Tactical scouting tips for 2017 wild turkey hunting season

The more extra time and scouting a hunter can invest before the season the better. Pattern the birds so you know where to find them on a regular basis, including where they roost, feed, and strut. Find the paths they take along the way.

I like to walk through the woods and fields I plan on hunting either to search for sheds or break in a new pair of hunting boots. Whatever excuse you can find to scout is a good one because turkeys stick around the same general area throughout the year.

Spring turkey scouting can be a lot of fun because there are often a lot of easy-to-spot signs around. A common method of locating turkey hunting spots is to find large roosting trees. These trees are frequently the tallest or densest ones in any given area.

Roosting trees will have white streaks running down the side. These streaks are evidence left behind by roosting turkeys much like what you find on your car windshield after parking under a particularly well-used tree. Roosting trees can be hard to spot for the untrained eye or if weather conditions keep the trees relatively clean.

Turkey tracks are usually easy to locate in the spring because the ground is both wet and muddy or there’s still snow. Look for the middle toe of a turkey track because if it’s more than two inches long, chances are there’s a decent-sized tom in the area.

Watch for fresh tracks in fields, along creeks, old roadbeds or near feeding and watering areas. Don’t be surprised if you find a feather or two also.

Where the ground is dry, you can also find a lot of signs in the form of wallows, which are shallow bowls on the edges of fields or creek bottoms. Much like other bird species, turkeys take dust baths to keep mites off. A series of these bowls in a particular area could mean it’s a hen nesting area and might be prime strutting ground for toms once mating rituals begin.

Most experienced turkey hunters will tell you that the best scouting occurs before the season. Avoid scouting an area once the season opens – even if it’s not your particular season. Turkeys are so elusive and easily spooked, so it’s best to stay away from the general area other hunters use (unless you hunt your own private land).

Perhaps you need to work during the day, but plan on a morning hunt: Visit your areas ahead of time and sneak into the area you plan on hunting just before sunset to “put a tom to bed.” Find the tree he’s roosting in and you have a great location to sneak into before sunrise the next morning.

One of the biggest challenges of spring turkey hunting is waking up early enough to sneak into your hunting area. Deer hunters are fortunate in that their season runs three to six months after the summer solstice. Turkey hunters, on the other hand, only have a month or two before the longest day of the year, so plan for wake-up calls that begin with the number three.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to hit the snooze button before my turkey hunt, I regret it while walking to my blind. The first few weeks of the turkey season aren’t as bad as in May, when the days are very long.

Weather is also a big factor in the spring, and any hunter with a few seasons of experience has plenty of stories involving blizzards, sweltering heat, thunderstorms and extreme wind – often in the same season. This spring has been weird and warm. Unless that changes dramatically, look for birds to be active in mid-April.

Don’t ignore the weather, because every year when the harvest results are published, there is a strong correlation between the lowest success rates and the worst weather conditions. It’s not that the turkeys stopped leaving the roost in bad weather; it’s usually that the hunters either weren’t willing to endure the conditions or didn’t adjust accordingly.

This season I’ll make the most of an archery tag. My hope is to hit a few different places ranging from the blufflands to the woods and even a bit of time in my backyard. I’ll bring my kids along as much as possible, and I highly recommend that you do the same.

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