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Scouting improves odds of spring turkey success

Scouting improves odds of spring turkey success

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Turkey feather

A primary wing feather of a wild turkey in February snow indicates the presence of turkeys in one of the areas the author hunts along the Platte River in Southeast Nebraska.

For those of us who hunt wild turkeys in the spring, our thoughts this time of year drift to the woods, where we stake our blinds and decoys and hear those early morning gobbles.

An old, wise turkey hunter I once knew said you should scout a heck of a lot more than you hunt. This is true with turkey hunting.

Scouting considerably in advance of your season opener is the best way to help improve your odds for a successful spring wild turkey hunt, especially for the archery season. Nebraska’s archery season opens March 25.

Here are some important points to highlight about preseason scouting for wild turkeys.

Location is important

Although daily movements of resident birds may change, most often turkeys annually will use the same habitat that meets their needs, particularly roosting cover/trees, seasonal food sources and spring breeding/nesting sites.

Research in Nebraska shows that turkeys prefer two types of trees for roost sites — the eastern cottonwood found statewide and the ponderosa pine in the west. Usually, you won’t find them roosted far from a water supply, either.

Turkeys like open woods. Stands of woodlands that have somewhat open understories allow turkeys to easily see danger, be in cover and forage for mast. In agricultural areas, turkeys often depend on harvested crop fields or livestock feed yards for waste grain.

Go low impact

Wildlife biologists say winter scouting should be done as stealthily as possible so as not to spook wild turkeys or other wildlife that could alert wild turkeys. The less contact you have with a male wild turkey before you hunt him, the better the chances are that you will be able to lure him into range when it counts.

Scout about the first light of the day, if possible, from high vantage points or where you can at least see and hear for long distances.

For midday hours, careful scouting from a vehicle is an effective way to gain valuable details about individual birds, flocks, habits and routines. Plus, scouting from a vehicle won’t disturb the birds.

On target with crossbows for spring turkey hunting

Look for signs

Fresh droppings from turkeys are a primary indicator of birds in the area. A heavy concentration of fresh droppings under trees can indicate current roosting areas.

Hens and gobblers leave behind three-toed tracks, but the middle toe of the gobbler is longer than his other digits. Gobblers have tracks that are approximately 4½ inches long from the base of the heel to the tip of the center toe, while hen tracks are an inch shorter. You can count the sets of tracks to determine flock size.

Molted feathers and, more so, primary wing feathers near suitable trees may uncover roosts. An abundance of different signs suggests that wild turkeys are hanging out in the area.

Take pics

Use trail cameras to pinpoint where certain wild turkeys are during various times of the day and what their behavior is then. Set up along active game trails, food plots, field edges, vehicle paths, and forested ridges, and be sure to log the data the trail cameras provide.

Get more information about spring wild turkey hunting in Nebraska at

Good scouting and good hunting!


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