You can be the best shot in the world and have your turkey calls down to a science, but if you don’t end up in the right place at the right time, it will all be for nothing. Rule number one of turkey hunting – or any kind of hunting, for that matter – is to know where to find your prey and to understand its habits. You can get lucky by heading out to a place turkeys are known to live and sitting around for ages waiting for one to come by, or you can improve your odds of a successful hunt considerably by doing your homework and doing a little scouting before the season begins. A little time investment in turkey scouting before hunting season kicks off can mean a more fulfilling season for you all around.
When it comes to turkey scouting, there two parts to the process. The first part is the actual scouting, which involves familiarizing yourself with the hunting ground, and the second part is observing the turkeys in the environment to get to know the behavior of the birds you’ll be seeing when the season kicks off. For both parts of the scouting, you should arm yourself with a journal, a pen and a map of the area if possible, so you can record all your information.
To scout the land, you simply have to walk it several times, from several different angles, making notes of the special features of the area. Pay close attention to where all the streams, ravines, fences and so on are located – these things act as natural barriers and may stop a turkey dead in its tracks when it is responding to your calls. Also take careful note of where the high ground and low ground is located. Turkeys like to come uphill to answer a call instead of down, so scope out a few places on elevated ground that might also offer you good cover. In general, look for places that you can easily sit out of sight that also allow you to keep a good eye on your surroundings.
Knowing the area of course is only half the battle. You have to also observe how the turkeys interact with the area. Where do they tend to congregate? Where is the roosting area? Where do they go to feed? Having some idea of these things before you head out for the hunt will give you a head start on the hunters who haven’t done their work and are going into the situation blind. Also, get to know the birds in the area a bit. How many males and how many females do there seem to be? Are the birds social or skittish? Are there many young birds in the pack or is a mature group? Simply observing the personality of the group will give you clues on how to handle them.
Ideally, the information you need should be gathered over several trips to your planned hunting grounds, but make sure not to do your work too far in advance. Groups of birds can move on, especially as the seasons change, and environmental factors can alter the landscape. You can space out your scouting missions a bit, but your final pre-hunt visit should happen the week before you start hunting. This will give you the most up to date information so you are ready for the first day of hunting season. Note that if you start prepping for your hunt after the season has started that you should dress appropriately so that other hunters can clearly tell the difference between you skulking around on the grounds and a gobble in their crosshairs.