Spring Turkey Scouting.
Itís never to early to start scouting. One thing that is important in scouting is learning the ground that you will be hunting. I suggest you get an aerial photograph of the ground that you plan on hunting. Once you have the photo go to the farm and start easing your way around it looking for natural barriers as well as man made barriers that would stop a gobbler in his track. One thing to look at is where a roost area may be and make sure there arenít any fences or creeks in between where you would choose to set up and the roost trees. It is difficult to call a mature gobbler across a fence or even a creek with water in it. After you have checked for those barriers then start looking for fresh scratching. This can be starting in January. If you have fresh snow, look for tracks and fly down areas in the snow and which direction they travel to feed. Most times a dominant hen will know where good food sources are and stay in there area even into hunting season. Her poults depend on knowing where the best food sources are for their survival. If an area is holding hens then the gobblers will come to that area for them. Many hunters feel that you have to scout starting in early to mid March which I feel is a misconception. The more you know and learn the ground the better you will make out when it comes time for the actual hunt. The gobblers will be in bachelor groups this time of year and will break up once it gets closer to season.
After you have checked the farm and have a pretty good idea of where they are roosting and there isnít snow on the ground then start looking for dust bowls which are still visible from the previous year. Look for depressions in the ground where the birds have dug out the dirt with their wings to dust themselves. It is tough to see strut zones since they would have been washed away over the summer and winter by the rain.
Now that you know the ground and what barriers might be in your way start listening in mid March for those tree gobbles. That will tell you pretty much how many gobblers are in the area. Try and arrive before daylight so that you can hear those Old gobblers that may only gobble a couple of times on the roost and then shut up. Once you have located the gobblers try and get to a vantage point where you glass the birds on the roost and watch them fly down. Try to figure out what direction they are traveling and if they are doing the same as they were when you found them earlier in the year. Donít move on them just listen for gobbles and the hens talking. Once you have done that a couple of times then you will a pretty good idea which way they are traveling once on the ground. I would then move to another vantage point where you can watch them after they fly down and travel to the last place you heard them and glass to see if you can see them strutting and or making a new dust bowl. If you are having trouble finding them after fly down then wait till about mid day and sneak in and walk the way you had heard them going and start looking for the infamous wing tip drag marks on the ground going back and forth showing you their strut zone. I would after finding that look for a strategic place to set up on the strut zone to ambush them there. One thing that you never want to do is use any turkey calling to locate birds, all you will do is educate the birds especially if you have a mature gobbler sneak in while you are doing that and bust you. Also look for a field close to the roost tree in case you have a rainy day. You want to hunt field edges in the rain because the rain takes away the gobblers main defense which is his eye sight. They will go out into fields so that the leaves and everything in the timber that is moving because of the rain isnít clouding their vision. Remember that woodsmanship and knowing your ground is more important that your calling. Just thought I would give our turkey hunters some tips on making their hunt more successful and give you an excuse to hit the timber earlier when the cabin fever is hitting.