Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week - Scouting Turkeys Part II
By Bob Humphrey
Scouting for turkeys involves several steps. In a previous installment, we looked at what you can do at home in terms of studying maps and photos, and scouting from a distance. If you’ve been studying your maps and riding the roads and trails at dawn and dusk you should have at least some idea where turkeys occur. Now it’s time to stretch your legs and begin looking for clues to help close the gap between you and success.
Turkeys begin and end their day on the roost. You can often locate roosts by listening for gobbles at dawn, or owl-hooting at dusk to shock a bird into gobbling. You can also locate roosts any time of day by finding the right sign. In general, roost trees will be among the biggest in the area. In the northeast, it’s often big white pines; in the Midwest, cottonwoods; down south, in Texas and California, look for big live oaks.
Now look for an accumulation of droppings and feathers, or simply an abundance of other sign. Bear in mind that turkeys may have several different roosts so you’ll want to confirm one particular site is active before you hunt it.
As soon as they leave the roost, turkeys set about the business of feeding - at least the hens do. Toms often follow along, strutting and displaying in an attempt to win the favor of a particular hen. Turkeys feed by scratching the ground with their large feet. As they do, they turn over leaves and duff. These scratchings are often very obvious. By observing which way the leaves are pushed, you can also determine which way the turkeys were traveling. This can be a good indication where you may want to set up.
There are other types of signs that can be helpful. When toms strut, they drag their wings along the ground. If they strut in bare soil, you can sometimes pick out the drag marks.
You may also occasionally find bowl-shaped depressions in the bare soil, often with a few small feathers lying around. After they're done feeding, turkeys will sometimes take a dust bath, presumably to rid themselves of parasites. As they do, they create these little dust bowls. If you find one, it may be a good spot to set up later in the morning, or in early afternoon if your state allows afternoon hunting.
There are numerous other types of sign to look for, like tracks and preferred food sources, but the above are some of the most important. So get out their and scout, and you could have a short season.