10 Top Pre-Season Scouting Tips for Spring Gobblers!
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 11, 2013.)
when you'd be burning all three.
- One of the best ways to do
your pre-season scouting is to lock up permission to access land early, in
prime places. It’s not as exhausting as racing around looking for gobbling
toms. It doesn’t burn a lot of gasoline or put a ton of miles on your
hunting buggy. And you can gather information from landowners about the
turkeys on the property, saving you lots of time. Plus, once you secure
permission, there’s a chance landowners might turn others down.
- Opening day is very competitive in Pennsylvania – and that can’t be good for making turkeys feel at ease. So scout specifically for opening day. Find out where you can go to get away from the crowds. I learned this back in 1989 when I decided to hunt Cameron County on opening day. Why go so far? Because I had hunted there in deer season, and virtually no one else was there. I saw a nice gobbler that day, so I let him winter there and brought him (or one of his rivals) home in the spring.
- It’s a long season, and you don’t want to wear yourself out, so pace yourself. Don’t let sleep deprivation make you a zombie at work. Don’t let it make you as cranky as the head witch in a broom factory, so you become a monster to your spouse. It’s not worth it. Besides, there’s a law of diminishing returns to pre-season scouting once the season opens. Understand that what you learn in the pre-season begins losing value after opening day.
- Keep a list of places where you find turkeys year after year. Make a quick stop there just to be sure the turkeys are still there. It doesn’t matter whether you hear a gobbler or not, as long as you find scratchings, droppings, tracks or feathers – clues that turkeys are there. Even if you find only the sign of hens, if hens are there gobblers will be there, too. Once you’ve verified turkeys are in your trusted spots – then go scout new places.
- Many hunters consider
spring gobbler hunting a sport for a solo hunter, but when you hook up
with a buddy and compare scouting notes. That will let you know more about
what places are getting heavy pressure, give you higher odds of success, multiply
your options later in the season, give you both something to celebrate,
and a great memory to share. Just make sure your trusted friend will be as
discreet as you are about the gobblers you find.
- Don’t ignore posted land, even if you don’t have permission to hunt it. Just call them across a property boundary. They don’t know the boundary is there, so that’s no harder than calling them anywhere else. I’ve called gobblers off posted land more than once, without ever setting foot on posted property. Respect the poster signs. They tell you a boundary is there, but they don’t tell the gobblers anything.
- Lots of hunters scout by driving the back roads, stopping at likely looking spots, and getting as many turkeys to shock-gobble as possible. Make your list, and keep it in your back pocket. With 40 or 50 gobblers located, you’ll always have a spot you can head for, and it won’t take long to get to one. But remember this – when you locate gobblers from the roads in heavily hunted areas, you’re hearing the same gobblers a dozen or more other hunters are hearing. You almost guarantee yourself competition.
- Don’t limit yourself to road scouting. Scouting on foot lets you go over the next hill and find gobblers that other hunters will never hear. On-foot scouting takes more time, so you won’t be able to cover as much ground. But the gobblers you find will be less educated by the crowds, and give you higher odds for success. Plus, you’ll notice many more clues about where turkeys are and what they’re doing.
- Don’t put all your eggs in the pre-season scouting basket. You can waste time with a run of bad luck when you’re unable to find any place that holds turkeys. And, turkeys will often move. When hens head for good nesting cover, gobblers will follow, so those places where you found all the gobbler sign can go cold as early as a week into the season.
- Maybe you want to be out there. Maybe you think you should be out there. But maybe you can’t be out there because all those other wants and shoulds and musts rank a little higher. Don’t feel badly. Don’t feel that other hunters are out there getting the jump on you. Even a small amount of scouting can pay big dividends, so if you don’t have much time for scouting, use these tips to scout smart, and enjoy the season.