Deer hunters have made a science of pinpointing the very best location to up their odds for harvesting a mature buck. Turkey hunters can boost their success by copying this page from the whitetail hunter’s playbook.
To many sportsmen, spring turkey hunting means covering lots of ground and listening for gobblers sounding off. The more woods you hike through, the more likely you are to tag a tom.
That’s the theory anyway. Wear out the boot leather. Eventually you’ll stumble upon a cooperative bird. But the best hunters, those who consistently harvest gobblers even when conditions are tough, tend to take a more restrained and thoughtful approach rather than charging like a bull through the woods.
Their secret? In a nutshell, it’s lots of scouting and study of the terrain, much of it at home over maps and satellite photos, and then using that information to pinpoint the BEST spots to focus their hunting on for high odds of success.
Extra Tip: By identifying the areas that are most attractive to gobblers, you can eliminate large swaths of territory where you are unlikely to find a tom and concentrate your efforts on the specific locations where they’re likely to be in spring. Being in these “most favored” areas will up your odds for success dramatically.
Here’s a rundown on the top habitat, topography, and vegetation types to key in on to boost your chances for killing a spring turkey.
Focus on These Nine Top Areas for Spring Toms
While they might roost in deciduous trees, turkeys prefer conifers. In particular, they like a grove of tall pines with few branches on the lower trunks so they can see a large area. Listen for gobblers flying up into their roosts right at dusk in areas with these mature pines. That will give you a prime location to begin your turkey calling from the next morning.
Tip: Try to find gobbler droppings under clusters of pines in your scouting forays. The birds will often use the same roost for many nights, leaving lots of sign. Check it for freshness, making sure it’s soft and moist. Then be there the next morning within calling distance before first light.
2. Open Mature Oak Stands
Turkeys often head to these locations right after leaving the roost. They like the fact that they are open, so they can spot predators at a safe distance and hens can see them strut.
Tip: Leftover acorns and tender forbs draw birds to these areas for a morning snack. Focus on flats, knobs, and plateaus. They’ll also use slopes, but the walking and nut-searching is easier on flats and knolls, and the hens can see them strutting at greater distances in those areas.
|Gobbler and hen in ag field. Turkeys need open areas as well as woods.|
3. Ag Fields With Clover, Alfalfa, Wheat, and Corn
Turkeys love these high-protein and high-fat foods and will feed on the tender leaves and leftover grains in areas that aren’t pressured too hard.
Tip: Avoid tall, unharvested wheat fields. These may grow too high for turkeys to see well and could hide a coyote or fox.
4. Water Holes
Turkeys need to drink daily. Sometimes they’ll head straight to water in the morning. Other times they’ll wait to get a drink at midday or late afternoon, especially in hot weather. Ponds are used by all wildlife, including turkeys and geese. The open areas around the sides will attract spring gobblers because they can be aware of nearby predators. Water sources with lots of thick cover are not favored as much.
Tip: Find secluded water holes away from roads and hunting pressure. But also look for spots in the open. Unlike deer, turkeys don’t want lots of shrubs and brush around the pond or creek. They want areas where they can look for danger at the same time they’re quenching their thirst.
Toms don’t like to expose themselves on ridgetops where they’re easily visible and feel vulnerable. They’ll cross between slope sides in hill and mountainous terrain by finding low spots or saddles to slip through.
Tip: Saddles make terrific spots to call from. You won’t be silhouetted, but can angle your calls down each side of the hill or mountainside to cover lots of ground and pinpoint a gobbler’s location.
Tip: These also make great spots to simply set up and call blind for an hour or two, since birds regularly use them to cross from one side of the ridgeline to the other.
6. Livestock Pastures
Birds like these grassy fields for the insects and grubs they find under the cow paddies. They also are perfect spots to strut and display to attract any nearby hens.
Tip: Pastures are perfect spots to set up one or two hens and a jake decoy. The birds can see the dekes from long distances and you can set up against a tree safely at the edge of the field.
|Turkeys feeding on bugs and seeds near a dirt road.
7. Logging Roads & Recently Plowed Fields
Turkeys love to travel logging roads where the walking is easy. Plowed fields are also favored because of the bugs and small tubers they find there. Recently plowed food plots are magnets for birds, which feed on bugs, tubers, and seeds and dust themselves in the powdery dirt
Tip: Turkeys also like to dust in these areas. Anywhere with recently disturbed dirt, especially fine, loose soil particles, attracts them. Set up in these areas around mid-morning to noon when the birds like to loaf and dust themselves to remove bugs. You can either call lightly every ten to 20 minutes or simply wait if there’s fresh sign such as droppings, tracks, and wing tip marks that indicate they visit the site regularly.
8. Swamps With Dry Islands
Turkeys don’t mind swampy habitat. They know if they go there they can escape most hunting pressure. But they like some dry ground interspersed with the
|Areas with mature oaks are favorite strutting grounds for spring toms, one of nine locations you should key in on.|
mucky, wet areas.
Tip: Find dry peninsulas or small hummocks of ground above water in these swampy areas and you’ll find lightly-pressured birds that most hunters have overlooked. You may have to use hip or chest waders or a kayak to reach these neglected birds.
9. Natural Meadows in Woods
Turkeys are woods birds, yes. But they love small clearings, especially when surrounded by mature forest. They can strut there and be seen easily by hens. They also find tender plants such as forbs and abundant insects to feed on.
Tip: Locate these potential hotspots by covering ground, but also by studying aerial photographs or satellite images such as those on Google Earth.