Scouting methods

Ask questions of and offer advice to fellow turkey hunters
SamuraiTater
 
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Scouting methods

Postby SamuraiTater » April 28th, 2009, 5:20 pm

It's a bit late in my season do any more scouting, but a recent response on this forum concerning figuring where hens want to go off the roost got me to thinking....
 
Just how does one go about trailing turkeys anyway ?  I'm not talking about big open areas out west, I mean the densely timbered areas in the east.  Dood, it's thick where I find turkeys and the few open areas they gravitate toward in March are desolate and lonely come April 1st.  I found so many turkeys this past March, but when the season started, they had all vanished.  They didn't seem to go very far, I'd still hear them.   And when I went into the thick stuff to find the birds again, I saw plenty of sign and and even had birds converse with me on regular ocassion.  But there ain't no following them off the roost.  ....And there's nothing special about the areas they seem to hang out in through the day that their roost area doesn't already have.  It's all a mix of open hardwoods and pines with creeks running throughout.
 
I'm here to learn, fellas.  Give me your best advice on how to pattern birds in the woods.  Forget any open fields or cultivated food plots, these are pressured birds on public land.  They haven't been pushed out of their own zip code, but they sure enough know to keep their heads down and an eye open for danger.  What would be your basic strategy and how would you go about it without getting busted?

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Cut N Run
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby Cut N Run » April 29th, 2009, 6:35 am

I don't hunt public land much, but the land I hunt is also thick and hard to get through quietly. The land around here gets hunted pretty hard, but nothing like public land.  You might want to look for small openings near ridges or on benches just below the ridge.  If it has a decent opening close to good cover, check it out.  Those same things work for deer hunting & even bass fishing. Good cover beside open areas near prime locations can hold the big ones... getting there undetected is the trick.  Those openings don't have to be big either.  The ones I hunt can easliy be shot across.  You'd better be pretty well hidden too, because you will get some close encounters.  Every year, I get birds that come in behind me very close that I never see, much less shoot at. Gobblers like to go to places they can see & be seen in the Spring. If you can find one of those places in the woods it can earn you a nice bird.
 
Sign doesn't lie.  If they are there, you will see sign.
 
I was hunting one of those kind of places when I missed one yesterday. He came in behind me very close & spooked at a squirrel's bark right when I shot.
 
I hope this helps. Good luck when you go.
 
Jim
Luck Counts, good or bad

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trkynut54
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby trkynut54 » April 29th, 2009, 7:05 am

Put your hiking boots on and do alot of walking. Look for scratching in the leaves, feathers at the bases of trees, usually roosting areas. If you find any scratchings at the bases of trees, that's a gobbler and he's probably roosting in that same tree. It's NEVER too late to scout. I always scout during the season when things are quiet. I go to areas where I know there's turkeys. About 4 years ago I was almost done with my vacation, the gobblers were quiet so I went to an area I never hunted before, but knew they were there and took a hike down across some benches. I found fresh scratchings at the base of a tree, I knew it was a gobbler. Soon enough I had one gobbling. I didn't get him that day but the next morning I did. 
Don't hunt harder hunt smarter

SamuraiTater
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby SamuraiTater » April 29th, 2009, 7:50 am

Thanks to both of you for the advice.  Believe me, I walk a bunch and am constantly on the lookout for scratchings, footprints, dustbowls and droppings.  I see them quite often.  Monday I spent the early part of the morning hunting an area where I called one in last year.  There were a number of them that roosted there, just off a field edge..........until the hunting pressured showed up.

  I had heard nothing at all there for the first hour and a half and decided to bail out and try  a new area where they'ed just cut a brand new dirt road in.  I went walking it for the first time and saw fresh gobbler tracks in the mud.  Looked fresh enough that it was likely made earlier that morning.  There were two other dirt roads cut off of this main one that carried you downhill into a ravine off either side of the main dirt road.  One ravine was mainly hardwoods and the other was mainly pine, so the main dirt road was the high point of the ridge and the transition between two types of cover.

Later after I followed the hardwoods trail all the way down, it ended in a swampy area and backed up to private property.  There was also a huge field just over the property line and I found lots of white splat under some big branches overlooking the field edge.  The field has been logged recently and most of the timber is still laying there.  The field itself would be hard to traverse and there isn't much for visibility through it.  My thinking is that these turkeys actually like the low end of those hardwoods and the field edge just provides them with a safe take off and landing zone.

Because of my work schedule I don't know if I'll get another chance to hunt before the season's out.  But if i do,i might go see what's happening over there.  Too bad I didn't try that area first thing last Monday.

trkynut54, what's the story with scratchings at the base of a tree belonging to a gobbler ?

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trkynut54
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby trkynut54 » April 29th, 2009, 8:23 am

I was told that scratchings around the base of trees were gobblers, my mentor told me that. And I believe him because of what I said above. 
Don't hunt harder hunt smarter

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woodswise13
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby woodswise13 » May 21st, 2009, 3:15 am

just when u think u have these birds figured out and you are expecting a fastball BAM they throw the curve... good luck

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shaman
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby shaman » May 22nd, 2009, 2:34 am

I have 200 acres of private land to hunt.  It is not like your public land problem. However, I might have some ideas for you.  You've gotten good advice so far.

I used to hunt private land adjoining Hocking Hills, a large state park complex in South Central Ohio.  The farmer there told me after opening week, the turkeys all took to the sides of the roads and hid in the culverts.  He was right.   You can't hunt right at the road. You can't shoot across a road, but try looking in the odd spots where nobody ever hunts. 

Whenever I spook a flock of turkeys seriously, they all seem to want to take off and fly to Hootin Holler.  No, I'm not saying your turkeys are there, but Hootin' Holler is a large hollow that dominates over 50% of our property.  You might want to scout down in the mouths of hollows for birds that other guys have spooked.  Alternately, the birds seem to work their way back up through the side gulleys to get back home.

That's another tip I can give.  I have no idea if what I'm giving you is true for heavily pressured birds, but my birds do come back to their familiar haunts. I have a loafing area that's about 150 yards from the house.  It's under a big box elder.  I can't help but continually bust The Big Tree Crew, just going about my business.  A day or so later they're back.  Good turkey hunters tell me there is no such thing as a honey hole. Phooey! I don't know if you're following the side story I'm relating about my ailing friend, O.T.  O.T.'s got a lung condition that kept him in the hospital most of season.  He was going to try and make it out the last week.  I offered him that box elder, because I knew if he just sat quietly against a nearby hay bale, he'd eventually at least see one.

I am beginning to wonder how much pressure it really takes to make a bird leave it's home zip code.  Angus shot at a gobbler during Yute Season.  Two weeks later, I ran into the same crew.  My lasts gobbler came from about 200 yards away.

Moose and I hammered a favorite fence line all season.  We couldn't  chase those turkeys out if we tried.  I used it a couple of times, thinking I'd come out that way at mid day after taking a gobbler the first week.  Nope!  I busted a flock of hens with a gobbler in tow.    All told, I got one gobbler,  got my sights on a second, Moose got busted by a third,  shot at a fourth and missed, and Angus was working one in Yute Season, before it faded. Then there's one flock that busted us before season and a second that busted me mid-season.  That's a lot of action from one 200 yard stretch of fence. 
Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries of SW Bracken County, KY
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JeffCoHunter
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby JeffCoHunter » May 23rd, 2009, 6:32 am

Patterning birds is not easy but is worth the effort.  It is especially difficult in thicker areas.  I feel the best way to pattern birds is to put the time in watching and listening.  Sign will tell you where birds have been but not what time they go there, which way they come from, or where they go when they leave.  One area I hunt is difficult because it is hard to get down into where the birds roost without spooking them.  Then when they come out of the valley they enter a semi-open reverting strip mine.  Once in the grown up fields, it seems they randomly go every which way.  However, I found a general area where they like to follow a hollow up out of the roosting area and onto the hillside.  This was the only defined pattern I could find and I would not have ever figured it out without sitting out there and putting the time in.
 
Another thing to consider.  For many years I hunted several places that were tough to hunt.  The habitat was marginally good for turkey, there just were not a ton of birds there, and it was hunted hard.  Then this past off-season I had a revelation.  Hunt smarter!  I decided that I was going to start from ground zero and I spent time in late winter riding around, looking for good looking turkey habitat and knocking on doors.  The result was that I decided to focus my hunting on three new tracts of private land that I got access to and looked real promising.  I then spent March and April scouting these areas extensively and forming a plan for hunting season.  From the first scouting trip I was seeing and hearing a ton more birds than I did in my old spots.  I filled both of my tags on mature gobblers the first week.  The point is, sometimes it is better to start from scratch, find better populations of birds and better hunting areas, than to try and beat your head off the wall to kill one of a few gobblers in an area that is tough to hunt.
 
Hope this helps!!

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Gobblerman
 
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RE: Scouting methods

Postby Gobblerman » May 24th, 2009, 6:43 am

Great post, JeffCo,....that is absolutely the best advice given on this subject.  1) Put in the time and effort to learn your birds, especially if you are confined to specific, and especially small, tracts of land to hunt, and 2) spend additional time trying to find new, and better, places to hunt. 
Of course, both of those are subject to the individual regions, areas, and conditions that each of us hunts in, as has been pointed out by others. 
 
To delve into it a little deeper, they are also a function of our individual commitment and the importance of this way-of-life we call being a turkey hunter is to each of us.  The bottom line is this: most consistently successful turkey hunters put in whatever time and effort is needed to insure the best chances of their success, and that in turn, is often a function of how important it is to them.   
 
In my own experience, I know dozens of turkey hunters, and they cover the whole spectrum of enthusiasm for the sport.  That spectrum runs from the casual "weekenders" to the rabid fanatics to which turkey hunting borders on being a religion.  Looking at their success rates, it is not too surprising really to find that the number of birds they each kill (or have the opportunity to kill) is pretty much directly proportional to where they lie along the spectrum.  It is also not much of a surprise that their individual  woodsmanship abilities and turkey calling skills fall predictably in the same relationship.
 
I guess, to summarize my sermon here, and especially to those that are just taking up this great pastime,...if you aspire to be a successful turkey hunter, you will most likely have to commit a good amount of time and energy to achieve that success. 
 
Oops!....sorry, everyone,...I kind of wandered off the subject....
 
Jim

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RE: Scouting methods

Postby swpatrkyhunter » November 20th, 2009, 6:28 am

Good post Tater!
 
   Living in Southwestern Pa I know of the type of terrain yuour talking about.  Best advice I can give you is first make a journal for just the turkeys in the area you hunt. What I did actually took a couple of years to get a decent pattern to the turkeys in the area I mainly hunt. For instance.. The main flock of birds I hunt keep to a general area year round. This area covers about a 5 mile radias. Just before the Spring season the will gather in one large group for a week or so then seperate in to smaller groups keeping to an area of only a mile radias or so. I have made notes on these birds habits all year long. Where they go at what time of year, weather conditions and how it effects there movments. Any changes in landscape and its effect on there movments and roost areas. I look for signs of predators and if the birds change there habits because of there preasance. I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the idea.
 
 Yes it's ALOT of work but it will help out even more. Hope I have helped you out some. Good luck!
 
If it gobbles,runs on gas, or is married to you it will give you trouble!

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