Identifying Turkey Turnoffs - Where You're Least Likely to Find a Spring Gobbler
You can improve your odds of bagging a long-bearded spring tom by concentrating on the best habitat areas. But another way to up your odds of killing a bird is to identify the WORST locations—types of habitat gobblers rarely venture into during spring. Then don’t waste your time hunting those spots.
A lot of the success of the country’s best spring gobbler hunters comes from knowing the top areas to hunt. But they also up their odds by knowing what areas to avoid. By steering clear of places that turkeys hate and rarely use, you can increase the chances you’ll be hunting in a prime location and find a cooperative tom.
Jim Clay, champion caller and founder of Perfection Turkey Calls, puts it this way: “If you’re in a prime habitat where gobblers want to be, you’re more than halfway there towards harvesting your bird. Calling is secondary to being in the right spot and having no obstacles such as thickets, deadfalls, fences, or brushy ravines between you and the bird.”
1. Don't Hunt in Thickets of Young Trees or Young Conifers
Turkeys have keen vision, both long-range and peripheral. They use it daily to detect danger from predators. If tree growth is too thick, they feel insecure and won’t use the area.
Tip: A few young trees in the area will be okay. The birds like varied habitat and vegetation. Just not a thicket of trees where they can’t see danger coming lurking in the form of a coyote, bobcat, fox, or hunter. Even if they liked these areas, it’s hard to see birds coming into your calls through the thick cover, and your shot pattern may deflect on the brush.
2. Turkeys Stay Away From Wind-Swept Ridges
Turkeys don’t like strong winds. They can’t hear hens, and it’s harder for hens to listen to them. Predators can also approach more easily with the thrashing bushes covering their movement.
Tip: Drop down to the first bench, hill, or protected area, and you’ll likely find your gobbler there. If it’s very blustery, they may sail even farther when they fly off the roost--down into valleys to escape the breezes. Drop down to those lowest areas in that case.
3. Avoid Hunting in Older Clear-Cutting Areas of Forest
Recent areas of clear-cutting offer excellent turkey habitat. They have plenty of newly emerging food available, and the birds can watch for approaching predators. But after these timbered areas grow up for 3-5 years, they become too thick, and the plants are too tall for the birds to spot danger. They’ll seldom use them at that stage of regrowth.
Tip: Check with forestry departments to find out where clear-cutting of the trees has happened recently. And hunt them the first few years after the logging is complete. Avoid them after that.
4. Unharvested Grain Fields are Turnoffs for Turkeys
Fields of wheat and oats would seem to be attractive to turkeys. But if they are uncut, they may be too tall and offer too much cover for predators to approach. It’s hard for the turkeys to see over the high cereal grains that can reach 3-4 feet heights.
Tip: Watch for harvesting machines in fields. After gathering the grain, the birds will move into these areas to gobble up the unwanted spillage.
5. Water Holes with Thick Cover Can Hide a Predator
Yes, turkeys need to drink daily. But they won’t visit water holes or creeks with thick weeds, brush, and cover that could hide a predator.
Tip: Find ponds or creeks that are open or with sparse vegetation around them so the gobbler can watch for danger. If you don’t have any watering spots that fit this description, build one with a kid’s pool, livestock tank, or pond liner material in a low area that collects water, creating an open watering spot that gobblers will feel comfortable using.
6. Avoid Deep Draws, Hollows and Ravines
Toms don’t seem to like this type of terrain. Maybe they feel trapped. Whatever the reason, avoid these steep dark hollows. If the draw is thick and brushy, they hate it even more.
Tip: concentrate on the side-hills, mounds, and benches above these ravines. Your calls will be heard better from there, and that’s likely where most birds will be.
7. Turkeys Avoid Storm-Damaged Woods and Blow-Downs
These are obstacles turkeys usually try to avoid. The storm-damaged areas with lots of fallen trees are hard for them to travel through. Even a single blow-down from a large tree is a detour; they must move around. And both types of habitat could provide cover for a lurking bobcat, coyote, or fox planning an ambush.
Tip: Find out where obstacles are, use this information in planning your strategy for where to search for birds, and call them. Knowing they will detour around these obstacles helps “steer” the birds towards the types of habitat they do like.
Knowing that you can be there waiting for them!
Tip: Draw a Map of Potential Turkey Turn-Offs
To help you keep track of the location of all these turkey turn-offs, draw a map of your hunting area, or print out a satellite image of the property from Google Earth. Then mark these locations described above as spots to avoid, perhaps color-coding them with a bright colored felt tip pen. Then, STAY OUT! If you don't, you’ll only be wasting your time and lowering your odds for a successful hunt.
To improve the maps value further, also identify favorable locations--strutting areas, roosts, fields, feeding areas, dusting spots, and open water holes—with a different colored marker.