The key to scouting for turkey season success is preparation.
There are a few simple steps that you can take to get on the right track for turkey season, and once the season opens, you will be glad you did. I recently talked with an incredibly decorated turkey hunter by the name of Andrew Arbes, who I met at North Carolina State University. Aside from tracking and hunting every wildlife species in North Carolina together, we also both majored in Wildlife Science. If an outdoorsmen who is more knowledgeable more about turkey hunting and behavior exists, I have yet to meet him.
I asked him a few simple questions that many hunters have asked themselves before. His first round of advice recommended noting where you observed turkeys recently. “Where did you see them in the fall, or during deer season? Turkeys are creatures of habit, and even though the big flocks are breaking up, they will still be going to the same fields and clearings to feed and strut, as well as utilizing the same roost sites.” This means that what you observed during the fall is still useful when scouting now for gobblers. He also keeps tabs on his local turkeys with the use of trail cameras. “Placing trail cameras along the edges of these fields, where there are visible turkey tracks, dusting bowls, or natural funnels is a great tool to utilize. Once you have located the areas where the turkeys are hanging out, you can now look for where they are going to bed at night.”
This brings us to the second step in his scouting process. Determining where the roost sites are is incredibly important, and there are two ways to do this. “The first is to walk the woods and find physical evidence of a roost site. I do this a month or so before the season so that I am not disturbing the area. Ridgelines or areas with tall trees located near food sources are ideal. Tall oaks, pines, and cypress trees are favorite roosting trees of turkeys. Don’t forget to look down though! Scour the ground for turkey droppings, various feathers, such as fan and wing feathers, and scratchings. These areas of overturned leaves on the ground tell you are in the right area. The second technique I do closer to the start of the season. On evenings before hunts, I go out early in the morning, as you would do opening day, or at sunset, and listen. When you hear the gobblers sounding off you will be able to pinpoint where they like to roost at night.”
While roost sites are important to locate, there are other things you can keep an eye out for also. “Locating nesting areas can be just as important as roost sites. Where there are hens, there are toms. So knowing where the hens make their nests and spend the majority of the day on their eggs will give you a great shot to bag a mid-day, lonely gobbler. Again, walking through the woods is the best plan of action and this is also where trail cams come into play. The areas you are looking for have a lot of ground cover. This helps protect from predators, so look for areas with downed woody debris, cutovers, briar patches, and CRP plots.”
The last tidbits of information Andrew Arbes left us with was to “Leave the calls at home! You don’t want a call-shy gobbler roaming around before the season even starts. Also, swap the gun for the camera. Snapping a few pictures of a strutting tom can be just as exciting as bagging one opening day. Nothing beats the first gobble of the year, so get out there and good luck!”
Andrew Walters is an Edgecombe County native and spends much of his time pursuing wild game and fishing across eastern North Carolina with his family and his fiancé, Noelle. His passion for the outdoors was the driving force that led him to North Carolina State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Science in 2014. He was the President of the NCSU Quality Deer Management Association club and continues to be an avid member of QDMA. After graduating, he earned his real estate license and joined the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms team in Greenville, NC. He is a freelance outdoor writer and has had a number of featured articles in the Wildlife in NC magazine, as well as, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers. Andrew is also a major contributor to the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms weekly blog, the Management Minute. His extensive knowledge of wildlife management coupled with his ability to identify plant and tree species provides him the unique ability to help clients not only identify, but manage their property to maximum potential. Andrew’s enthusiasm and knowledge enables him to properly navigate the channels necessary in “finding your favorite place” outdoors, as well as, developing a wildlife management plan specifically tailored for your piece of ground. Contact Andrew today to find out how he can help you find and manage your next dream property.
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