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How to Scout Turkeys with Trail Cams

The problem with turkeys is they don’t behave much like deer, which makes effective camera placement a challenge.

Deer like to walk down trails, but turkeys often wander all over. Deer often feed in fairly predictable spots, but turkeys forage in a seemingly haphazard manner. Deer can be lured into setups such as mock scrapes, but turkeys don’t respond to scents or scuffed-up dirt. Consequently, many time-honored camera ruses don’t work on turkeys.

Still, it’s possible to get birds to pose, and capturing turkey photos near a food source is a good bet. For example, many people enjoy feeding turkeys in the off-season, and a camera placed near such a site is perfect for capturing great photos. Unless you hunt where baiting is legal, make sure to remove all bait well before the opener, for obvious legal reasons. It’s been a couple of springs since I’ve hunted Texas, but I can think of a couple of spin-feeders that practically begged for a trail camera. Livestock watering tanks in the West represent another ideal setup for turkey-cam pictures.

Natural food sources present more of a challenge but are far from impossible. Searching for scratchings, droppings and feathers in a field or oak stand will tip you off to a favorite food source, and mounting a camera nearby should be productive. Try to pinpoint the hotspot within that source, and place the camera as close as possible to it.

In my experience, cameras should be within 40 feet of the target area to get the best photos. Because most trail cams were meant to be strapped to a tree, that can present a problem in open areas. I’ve had good luck driving a pole or metal fence post into the ground in such spots. Also, you can use one of several new tripod-style mounts for situating cameras in fields and other treeless areas.

It would be wonderful if gobblers responded to scrapes like whitetails, but toms have equivalent areas: strut zones. Obviously, the best way to identify a strut zone is to spot a bird using one. Then, you can set up a camera when the bird is tending to other business. Lacking visual confirmation, however, strut zones can be identified by wing drag-marks on field edges, forest openings and logging roads.

Another good place to mount a trail cam is what some call a staging area; a spot where turkeys prepare to fly up to roost or the first spot they fly down in the morning.

Although trail cameras might never enjoy the widespread appeal for turkeys as they do for whitetails, they are worth considering.

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