How to Scout Before the Season
Editor’s Note: Michael Adams from Linden, Michigan, has been a Mossy Oak pro for 7 years. The director for television station WJRT Channel 12 in Flint, Mich., he’s been hunting turkeys for 10 years.
My dad ruined me when he took me turkey hunting for the first time. Even though I didn’t harvest a bird, I had a great time. We were up on the northern peninsula of Michigan early one spring morning where we have a hunting club. Dad set me up on the edge of a field, told me to sit still and call, and maybe I’d get a shot at a turkey. He went to a different place to hunt. Within an hour after I started calling, I had three jakes walking in front of me. I was shooting an old double barreled shotgun that belonged to my grandfather. I realized that the jakes were out of range of that old shotgun. So, I decided I could sneak up on those birds. Because there was a little hill between me and the jakes, I inched forward. I believed I would take one of those jakes home for a turkey dinner. As I got closer and closer, the anticipation of shooting my first turkey filled me with adrenaline. I got almost to within gun range of my shotgun before I spooked the jakes, and they took off. Even though I wasn’t successful, I was hooked for life on trying to take those talking birds in the warm mornings of spring.
Some people have decided that they can’t hunt turkeys because they have to be able to call perfectly, they have to be extremely stealthy, and they can’t let the turkeys see them. Although I was able to do none of the above and spooked the turkeys I was able to take, I still enjoyed a great morning of turkey hunting. So, I believe that one of the best ways to learn to hunt turkeys is to just start hunting turkeys - realizing you will make mistakes and spook gobblers. Also, know that everyone who hunts turkeys makes all these same mistakes when beginning their turkey hunting careers.
Turkey season starts in Michigan about the same time you’ll be reading this interview. I can hardly wait to get out and start scouting. I'm planning to go scouting on a Sunday morning after church, a week or two before turkey season starts. I hunt both public and private lands. About a week before the season opens, I take my binoculars and scout grassy fields to see if I can spot any turkeys out in the fields. On week days, I’ll try to get out in the field and listen for hens calling and gobblers gobbling. From those two forms of scouting, I generally can determine where the turkeys are located. I never call to the turkeys during the preseason. I also look for turkey droppings, tracks and feathers. Once I know where the turkeys and the grassy fields are located, and have identified where they’re going after they fly down, the next day I’ll look for roads, deer trails or any type of open woods where I think the turkeys will walk as they go from their roost trees to the grass fields. If I don’t find any sign or see any turkeys, I’ll move to other state lands and repeat the same process. I believe that the more you learn about turkeys before you hunt them, then the greater your odds are for success.
Tomorrow: When Hens Don’t Come to You - Don’t Move