By Ronda Addy
Turkeys have some of the best eyesight and hearing of any animal in the woods. It’s also in their nature to run at the first sign of danger. It’s for these reasons that turkey hunting is a challenge. But, that’s part of the fun, right?
Before you hunt wild turkeys, you need to know where to find them. When scouting for locations, keep in mind that turkeys don’t necessarily use the same areas in the spring and the winter. They often migrate from their winter area to their spring area about the time hunting season starts. Start your general scouting as close to the season as you can.
After you get a general idea of where turkeys can be found, it’s time to get more specific and target places like roosts, dusting areas, strut zones and scratchings. Have a good pair of binoculars with you during this phase of scouting, try not to disturb any turkeys you see and stay out of open spaces. Bring a topographical map so you can mark areas where you find evidence and make note of any obstacles you come across such as creeks, fences, steep hills or thick brush.
A turkey’s roosting location will vary according to location, but generally, you should look for tall, open trees near water with good horizontal branches turkeys can hold on to. To spot a roost, look for droppings and feathers. The best times to scout are in the early morning or at sunset when you can hear the birds actually flying to and from the roost.
A regular dusting keeps turkeys free of lice, ticks and mites. To find a dusting area, look for loose dirt around a bowl. There will also be feathers, tracks and droppings in the area.
Strut zones are harder to find simply by walking around an area unless you have seen a turkey strutting. It may be possible to detect two irregular scratch marks about a foot apart and several feet long made by a turkey’s wing tips.
When looking for a preferred feeding area, focus on open fields or mast or grassy areas with scratching and tracks. Because other animals may also use the area for food, it is a good idea to know what the scratch marks of other animals look like.
When you go turkey hunting, make sure you are well camouflaged. Don’t wear red, white and blue, the colors of a turkey’s head. Wear camouflage gloves and facemask and use a camouflaged gun. Try to blend in with your surroundings by not moving around too much.
As with any type of hunting, safety is the number one priority. Always get permission to hunt on private grounds and know where your hunting companions are at all times. Never assume you are alone in the woods. When sitting, do so with your back against a tree wider than your shoulders. This will protect you from other hunters approaching you from behind. Don’t use turkey sounds or movement to alert another hunter to your presence. Stay hidden and use a loud voice.
Know the limitations of your hunting equipment and use sound judgment. Keep your gun unloaded until you get into the field, point it in a safe direction at all times and keep your finger off the trigger. Don’t shoot at movement or sound. Before you pull the trigger, make sure you know what your target is and what lies beyond it. Be sure the turkey is in range and shoot at the head and neck. A body shot can ruin the meat.
Never stalk a turkey. You won’t get close enough and you could be stalking another hunter. Don’t steal or frighten away a turkey that another hunter is after. Be careful when using a turkey call. You could attract other hunters or wind up scaring the turkey off. Don’t get closer than 100 yards to a roosting turkey. Your camouflage will not make you invisible. A turkey can detect and react to movement 100 times faster than a human.
Before you go hunting, make sure you do your homework. Practice calling, prepare your gun and scout the area for the turkeys. After all, the whole purpose is to bring home a bird, not come home empty-handed.
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