Without question, game cameras have completely changed the way we scout and hunt most big game species, especially whitetail deer. These high-tech devices enable us to effectively locate and pattern bucks with minimal time and effort. However, if you’re only using your game cameras during the fall deer season, then you’re really missing the boat or longbeard in this case. In order to maximize your success in the spring turkey woods, breakout your game cameras and utilize these high-impact scouting strategies to keep you right in the middle of all the gobbling action this season.
High-Tech Scouting Advantage
Ask any veteran turkey hunter and they’ll tell you that woodsmanship skills coupled with how you setup on a gobbler are what really makes the difference. In other words, you don’t have to sound like a world champion caller to consistently punch your turkey tags. Understanding how and where to setup will ultimately put more longbeards in the back of your vest than anything else. This is exactly why high-tech scouting strategies that involve game cameras can give you the edge you’ll need to stay one step ahead of hard-to-handle gobblers and other hunters.
For good reason, knowing the exact location of preferred travel routes, feeding areas, strut-zones and roosting sites is a major advantage. With a network of strategically placed game cameras, you can piece together a daily pattern that will tell you what a gobbler is doing from fly-down until he goes back to roost. This type of surveillance comes in handy during tough hunting conditions when birds are non-vocal, and it feels like you can’t even buy a gobble.
Maximize Ground Coverage
Taking a few minutes at home to study topo maps, aerial photos or GOOGLE Maps can save you a lot of time in the field. You can pinpoint possible feeding areas, likely travel corridors, potential strut zones and roosting sites. Once you’ve located these key areas, try setting up a network of game cameras to monitor all turkey behavior and activity. Several days of surveillance will enable you to locate gobblers, establish daily patterns and separate productive areas from unproductive or stagnant zones.
The pictures captured from your game cameras will also reveal key activity periods and when to target specific locations. Harold Knight of Knight & Hale Game Calls says that being where that old gobbler wants to be is more than half the battle! At the end of the day, the right setup makes it much easier to coax a stubborn longbeard into close range, and decreases the chances of him hanging up just out-of-reach.
Utilize Scouting-Based Hunting Tactics
During lull periods when gobblers are tight-beaked and silent, you’re setup location can absolutely make or break your hunt. Gobbling activity often falls off sometime during the mid-morning to early afternoon hours, which makes it difficult to even locate a longbeard. When this happens, you basically only have a handful of options. You can throw in the towel and go grab some lunch or implement run and gun strategies that allow you to move, call and cover a lot of ground.
Consequently, running and gunning strategies will give you the opportunity to possibly locate a hot and fired-up gobbler. However, during early segments of the season there is minimal foliage and cover, which makes it difficult to move through the woods without being detected. A safer option is to simply setup near key pre-scouted locations, and utilize minimal calling and decoying to make something happen. Relying on scouting-based hunting strategies will increase your chances of connecting with stubborn gobblers that refuse to cooperate.
Implement Traps & Tricks
A sneaky hunting strategy is to setup camera traps by constructing mock dust bowls and strut-zones. Simply take a small shovel or mattock and dig a basketball-sized bowl into the ground. The dirt inside of the bowl should be loose and fine grained like sand in order to attract turkeys. These mock dusting sites need to be strategically placed in areas that you can reach, monitor and hunt without alerting turkeys and getting busted.
When hunting heavily wooded or thick covered areas, try clearing out mock strut-zones or small openings that offer good visibility. A folding handsaw and rake can be used to remove sapling trees, overhanging branches, weeds, briars and leaf litter. The best mock strut-zones are open, slightly elevated and allow gobblers to see and more importantly be seen by hens. As mentioned earlier, the trick is to position the mock strut-zones within prime ambush locations where you can setup and hunt without being detected.
Once you’ve constructed several mock dust bowls and strut-zones, hang a series of game cameras to monitor each site. These camera traps will tell you exactly when and where to hunt during slow or non-vocal periods. Longbeards routinely visit dusting sites and strut-zones throughout the day to attract and pick-up lonely hens. The game cameras simply take the guesswork out of choosing the most productive setup at any given time. Using a trail camera that records audio, like the S-50i and M-40i, will ensure that you capture the sounds of yelps, purrs, and even gobbles!
(Video courtesy of Russell Knight)
Monitor Fields & Large Openings
During the spring mating season, turkeys generally flock to fields and large open areas. The problem with hunting these locations is the fact there is often too much ground to cover. When gobblers are henned-up or just pressured and call-shy, the key is to get inside of their comfort zone by setting up extremely close. Just like whitetails, turkeys will often enter and exit fields at particular locations.
In order to choose the best setup, you’ll need to monitor fields and large openings with your game camera. Models like the Moultrie Panoramic 180, M-40 and White Flash can quickly be switched from motion detect mode to a special time lapse plot camera setting. With this setting and the right camera setup, you can cover large portions of any field or opening with a single unit, and capture all daytime activity. As a result, you can easily exploit field turkeys with high-percentage setups by knowing the peak activity times and preferred entry and exit points.
With that being said, right now is the perfect time to hit the woods and start scouting for those late season gobblers. Allowing your game cameras to sit around collecting dust during the spring is a major mistake. In order to maximize your success in-the-field, be sure to utilize your game cameras and high-impact scouting strategies to pinpoint, pattern, and ultimately connect with more longbeards this spring.