Turkey scouting is something we all know we should do, but we also know we rarely do it. It’s a matter of sheer time. It’s hard to find the time to go turkey scouting when you have a job or just a regular life that is full of commitments.
So, if you can carve out a block of time to hit the woods before opening day, here are three overlooked tenants of the pre-season to help you get closer to a tom when the season does finally arrive.
1) Never Call To Birds. Ever.
Seriously, it’s not like this simple truth isn’t touted in every single pre-season turkey article I’ve ever read in my life. However, hunters calling to birds just before the season arrives just to hear them gobble is something that most hunters continue to do. And, it’s only killing your chances of actually killing him.
Look back over your journey as a turkey hunter. How many times has a tom snuck in on your without making a sound? How many times has a bird just “appeared” out of nowhere? It happens all the time.
So if you start calling to birds in the pre-season, think about how many toms ease your way while you’re just walking through the woods. He saw you slipping around and you never knew you’d been discovered.
All you did was educate him.
One thing you can do is take shock calls along. I’ve used crow calls and owl calls in the pre-season at first light, but even that I’ll do sparingly.
Remember you are there to learn … you are not there to educate!
2) Work Hard To Stay Hidden.
Perhaps one of the most brutal truths I ever learned in the early years of turkey hunting is that I must have the ruthless discipline to stay out of sight.
I’ll confess: it’s hard, hard work to do.
It is so much easier to be lazy and take the low road rather than do the extra work.
This means that I don’t walk down logging roads and that I will do whatever it takes to avoid crossing through an open field if at all possible.
Yes, it’s true. There are times where you simply must cross through an open field, but let me tell you, if you will find a way to stay just inside the tree line, whether walking down a logging road or working around a field, you’ll be stunned at how many more birds you’ll see. No joke.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been walking just 5 yards inside the tree line to make my way around a field and out rolls a tom just surveying the open terrain for a hen. No, I haven’t always killed them, but many times all I had to do was sit down, let him think a hen was just inside the woods, and what he got in return was a free ticket off the planet.
3) Scout For Turkeys At Random Times.
We are all creatures of habit. So that translates into the fact that when turkey scouting, most hunters will only scout for birds in the first hour of light before going on to work.
And, yes, sometimes that is all the time you have to do it. You’re a dad, you’re a student, you have a job, and just getting to the woods one single time in the pre-season is a victory unto itself.
However, if at all possible, do your turkey scouting at different times of the day.
Not long ago my dad and I killed two birds on opening morning. I had just received permission to hunt this property and it was obviously new to me.
I had seen birds many times from the road but I’d never walked the property at all.
I actually waited until mid-morning to walk the farm, hoping to see birds on the ground in the open so that I could scout from a distance without pressuring them. So I was moving slow and quiet and trying to stay out of sight.
I came through a depression that led to a small, secluded field. It was 8:30 in the morning on a beautiful, cloudless day.
There were 3 toms and a few hens standing under an old oak tree just hanging out. They saw me when I saw them. Because I had never made any turkey sound whatsoever, they just gently trotted off into the wood line and I let them get out of sight. When they did, I turned around and headed to the truck.
I didn’t know why, but what I did know is that for some reason, those birds were there at 8:30 am.
The next morning, at first light, nothing gobbled but one bird faint in the distance on another property. In fact, I told my dad that this was a complete riddle to me because there were 3 toms in that bunch of birds from the day before and they were there obviously before 8:30, so something didn’t make sense.
I filmed my dad killing one of those strutters at 8:20, and he handed the gun to me, and I killed his long-bearded buddy at 8:21. Right by that oak tree.
They were just slow to make their way there from the adjacent property, but that was their mid-morning staging area.
However, I’d never have known that had I done what many hunters do, and that is only go scouting for turkeys areas at first light.
One Other Benefit.
You may not realize it, but Mossberg has a ton of turkey content on their YouTube channel. No kidding. There’s strategies, hunts, and all kinds of segments dedicated to helping you slide the safety off and release the fury of your Mossberg down range to a loud mouth strutter.