Many deer hunters scout prior to the season, but turkey hunters will often skip this pre-season preparation. They will just head to the woods, make some sounds on a locator call and hope for the best. By doing some scouting ahead of time, turkey hunters can find the best locations for birds.
Like all wildlife, turkeys require food, water and shelter. Turkeys will eat bugs, grasses, nuts, fruits and berries. When it comes to shelter look for roosting trees--mature hardwoods with horizontal limbs. These are often located partway up a ridge. This allows the birds to protect themselves from the wind, while being able to both see the top of the ridge and pitch downhill. These locations also allow their calls to carry a longer distance.
Turkeys may not roost in the same location every night, but if you can find droppings and feathers underneath the trees, you know you have a good spot. You should look for other signs in the field, like tracks, scratching and dust bowls, where turkeys dust themselves. Great places to look for sign are field edges, oak flats, water locations and old roads and trails.
Scouting can also involve visually seeing the birds. The best times are early in the morning and later in the evening. Fields near timber or standing corn can be good spots because the fields offer a food source and good visibility, while still providing the birds a quick escape route.
Since you will be trying to get the gobbler to travel from his location to your set-up, utilizing topo maps can be a big help. You can see ridges, field edges--where hens may congregate, and strutting areas--the open areas where gobblers can strut in full view of the hens. This can help you narrow down your scouting possibilities. For a link to topo maps, visit http://www.hunterspec.com/content/topo-maps.
The next time you see a flock of turkeys, ask yourself, "why are they here?" Does this area offer food? Protection? This will save you time in the future because you will know what kind of terrain turkeys are seeking.
Preparation can be the key to any hunting success. Just like you practice your turkey calls and sight in your gun, pre-season scouting increases your chances of finding and tagging a trophy longbeard.