Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Scouting Turkeys Part I: The Basics
By Bob Humphrey
According to the formula for turkey hunting success, there is an inverse correlation between preparation and implementation. In other words, the more time and energy you put into scouting, the less will be required once the season opens. The first of this two-part series will address what you can do before the soles of your shoes hit the turf.
Several of our recent Web tips have covered reading and using topo maps. Those were primarily directed at the deer hunter; but topo maps can also be invaluable to the turkey hunter, if you know what to look for, and what it looks like on a map.
What you should look for depends, to some extent on where you live; or more correctly, what type of habitat you hunt in. If it’s predominantly open country like agricultural fields, plains, chaparral or mesquite flats, you want to look for the green patches or bands that indicate trees. Trees mean roosts and where options are limited they’re easier to locate.
If, on the other hand, the area you hunt is predominantly forested, you may be better off looking for those white patches that represent openings like fields. Turkeys evolved as forest birds. They have not only adapted, but now seem to show a preference for open ground where they can literally strut their stuff. Even in the most heavily forested states, radio collar studies find most hens nest within a few hundred yards of a field. Find the hens and you’ll find the toms.
Whether you use topo maps to narrow down your search or not, the next step is called windshield scouting. Grab a good set of binos, jump in the truck or on the ATV and hit the road (or trail). The best time to scout is during the same hours you plan to hunt. Not only are the birds most active, but you’ll know more precisely where they’ll be. If you scout on your lunch break you may see birds; but chances are good they won’t be in the same place at dusk or dawn as they are at high noon.
This technique is more limited in forested areas. Fortunately, there’s another method that involves both your vehicle and your topo map, and works just as well in open country. It’s called triangulation. You have to get out early in the morning, preferably when birds are still gobbling from the roost. Ride the roads and trails, stopping about every quarter mile to listen. If you hear a gobbler, draw a pencil line on your map from where you are to where you think the bird is. Then move on, trying to maneuver around the bird. Repeat the above procedure several times, preferably from different cardinal directions: north, south, east, west. The intersection of your lines should make an “X” marking the bird’s location. In Part II, we’ll look at some turkey sign, and what it means.