Whitetail hunters are zealous about pinpointing the very best habitat locations that will increase their odds for harvesting a mature buck. We spring turkey hunters can also boost our success by copying this page from the deer hunter’s playbook. And with turkey season just over a month away, this is the perfect time to delve into this subject.
To lots of spring gobbler hunters, the sport means walking, walking and walking some more. They pride themselves on covering lots of ground and listening for sounding off. The more woods you hike through, the more likely you are to tag a bird.
But the best hunters, those who consistently gobblers even when conditions are tough, tend to take a more restrained and thoughtful approach rather than charging like a bull through the woods.
Their secret? In a nutshell, it’s lots of scouting and study of the terrain, much of it at home over maps and satellite photos. These hunters then use that information to pinpoint the best spots to focus their hunting on for high odds of success.
By locating the areas that are most attractive to gobblers, you can eliminate large swaths of territory where you are unlikely to find a tom. That allows you to concentrate your efforts on the specific areas where the birds are likely to be in spring. Being in these “most favored” areas will up your odds considerably.
Here’s a rundown on the top habitat, topography, and vegetation areas to key in on to up your odds for harvesting a spring gobbler.
Nine best areas
for spring Toms
Tall, scattered pines: While they might roost in deciduous trees, turkeys prefer conifers. In particular, they like a grove of tall pines with few branches on the lower trunks so they can see a large area. Listen for gobblers flying up into their roosts right at dusk in areas with these mature pines. That will give you a prime location to begin calling from the next morning.
Try to find gobbler droppings under clusters of pines in your scouting forays. The birds will often use the same roost for many nights, leaving lots of signs. Check it for freshness. Then be there the next morning.
Open, mature oak stands: Turkeys often head to these locations right after leaving the roost. They like the fact that they are open, so that they can spot predators at a safe distance and hens can see them strut.
Leftover acorns and tender forbs draw birds to these areas for a morning snack. Focus on flats, knobs and plateaus. They’ll use slopes, but the walking and nut-searching are easier on flats and knolls.
Agricultural fields of clover, alfalfa, wheat, and corn: Turkeys love these high-protein and high-fat foods and will feed on the tender leaves and leftover grains in areas that aren’t pressured too hard.
It’s best to avoid unharvested wheat fields, however. These grow too tall for turkeys to see well and could hide a coyote or fox.
Water holes: Turkeys need to drink daily. Sometimes they’ll head straight to water in the morning. Other times they’ll wait to get a drink at midday, especially in hot weather.
Try to find secluded water holes away from roads and pressure. But also look for spots in the open. They want areas where they can look for danger at the same time they’re quenching their thirst.
Saddles in ridges: Gobblers don’t like to expose themselves on ridgetops where they’re easily visible and feel vulnerable. They’ll cross between slope sides in hill and mountainous terrain by finding low spots or saddles to slip through.
Saddles make terrific spots to call from. You won’t be silhouetted but can angle your calls down each side of the hill or mountainside to cover lots of ground and pinpoint a gobbler’s location.
These dips in ridge lines also make great spots to simply set up and call blind for an hour or two since birds regularly use them to cross from one side of the ridgeline to the other.
Cattle pastures: Birds like these grassy fields for the insects and grubs they find under the cow paddies. They also are perfect spots to strut and display to attract hens.
Pastures are terrific spots to set up one or two hens and a jake decoy. The birds can see the dekes from long distances, and you can set up against a tree safely at the edge of the field.
Logging roads, recently plowed fields: Turkeys love to travel logging roads where the walking is easy. Plowed fields are also favored because of the bugs and small tubers they find there.
Gobblers also like to dust in these areas. Anywhere with recently disturbed dirt, especially fine, loose particles, attracts them. Set up in these areas around mid-morning when the birds like to loaf and dust themselves to remove bugs.
Swamps with dry islands: Turkeys don’t mind swampy habitat. They know if they go there they can escape most hunting pressure. But they like some dry ground interspersed with the mucky, wet areas.
Find dry peninsulas or small hummocks of ground above water in these swampy areas, and you’ll find lightly-pressured birds that most hunters have overlooked.
Natural meadows in woods: Yes, turkeys are mostly woods birds. But they love small clearings, especially when surrounded by mature forest. They can strut there and be seen easily by hens. Locate these potential hotspots by scouting but also by studying aerial or satellite images such as Google Earth.