Beating Cabin Fever: Winter Turkey Scouting

turkey tracks

Old man winter hasn’t quite let up on us here in western Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in the house.  Late February and early March happen to be my favorite time of the year to get in the woods and scout for turkeys.  As long as there isn’t snow blowing sideways, I’m outside.

For me, scouting for the upcoming season involves way more than going out on pre-season mornings and listening for them to gobble.  By doing your scouting now, you take advantage of the fact that the land is generally blanked in snow and there is no dense foliage.  This is valuable for many reasons.

The first is that there is more to working a turkey than just calling to him.  Be being in the woods with nothing to obscure your view, you have an intimate picture of how the land lays.  Old wire fences, small intermittent streams, and other assorted obstacles to an advancing turkey can all be seen and mapped out now.  The set up on a gobbler is more often than not, the lynch pin in the process of killing him and knowing possible hang up spots ahead of time can help seal the deal.

Knowing about things like this little intermittent stream can save a lot of frustration later in the year.

Knowing about things like this little intermittent stream can save a lot of frustration later in the year.

People in the midwest don’t have to worry about it as much because they lack the topography we have here in the east, but knowing the contour of the land also helps.  Turkeys will often take the path of least resistance and the winter woods have a way of highlighting where that will be.  I always like to have a couple spots set aside for when the hunting is slow.  On days with inclement weather and non gobbling turkeys, having a spot you can go to with a blind, or a nest made out of brush can be a real ace in the hole.  Since you can see well this time of year, look for an ambush spot where an old tom is likely to be loafing.  You can also cut shooting lanes now before everything is grown up.

Another benefit of being in the winter woods is how easy turkey sign stands out.  As long as the snow isn’t too deep, places where birds have scratched and picked will stick out like a sore thumb. You can even glass for birds and monitor their movement and travel patterns if the property has a proper vantage point.

wintertimegobbler1

Using the information gathered while scouting in the winter alongside the normal scouting done closer to season, you can increase your edge in the spring turkey woods.  It’s a good excuse to get out of the house and beat the winter blues.  You might even find a shed antler or two.

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