By Josh Boyd
If you intend to be successful at turkey hunting, it is best to be slow to frustrate when the events of the day do not go as one would hope. It seems that a turkey seldom reads from the same script from one day to the next, instead insisting on doing as they please, often begrudgingly to any hunter that is in pursuit.
One can never expect to fully eliminate the indecisive, meandering ways of a wild turkey. Instead, we head to the woods, full to the brim with optimism, once again insisting that today will be our day.
Though turkey hunting success is far from a sure thing on any given morning, there are several tasks that we can complete in the weeks leading up to the season to better our odds.
By scouting intensively as the season draws near, you will likely find that what once appeared to be random, is quite the contrary, thereby unlocking the code to deciphering turkey movement in your area.
Locate Prominent Strut Zones
A strut zone is characterized as an area that is preferred by toms for strutting and other displays of courtship, when seeking to catch the eye of, and attract any hens within a given area.
Strut zones can take a number of forms, with some of the most common being field edges, hayfield hilltops, wooded ridge tops, and logging roads.
While it is true that a love-struck tom will often strut wherever the mood strikes him, these areas become common destinations during the spring months for enamored gobblers.
Perhaps the best way to locate a strut zone is by physical observation. When hunting farm country, glassing with quality binoculars shortly after morning fly down can reveal the presence of such locations.
If toms are observed strutting in the same specific locale on multiple occasions, you have likely located the strut zone that you seek.
Alternatively, a hunter can employ “boots on the ground” scouting practices to uncover such locations as well. By walking likely areas such as those previously mentioned, you can take note of any visible turkey sign.
Strut zones typically feature an abundance of tracks, droppings, and strut marks that are made as a strutting tom’s wingtips drag the ground.
Having a working knowledge of strut zone locations can be of great benefit due to the frequency that toms visit such sites.
While it can often be difficult to predict the immediate intentions of a gobbler as they leave the roost, it is highly likely that they will visit such heavily trafficked strut zones at some point during the morning.
Take Note of Roost Sites
Though it is true that turkeys can often be unpredictable in their day-to-day endeavors, one thing is certain. As the day draws to a close, both toms and hens will retreat to their treetop hideaways to await the sun’s reemergence.
A hunter can take advantage of this single absolute within the behavior of the wild turkey if the location of such roost sites can be discerned. While turkeys do not always roost at the same site from one evening to the next, there is often a pattern in roosting behavior that can be uncovered.
A highly effective way to predict the location of a turkey’s roost site on any given evening is through repeated observation. In the weeks leading up to the season, visit the properties that you hunt as frequently as possible in the final minutes of daylight.
During every visit, attempt to locate the roost sites of toms in the area by listening for gobbling. If no gobbling can be heard, use an owl hoot tube to elicit a response, thereby forcing a tom to give up his location.
With every visit, take notes regarding the proximity of various roosting sites that are being used, and keep track of the number of evenings that toms have been present at each of these locations.
Within the final days leading up to opening morning, take the total number of days that you scouted roosting locations, and assign a value to each observed roosting site that reflects the percentage of visits in which a tom was present at each one.
What you will often discover is that while turkeys in a given area will almost always utilize multiple roosting locations, they will tend to favor only one or two individual sites, choosing to roost in these locations more frequently than other secondary locations.
Armed with this information, you are now able to turn turkey hunting into a game of odds. If your data reflects that a tom has roosted in a particular tree during 75 percent of your observation outings, assuming that all environmental factors have remained consistent, it is more likely than not that he will be utilizing that roost site in most instances.
Take Stock Of Obstacles
If you have turkey hunted for any length of time, you have undoubtedly experienced the heartbreak that is imparted by a hard gobbling tom that stops short when faced with the prospect of crossing a creek, roadway, or fence.
At times, it can be utterly frustrating to think that a turkey that will readily fly across a river to escape danger, will not cross a two-inch deep brook to find the mate that he is in such desperate search of. But this can and does happen quite often, especially when a hunter is playing the part of the hen that is sought.
For this reason, it is immensely important to walk a hunting property before the season to uncover any such obstacles that will likely stop a love-addled gobbler in his tracks. Try to imagine how these obstacles can affect your setup, and adjust accordingly to avoid a problem before it has the chance to cost you a bird.
This is also of value when a late morning bird suddenly shows the desire to play ball. A situation of this nature often causes a hunter to make split-second decisions regarding setup. By being aware of natural hang-ups, you will be able to instinctively avoid trying to call a turkey through such problem areas.
Scouting Your Way To Success
While turkey hunting is often thought of as an endeavor that requires little in the way of preseason prep work, this could not be further from the truth. By spending the coming weeks diligently scouting the birds which you seek to hunt, you might not come to understand the seemingly aimless ramblings of the wild turkey, but you will likely put yourself in contention to fill your tags and make this a spring to remember.