Scouting Matters

Written by Big Game Camera Man on Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A turkey will eat a wide variety of food--almost anything that won't eat him--but turkeys' preferences vary greatly over the course of the year. In the Fall, fattening up for the winter, they prefer mostly carbohydrates and fats: acorns, beechnuts, corn, grains, wild fruit and berries, etc. Come Spring, their diet is completely different and higher in protein in the form of insects and small reptiles: grasshoppers, spiders, snails, slugs, worms, lizards, small frogs and snakes, salamanders, etc. They'll also eat some plant life—grasses, small shoots, clover, vines and flowers—the kind of stuff that emerges early in the growing season.

In the Spring, the birds' best food sources can be found along small creeks and streams, and near ponds. In your scouting, you should look closely at such areas. Wear waterproof boots so you can negotiate soggy ground, carry binoculars, keep an eye out for roosting sites. Most important: Leave your turkey calls at home. Don't false-call the birds when you aren't hunting them—the woods are wide open and we all know that turkeys have sharp eyesight; they'll learn very quickly that the calls aren't real and you (and other hunters) will have trouble calling them later, when it matters.

A few other scouting points:

Don't ignore areas that aren't right near water. Turkeys are wary, they're always looking out for danger, so prefer areas like open hardwoods and ridges, clearcuts, logging roads, open meadows and fields, rolling hills, farmland—anywhere where they can see their surroundings easily.

Don't ignore the hens. In early Spring, breeding is about to start, so where there are hens there are gobblers.

If you see turkeys in an open field or a meadow, make note of the location and time of day. They tend to be creatures of habit. If they aren't pressured, you may find them at about the same time and place early in the hunting season. Later on, hunting pressure may force them to alter their habits.

If you're scouting late in the day, before flyup, and see a group of hens and gobblers in a field, you can be sure that they roost nearby—probably in woods within 200 yards, on the first little rise or bench. That field is a great spot to place your decoys in the pre-dawn; there's a good chance that the turkeys will show up in the familiar field, usually within a hour after daybreak. In such a situation, you don't need to be aggressive in your calling—that's where your scouting can pay off.

Keep the tradition alive; take a youngster hunting or fishing!

About The Author

I’ve been in the business of filming hunts for 24 years now. I have hundreds of hours of...

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