Pre-Season Scouting For Gobblers

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Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 – 1:11:39 PM
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Pre-Season Scouting For Gobblers

By NWTF.org

Mar 13, 2008 – 6:13:38 AM

Preseason Scouting for Turkey Hunting Success
Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation

Preseason scouting will improve your chances for turkey hunting success.

Click image to download | Credit: NWTF

Planning
for your upcoming turkey hunts will get you fired up for the season as
well as improve your chances for success. Preseason scouting should be
a key part of that plan.

?Scouting gives me a
chance to spend time enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods around
me while I?m looking for animal signs that can lead to hunting
success,? says Rob Keck, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
?But you can’t scout effectively from a truck. You have to take your
time walking through the woods over and over again if you?re going to
do it right.”

To make preseason scouting part of your hunting preparations, try following a few helpful tips.

Before
daybreak, walk to a high point and listen for gobbling. Try scouring
the woods for roosting areas by searching for feathers and turkey
droppings. Do the same around field edges and along logging roads by
checking for tracks, dusting areas and drag marks from strutting birds.

Spend several mid-morning hours listening and
watching for turkeys near field edges or in open woods. Record your
observations in a journal to determine patterns in the turkeys?
behavior. Including weather conditions and other factors in your notes
may be helpful.

Many hunters enjoy getting a
tom frenzied and are tempted to call while they scout. While trying out
new or favorite calls is fun, calling too much during the preseason may
ruin your chances of bringing in a gobbler during the open season.

?Leave
the calls at home until opening day,?
says NWTF Chief Operating Officer
Carl Brown. ?Birds learn quickly when they hear calls but never find a
hen, or worse, find you. It only takes a single close encounter with a
person to make a call-shy gobbler.?

For
hunters who feel like they need to call to find a bird while scouting,
Brown suggests using ?shock?? calls that surprise turkeys and usually
make them gobble. Examples include crow calls, woodpecker calls and
hoot owl calls.

Once
you pinpoint where the birds roost, plan a strategy that places you
along the birds? travel routes. To locate these routes, first determine
where the birds feed during the day.

Early in
the season
, most of the birds stay in the woods because that’s where
their food sources are,? says NWTF Director of Conservation Field
Operations, Scott Vance. “As turkeys feed on acorns and other nuts,
they leave V-shaped scratch marks on the ground. Look closely at these
marks to find the point of the V. Generally, this point is aimed in the
direction the birds are moving.?

Later in the
season
, when days are warmer, a turkey?s diet changes from nuts to
grasses, clover and insects. To locate these food sources, turkeys
usually feed in open fields. Because there are no set rules for
locating turkeys on any given day, experts say to pattern your birds so
you will know when and where they feed.

Generally,
turkeys feed in open fields late in the day once the morning dew has
dried. “Turkeys don’t like getting their feathers wet, so they avoid
dewy fields in the morning,? explains Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF
senior vice president for conservation programs. ?Midday hours can get
very hot during the spring, so many hunters hunt open fields late in
the afternoon. The weather is cooler and more pleasant, and the grasses
help the birds digest what they have eaten throughout the day.”

Kennamer
also says mature turkeys are homebodies, which is another reason
preseason scouting is so important. Most have their home range and will
stay close to home unless they feel pressured to move.

Whether
you?re searching for roosting sites, travel routes or food sources
, a
little preparation goes a long way. Scout during the preseason and you
will enjoy the time spent in the woods learning your surroundings and
searching for signs, and also enjoy seeing your time and efforts pay
off.

Turkey Sign

While scouting in the preseason, keep your eyes peeled for these signs, evidence of turkeys in the area:

Tracks:
Search areas where tracks will be noticeable, such as along field edges
and paths clear of leaves. Tracks will confirm that birds are in the
area and may help you understand where they like to travel. Turkeys
have three long toes. A single track measuring 4 1/4 inches or more
from the tip of the middle toe to the heel indicates a gobbler.
Anything smaller means it?s probably a hen.
Droppings: A hen?s dropping looks like small pieces of popcorn while a gobbler?s droppings are larger and J-shaped.
Drag
marks:
When gobblers strut, their wingtips drag the ground, leaving two
parallel lines in the dirt, sometimes with turkey tracks visible
between them.
Dusting
areas:
Turkeys bathe in dust to rid themselves of mites and other
parasites, creating small, round dirt depressions in the ground.
Feathers:
Turkeys will typically knock feathers loose from their wings as they
fly up to and down from their roosts. Out West, tall timber areas
littered with feathers and mixed with droppings indicate a good roost
site. In the East, larger wooded areas make identifying roost areas a
little more difficult because birds have more places to roost. Look for
likely roost areas such as creek bottoms and wooded ridges.

For more tips about wild turkey hunting, call the NWTF at (800) THE-NWTF or visit www.nwtf.org.

 

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