March 16, 2016
If you're a newbie to the sport of spring turkey hunting or maybe you lost your hunting lease, once the second month of the new year rolls around – no later than March – it’s time to get busy in the search for a spot to chase long-bearded gobblers.
One way is to scour the Internet, looking for federal and state properties where spring turkey hunting is possible.
Another way of discovering a potential hunting spot – including newly open land that may not show up on a Google search – is to call and talk with biologists and game wardens working for local, state and federal agencies.
Heck, since desperate times call for desperate measures, even consider calling the National Wild Turkey Federation regional director (www.nwtf.org) in your neck of the woods to see what he or she might suggest.
The work described above will help you find public lands open to spring turkey hunting. But keep in mind such lands can be (a) limited in availability and (b) heavily pressured by other spring turkey hunters.
Which leads me to suggest the following idea – networking to find a spot to hunt.
Sometimes, you'll be surprised by how such conversations with family, friends, neighbors and even people you attend church with can yield a solid lead or two.
Or better yet, permission to hunt in a prime spot with a few gobblers strutting about.
If the ideas mentioned above fail to produce any leads, then don't give up just yet.
Ever had to deal with a hung-up gobbler? Check out this turkey tip from Michael Waddell.
Instead, fire up the pick-up truck and drive through areas that hold turkeys, scouting with both binoculars and your ears.
When you locate a promising area or two, find out who the landowner is, politely knock on the door and ask permission to hunt.
After all, the worst they can do is to simply say “no” to your request. And they might even say yes, opening the door to a gobbler-getting hotspot.
Scouting turkeys from a distance with binoculars is a good practice to help not disturb and alter flock movement and patterns. (Photo courtesy of Howard Communications)
If you strike out on the ideas mentioned above, then try checking the want-ads of your local newspaper or county shopper. Better yet, check an Internet site like a hunting forum (www.texashuntingforum.com is one example) or even Craigslist to search for a spot to lease for spring hunting.
And finally, if all else fails, before abandoning your desire to hunt turkeys during the spring, consider investing in a guided or outfitted trip in your region.
Ok, once you've secured a spot to actually hunt gobblers this spring, the next part of this turkey hunting two-step is to lay some boot leather down by scouting the property out.
Why is that? Because a great turkey hunter I know of once said that hunting spring turkeys is 95 percent hunting and only 5 percent calling.
What does that mean? Simple; if you want to cook up some wild turkey, then up your odds of that happening by getting out of your easy chair and scouting the property thoroughly.
First, talk with biologists, landowners, game wardens, other hunters or even the local mailman or delivery truck driver to obtain up-to-date information on turkey sightings that will help serve as a starting point in your scouting chores.
Next, actually get out onto the property and look for physical turkey sign – tracks, droppings, feathers, etc.
As you search for such sign, be sure to try and identify where the birds are roosting.
Finding a roosting site can be accomplished by listening for gobbling birds at first and last light. Such spots also can be found by walking the woods – especially along rivers, creeks and streams – and searching the ground underneath tall trees.
In terms of the latter, be on the lookout for lost feathers (including breast feathers, primary wing feathers and even big tail feathers) and droppings.
After figuring out where the birds are roosting on the property you're going to hunt, the next thing you'll want to do is to discover where the birds are feeding on a daily basis.
Keep in mind turkeys will eat just about anything, so cast your net far and wide while searching for potential food resources.
Such spots can include leftover acorns and pecans; the remains of last fall's agricultural fields; sprouting crops, food plots and native foods for this spring; insects, worms and small amphibians like frogs; and (in states where the practice is legal) feeders that dispense corn and other types of grains.
Here in Texas where I live, one thing I'm always on the lookout for are cow pastures where plenty of insect-attracting manure is being left behind.
Find an area where such manure piles abound and it's a good idea to be on the lookout for cow patties that have been flipped over. Find a few flipped cow pies and you can be assured turkeys are on the prowl searching for a few-high protein snacks.
In addition to discovering where turkeys are roosting and feeding on a regular basis, you'll also want to be on the lookout for such spots as potential nesting grounds (usually in heavy cover on higher ground away from creeks and bottomland areas that could flood); strutting zones (where wing drag-marks are left behind by strutting gobblers); and travel corridors (field edges, ranch roadways, farm two-tracks and game trails that are littered with turkey tracks and droppings).
Keep in mind turkeys are wild animals and as such, they will not take kindly to a lot of human intrusion. So keep your on-the-ground scouting chores to a minimum and wait for the middle of the day before setting out on a scouting mission.
Tips for midday, early-season Jelly Heads
Better yet, rely on long distance scouting with a good set of binoculars to observe turkey activity and movement.
And don't forget to press your supply of trail cameras used during fall into spring service (where the practice is legal, of course) since such devices can help a hunter figure out when and how turkeys are moving across a property.
What should a turkey hunter do once they've assembled a good array of turkey hunting intelligence? Simple, record all longbeard intel in a hunting notebook and/or on a GPS device.
Why? Because by connecting all of the dots gained from scouting chores, a hunter can then gain a good mental picture of where the turkeys are roosting, what they are feeding on and what their daily travel routes are as the spring season approaches.
When such an understanding is gained of how turkeys are utilizing a particular piece of hunting ground, then the first step has been taken to tagging a plump longbeard for the roasting oven or frying skillet.
If you can call a little bit and shoot straight, that is.