How You Can Develop a Turkey Hunting Strategy Through Maps
Turkey hunting can be a great equalizer. It doesn’t always matter if you know how to call spring turkeys or how amazing your property is for attracting them to you. Sometimes things just don’t work out while in the turkey woods. And then sometimes, despite all the things you messed up, you bag a bird. That’s just how it goes. But before you write it all off as just luck and chance, there is an important caveat: preparing for your hunt will almost always increase your chance for success. If you approach your hunt with a good turkey hunting strategy, based on thorough scouting, a good understanding of turkey habits, and a turkey hunting map to lay it all out, you will be that much more likely to harvest a mature tom. This is how to hunt turkeys the smart way.
PHOTO: If you approach your turkey hunt with a good turkey hunting strategy, based on thorough scouting, a good understanding of turkey habits, and a turkey hunting map to lay it all out, you will be that much more likely to harvest a tom.
Turkey Hunting Tips and Tricks
Your first turkey hunting 101 lesson is to get out turkey scouting before the season. As you scout (stealthily), record every shred of turkey evidence you can find, including tracks, scat, feathers, roost sites, scratches, dust bowls, etc. When you’re done mapping observations on your HuntStand app, it’s time to put the pieces together and map a line of travel. Turkeys start their mornings in roost trees, fly down in the morning to feed and strut, loaf around foraging throughout the day, and then work their way back to roost tree sites before dark. So how can you use the turkey sign to help you?
Well, for example, let’s assume you find a mature tree with lots of scat and feathers below it (a very likely roost tree) or you actually observed turkeys roosting in it the evening before. Now you know where they are likely going to be each morning (and where they will return). Then, let’s assume you find a spot on a field edge with lots of tracks and turkey scrapes, and your trail cameras routinely catch dozens of turkeys feeding or strutting. That’s a dead giveaway and now you know where they are feeding. Now you could draw a line between these two areas and you’d know their likely path of travel each morning. Do you see how powerful this turkey hunting strategy is? Don’t settle on blindly setting up at a spot you think “looks good” – instead, use hunting maps to quickly cut out 90% of a given area.
PHOTO: Alone, turkey scouting individual turkey sign seems pointless, but once mapped out, a very clear hunting strategy can develop.
Turkey Hunting Strategy for Access and Blinds
Once you know where the turkeys spend their time and their likely path of travel, you’ll need to actually set up your hunting blind and decoys. Approaching turkeys from the wrong direction or getting too close could quickly ruin your hunt. But since you know where they roost and where they feed, you should be able to quietly sneak into the right spot without them noticing. For typical morning hunts, approach roost trees quietly and by staying concealed. You don’t want them to see or hear your approach from up in the roost. So to that point, if you can approach from within some densely growing conifers or shrubs (especially if the leaves are greening up), that will hide you well.
For the best turkey hunting setup, choose a location along their suspected travel path that is at least 100 yards away from the roost. If you’ve got a trail camera that routinely catches birds traveling by at a certain time, you can use that to inform the location and the time. Remember, you want to set up along their line of travel to intercept them after they’ve flown down from their roosts. If you’re too close, you could spook them off the roost and ruin your hunt before it begins. Setting up from 100 to 200 yards away means the turkeys should have plenty of time to arrive while allowing the sun to rise and you to get set up. If you’re using a hunting blind, try to set it up as quietly as possible and tuck it into the brush as much as you can without making too much noise. Alternatively, try to set it up before your morning hunt so that you can just slip into it when the hunt comes.
PHOTO: Situate your turkey decoys so that they are about 10 to 15 yards away from your location and roughly facing perpendicular to your sight. This ensures you should get a shot even if a gobbler hangs up 20 yards from the decoy.
Turkey Decoy Placement
The best early season turkey decoy setup should always include a hen decoy. In fact, hen decoys are the best bet throughout the season and deserve a spot in your turkey hunting strategy. After all, the reason the gobblers gobble in the spring is to attract a female to mate with. Situate the hen decoy(s) so that they are about 10 to 15 yards away from your location and roughly facing perpendicular to your sight. This ensures you should get a shot even if a gobbler hangs up 20 yards from the decoy.
But at certain times of the year and in certain places, adding a little variety can enhance the realism. By including a jake decoy in your spread (especially if paired with a breeder hen decoy), you can light a fire under a gobbler to get there quickly and kick some avian butt. This works well for early season turkeys and in places with at least a couple mature toms. In the late season, males may be unwilling to approach a jake turkey if they are tired of fighting each other. So when in doubt, leave the jake out and stick to just the hen decoys.
PHOTO: This spring turkey hunting season, don’t rely on guesswork to inform your hunting location. Map all the turkey sign you find on the HuntStand app, connect the dots, and set up along one of these lines. It’s one of the best turkey hunting tips you will hear this season!
When All Else Fails…
It’s always good to have a backup plan. While the approach mentioned above should drastically increase your chance at getting a turkey within shotgun or bow range, remember what we said at the beginning? Sometimes even the best turkey hunting strategy isn’t enough to seal the deal. In those situations, it’s always nice to have another hand to play.
If your morning turkey hunt doesn’t go so well and your spring turkey season forecast still looks pretty grim, try doing an afternoon hunt instead. There are a few critical differences with an afternoon hunt though. One, the birds will be traveling in reverse, back towards the roost in the evening. As they approach, they tend to be very quiet so as not to attract a lot of attention to themselves before they fly up. As a result, you don’t want to call too much or it will sound unnatural. Also, you don’t want to be too close to the roost, or it might be hard to sneak out when the turkeys eventually fly up above you. Getting busted at a roost site could ruin it for the season, which is the basis of your mapped turkey hunting strategy, so stay far enough away that you can sneak out again.
This spring turkey hunting season, don’t rely on guesswork to inform your hunting location. Map all the turkey sign you find on the HuntStand app, connect the dots, and set up along one of these lines. It’s one of the best turkey hunting tips you will hear this season!