turkey calls to get a response from toms or hens. If you hear only hens, don’t be fooled, as gobblers are likely silently hanging out nearby.

By understanding the characteristics of suitable roosting locations, recognizing turkey roosting habits, and utilizing calls, you can increase your chances of finding where turkeys roost. Remember, scouting is a critical part of a successful turkey hunt, so take your time to explore different areas and adapt your strategies accordingly.


Identifying turkey feeding areas

Turkeys have specific preferences when it comes to feeding habitats. They are typically found in areas with a mix of open fields, woodlands, and edge habitats. Look for locations where there is an abundance of food sources such as acorns, berries, insects, and seeds. These areas often provide the necessary cover and resources for turkeys to feed comfortably.

Turkeys are known to feed early in the morning and late in the afternoon, so focus your scouting during these times. Look for signs such as scratch marks on the ground, droppings, and feathers, which indicate their presence. Additionally, pay attention to their roosting locations, as turkeys tend to feed within a mile radius of their roosts.

« Observe turkeys enough times, and you’ll notice that they’re almost always pecking at the ground, » said Dahlke. « They have laser vision, and they can impeccably see small food sources as they’re walking around throughout the day. Perhaps most often, when you see them pecking, they’re eating small insects. Bugs are a huge part of a turkey’s diet. »

You can also use your e-scouting skills to find promising feeding areas by studying maps and aerial imagery. Next, venture into the field and search for tracks, trails, and feeding sign. Take note of any strut zones or dusting areas where turkeys engage in specific behaviors. Using game cameras can also provide valuable insights into turkey movements and feeding habits.

Remember, patience and persistence are key in your scouting efforts. Turkeys can be elusive, but by understanding their feeding preferences, patterns, and behaviors, you'll increase your chances of finding their feeding areas.


Mapping turkey travel routes

Understanding the movement patterns of turkeys is key to successful scouting. Turkeys have specific behaviors and habits that can help you identify their travel routes.

Begin by learning about turkey movement patterns in your area. Turkeys typically roost in trees at night and then fly down to the ground in the morning. They spend their day foraging for food and socializing. In the late afternoon, they return to their roosting trees.

« Turkeys might not travel the exact same path every day, but left undisturbed, they’re typically very patternable, » said Dahlke. « Whenever possible, taking your time watching and listening from a distance to get a bead on how and where turkeys are navigating the landscape. Once you’re confident in their daily meanderings, then it’s time to move in and strike. It’s always much easier to call or decoy a turkey into your gun if you’re already along their natural travel route. »

Identifying common travel routes and corridors can greatly increase your chances of finding turkeys and the perfect turkey spot. Look for turkey tracks, feathers, droppings, and scratch marks on the ground. These can indicate the paths turkeys take between their roosting areas and feeding grounds.

Use a binocular or spotting scope to observe turkeys from a distance. Look for patterns in their movement, such as the paths they take through fields or the edges of woods.

Another effective technique is to use turkey calls to attract turkeys and determine their direction of travel. By mimicking their calls, you can entice them to reveal their location and travel routes.


Happy hunting!

Hunting turkeys is a lot of fun, but first, you have to know how to find turkeys! Scouting is an art that demands a synthesis of knowledge, observation, and patience. The success of your turkey hunt hinges on your ability to identify the perfect hunting spot through effective scouting techniques. From recognizing turkey habitats and tracks to locating roosting locations, each piece of information contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the birds' behavior. We hope that these turkey scouting tips help you learn how to find the perfect turkey spot.


Original author Savage Arms.

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