By Mike Willis
Many hunters are accustomed to looking for deer sign or elk sign, but for some reason, they are less likely to look for turkey sign. Instead of only relying on hearing birds, take the time to familiarize yourself with what signs turkey leave.
Understanding what turkey sign looks like can help tremendously in pressured areas with birds that are call-shy.
Look for scat. Just like any other animal, understanding what turkey scat looks like is a great way to know how much time they are spending in an area. Turkey scat looks like chicken poop, only J shaped with a little bit of white on it. It is unmistakable once you see it.
Look for areas that they have been scratching. Turkeys are constantly making V-shaped scratches on the ground in an attempt to uncover those protein-packed delicacies commonly referred to as bugs. Leaves are often torn up.
Look around tree bases and fallen trees. Logging roadbeds are also excellent areas to find where they have been turning over leaves and dirt. Specifically, on the side of the road that has been cut into the hillside, you will see the highest concentration of this sign.
Don’t forget to look for feathers. Concentrations of feathers can indicate that turkeys may be spending lots of time in a given area. This could be an area that they flock together or roost.
Listen for that unmistakable sound of wings flapping. During sunrise and sunset hours, the sound of wings usually indicates turkeys coming on or off the roost. This is also commonly accompanied by twigs snapping.
Once you get an eye for what turkey sign looks like, you may be amazed to see how many birds have been hiding out on your property. Sometimes seeing that sign is exactly what you need to keep you motivated to wake up early another day to finally bag that bird of a lifetime.
As you are walking through the woods in those twilight hours, don’t forget to scan the treetops. It may surprise you to discover how often you can see those big ol’ turkey bodies in the treetops at roosting time.
If you are unsuccessful in your attempts to get a turkey to sound off, sit down in those areas with concentrations of sign. Having hunted lots of pressured areas, most of my birds have come in silent to my calls. On days when there wasn’t a peep after daybreak, I was still able to drum up some action as a result of sitting very still and calling in areas that I knew they had been.
After setting up your decoys and calling for a while, be sure to exercise patience as you try to entice one to come your way. Without the positive reinforcement of a Tom screaming at you, it can be easy to give up prematurely.
When calling on quiet mornings, it is important to remember that you are attempting to entice a shy bird. This can take a little more time and patience. These birds tend to be on high alert until they see those decoys and begin to relax.
Spending 30 minutes calling is not a waste of time in areas that have been pressured. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood up after 20 minutes of calling to bust a flock that was working its way quietly towards me.