Spring turkey season is already here in parts of the United States, primarily in the south. And I am jealous of you folks. Me? I have until May 1 up here in the northeast. That said, there are plenty of things to start thinking about.
Where is all my gear? My camo, turkey calls, face net, the things I flung down on the floor that last day of the season last May? I couldn’t get the stuff off me quick enough, having absorbed plenty of butt whippings at the hands (spurs?) of our fine feathered friends.
Where am I going to hunt this spring? Obviously, I need to truck it up the mountains and deep into the timber to get away from the crowd. But where? Only a thorough scouting job will give me such answers.
It’s pointless to scout this far out from the season opener. Birds are still in their winter areas and will not transition into the spring woods until a couple of weeks before the season. This means I will have to “power scout” those couple of weeks.
What do I look for when scouting? Well, for starters, it’s handy to know a piece of woods I’m checking out actually holds turkeys. So, I search for turkey scratchings, which differs from when a deer digs mainly because of the mess a flock of birds make in the woods. If I see an area that is massacred by turkeys, I know they routinely visit.
Look for an area that contains solid turkey habitat, such as acorns and butternuts. In my neck of the woods (pun intended), I find birds devour these nuts in droves. In my experience, they like to roost in an area around water. Look for rivers, brooks, creeks, or trickles, areas that turkeys can fly down to in the morning. Turkey droppings is another good find. It means birds have frequented the area while feeding, and if they fed there once, they are quite likely to be back. On a side note, “J” shaped droppings are that of a tom (male) turkey, which is what we are all after in the spring.
Of course, at dusk, we can attempt to elicit a shock gobble to give away tom locations. Owl and coyote calls are my two favorites to locate birds. It’s extremely beneficial to do so just before dark, as it gives the hunter a starting point for the next morning. That said, I rarely attempt to roost a tom until a couple of days before the season. If I were to locate one, say, a week before, there are too many scenarios that can drive out the finicky bird and render my locating him useless before I can hunt him. Above all else, do not use turkey calls to find birds before the season starts. You’ll only educate them and run the risk of making them call shy.
Above all else, have fun. You are getting exercise and enjoying the peace and serenity of the wilderness. I have gone on many scouting trips that proved fruitless yet found the turkeys during the season. There are no two turkeys alike. Some respond to different calls, on different days, in different weather conditions, or don’t respond at all. Enjoy the process and eventually a little action will come your way.