Skip to main content

Scouting Turkeys: Get the Drop on Gobblers

Set yourself up for a successful spring by scouting thoroughly ahead of opening day.

Scouting Turkeys: Get the Drop on Gobblers

When birds are utilizing open areas, glassing is typically the best way to track their movement. (Shutterstock image)

Few things in hunting are as exciting as hearing gobbling toms in the spring turkey woods. However, it can be awfully difficult to bring those birds into range without having done your pre-season homework. Use this quintent of tips and tactics to find the birds and tag your tom this spring.

1. GLASS FOR BIRDS

The best method for finding turkeys without bumping birds and changing their pattern is to glass them with binoculars and spotting scopes. This tactic is most effective in areas with open agricultural fields and pastures. Keep in mind that the birds’ preferred food sources will change throughout the season. Cereal grains are a staple in the early spring, but as insect hatches occur, turkeys key on them for protein.

Look for dark-bodied birds feeding back to roosting sites in the late afternoon, sunning on gravel roads or hilltops after a rain or traveling to and from agriculture operations to feed during the day. Seeing the tell-tale sign of a turkey fan displayed in a green wheat field through a pair of binoculars is an excellent way to kick off a productive turkey season.

A quality pair of 10x42 binoculars is fine for most turkey scouting. However, incorporating a 20-60x65 spotting scope with a window mount is an excellent idea for areas with good road access.

2. LISTEN FOR CALLING

Springtime toms can be incredibly vocal, often gobbling to locate other toms, protect their territory and let hens know where they are. This gobbling activity dramatically increases on the roost right before dark and just before sunrise.

Determining where these gobbles come from is a tried-and-true tactic for locating birds. Start in areas where you suspect turkeys may be roosting. If possible, scout from a hilltop with a vantage point over a roosting area. Set your ears toward timbered creek bottoms and woodlots and listen for gobbles.

If birds aren’t vocal, a coyote howl, a crow call or a barred owl hoot can often trigger a shock-gobble response. When listening for gobbles, use a smartphone-based mapping app with satellite view to help pinpoint gobbles from a roost. After a tom fires off a gobble, scan satellite imagery of the area where you think it originated to zero-in on the group of trees he may be using.

3. USE TRAIL CAMERAS

Where regulations allow them, trail cameras are a terrific tool for scouting any game species, including turkeys. Place cameras on agricultural field edges, near food sources and around pinch points where fences, timber blocks and waterways funnel birds.

After glassing and listening to find a flock of birds, slip into feeding areas late in the evening while birds have gone to roost. Hang a trail cam a couple feet off the ground to pattern birds in the area. That way, you can determine their schedule without bumping them.




4. FIND THE ROOST

Roosting a tom by listening for gobbles or watching him move his flock of hens to their evening roost only gets you so far. If you want to know the exact spot on the spot—the very trees being used—it takes a little finesse.

While trying to take a turkey first thing in the morning after fly-down sounds exciting, odds are that old longbeard has some real, live hens nearby that will keep his attention. By identifying the trees that a group of turkeys is roosting in, you can determine how close is too close without bumping birds on your morning hunt.

Slipping into a roosting area in the early to mid-afternoon is a pretty safe bet, as the turkeys generally won’t be in their bedroom that time of day. Carefully look for clear, high-canopy limbs that would easily support a turkey’s weight. Depending on your area, trees might include cottonwoods, black walnuts, sycamores, oaks and even pines. Scan the ground underneath those limbs for fresh turkey droppings and feathers lost during preening while on the roost. Realize, though, that most toms will have a few roost trees they use season after season. They move between these areas depending on pressure, weather and food sources.

Recommended


5. PINPOINT DUSTING AREAS

On hot, sunny days, turkeys will often give themselves dust baths to cool off and to try and shake bugs off their feathers. These dusting areas can really pay off if you know their location and how turkeys move to and from them. Dusting usually occurs at midday, so if a morning hunt doesn’t pan out, these areas can be great places to set up and call with a decoy or two.

Look for dusting areas on the tops of crop field terraces next to the field’s edge where the dirt is dry. Also look in pastures or meadows where there are bare spots. Inspect areas for turkey tracks and droppings where you suspect the birds are dusting.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

With spring turkey hunting, your odds of success increase exponentially based on how much scouting you’ve done beforehand. Find which areas birds are using and pattern them. Pinpoint where the roost is, identify actively used food sources and determine when and where turkeys are moving. You’ll be glad you did when you eventually wrap a tag on a big spring gobbler.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Unlock the Patterns Squarebill Crankbaits

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Tips for Cooking Over an Open Fire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Videos

How to Build the Perfect Campfire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

First Morning: Father/Son Iowa Turkey Double

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Shot the Same Bird! UP of Michigan Double Down

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

Work and Play: Merriam's Turkeys in Wyoming

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester Waterfowl Loads

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester .400 Legend

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now