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The world of whitetails is devoured by e-scouting. It’s the essential layer for all your travel hunts and something that can give you a huge advantage at home as well. When it comes to turkeys, digital research isn’t as prevalent, but it probably should be.
Turkeys’ behavior can seem so random, and no doubt more than one Jake and 2-year-old will be heading off-road this spring with no clear destination in mind. But in general, nature does not work very well with chance. There is a method to his madness, and while that may seem moderate with male turkeys, it’s a rule of thumb with ladies. And where the ladies go, so do the toms.
This movement is almost always linked to food.
Groceries Gettin’ Gobblers
Obvious food sources, such as agricultural fields, play a role with wintering turkeys. As spring progresses, those springs can stay hot for weeks if the weather stays cool. Or they may suddenly run out of turkeys, as the vegetable brings plenty of fresh greens and protein-rich insects.
I consider destination-style food sources as a starting point, but I divide them into two categories. If I’m hunting private land with limited pressure, every hidden corner of the field gets an onX waypoint. If I’m hunting on public land, I take note of the obvious food sources, but I may not even drop a pin because those are the places that are almost guaranteed to attract other hunters.
The easiest way to find out which food sources are really worth hunting is to walk over them and pay attention. Focus your efforts on areas not easily visible from nearby roadways and keep an eye out for footprints and dust bowls. If you find a lot of either, you’re right. But your work is not done.
As with deer and roosting areas, it’s important to find where turkeys are likely to spend the night. Some properties have hangers from year to year that are really consistent. I have a permit to hunt on a farm in Minnesota that has one of these, and it really simplifies hunting options because you always know where some birds are going to congregate in the morning and at night.
Other properties don’t have heavy-duty perches, making the turkeys’ movements seem random. This randomness also extends to properties that have quality roosts as spring progresses and the weather becomes more pleasant. However, you know how I feel about randomness in nature.
Here’s the deal: Turkeys tend to roost in areas where they have a good spot to take off into trees with good-sized branches. This generally means large, old trees located on hillsides. Turkeys also don’t seem to like perching on the downwind side of valleys.
To locate possible shelters, go to your onX app and check the Hybrid layer which allows you to see satellite imagery overlaid with topographic maps. Look for slopes with older trees with some level ground (ridges and hill tops) above them. This is an easy task in areas with lots of high and low ground, but becomes more difficult in flatter regions. In that case, remember that a 10-foot elevation change is better than nothing.
Also, while this seems like a pre-season scouting strategy, when faced with forward (windy) conditions, you can turn on X and look for areas where birds will roost in response to the wind for tomorrow’s game. They will choose valleys that are perpendicular to the wind direction and fly up on the windward side to get under the edge of the hill where it should be calmer. This is valuable knowledge to have when you have your alarm set for a day of running and gunning.
Point A to B
Understanding where turkeys can eat or sleep is crucial to success. But if there’s one bit of knowledge that will really keep you in the game, it’s travel routes. Old logging roads, power line outages, and even tall thorns of earth between swamps can turn out to be turkey highways, and they’re all visible via satellite imagery.
For archery turkey hunters, these all-day travel routes are often the best places to open a blind and a variety of dekes. Shotgun hunters can also use them. If you are going to spend a few days as a freelancer in the turkey forest, keep these routes in mind. Birds will zero in on them throughout the day and will likely use them to get closer to your setup.
For me, travel routes are the most important findings of e-scouting. They are often more consistent than food sources and resting areas and can come into play from the beginning to the end of the season. As you navigate your hunting grounds from a bird’s eye view, take note of each of these possible routes. And remember, a logging road doesn’t look like much more than a faint line through the woods from a 5,000-foot view, but on the ground, it’s all the birds need to get from point A to B as they scratch, strut and doing his thing.