Early season scouting and hunting success for wild turkey requires staying on the move. Once upon a time, a 4x4 truck for off-road searching and a pair of binoculars for scanning strut fields were tools of the trade.
Now, the game has changed with evolving technology aiding turkey hunters in locating gobblers more efficiently and faster, and specifically by using two things more associated with whitetail deer season.
Those are trail cameras and a stealthy side-by-side. Are your trail cams on a shelf collecting dust until the fall? Get them charged up, and find out about a super-quiet off-road vehicle that is ideal for turkey hunting.
WHY TRAIL CAMERAS?
Believe it or not, trail cams are even more effective for scouting turkey, thanks to the time-lapse mode that allows you to track their movement over time. The photos can reveal when tom turkeys leave the roost for the field, where they are feeding, strutting, and how many hens and jakes are in an area. Trail cameras allow you to cover more territory by setting multiple cams across a hunting area. Even better, you avoid making yourself known in roosting areas.
Turkeys meander more than deer, yet follow the same feeding, roosting and strutting patterns as part of a daily routine. Unless disturbed, they will likely enter and exit fields at the same location. Placement is key, and not just the location. Set cameras so the camera takes pictures covering the largest portion of a field where strutting is likely to happen. That can be achieved by mounting the camera high up in a tree to cover a wider area of view. Unlike deer hunting when you want to survey individual bucks for size, the goal here is to distinguish where birds are strutting. For turkey, size doesn’t matter as much, and you don’t need a close-up picture of a big tom to know he’s a shooter. In dense woods, hang cameras lower, even a few feet above ground level. As a bonus, the camera can capture beautiful photos worthy of framing.
Eliminate unproductive ground and place cameras in high percentage areas. Here are some proven locations to place cameras.
- Open fields. Set cameras on field edges based on past history of known entry and exit points. Google Earth is ideal for surveying new areas. Mount cameras on trees on the east side of the field, so the rising sun doesn’t backlight or obscure the view.
- Funnel and pinch points. A terrain or habitat feature that forces turkeys into a smaller area is a pinch point, and ideally near a strutting field or roosting area.
TURKEY TIP: RULE THE ROOST
If your trail camera revealed evidence of roosting areas, give this tip a try. The goal is locating a tom turkey to hunt the following morning, along with backup gobblers to duel with if plan A falls through. The afternoon before the hunt, visit the areas, stopping every quarter-mile or so to call. Early on in the season, a gobbler can’t help but answer to certain types of sounds as a result of being amped up for breeding rights to hens. Use a locator, or shock call, to make them sound off. Ideal choices are an owl hoot and crow call. There are four essential take-aways to be gained from your search. Those are turkey location, path of travel, where to set up in shooting range the next morning, and his vulnerability. If he sounds off instantly, the bird is hot and more likely to come quickly off the roost. If not, then you either have your work cut out, or you should find a more aggressive roosting bird. Good choices for calls are the Hunter’s Specialties H.S. Strut Mega Hoot Owl Locator Mouth Call or the RedHead Crow Locator Mouth Turkey Call.
Wireless or cellular trail cameras are relative newcomers of the category, and they come with distinct advantages that are ideal for scouting turkeys. Unlike traditional trail cams, wireless models can send photos and videos using the data plan of your phone when paired with an app. The beauty of this setup is the elimination of physically retrieving the SD card. You set the camera up and that’s it. Before you do that, and hang the camera high in a tree as outlined above, turn on the time lapse mode. One picture every 15 minutes or so throughout the day should be adequate. Here are two recommendations, including a non-wireless, SD-card choice if cell coverage is unavailable where you hunt.
Browning Defender Wireless
Available for AT&T and Verizon networks, the 20mp camera features Adjustable IR Flash (Power Save, Long Range, Fast Motion), 0.3-0.7 adjustable trigger speed, adjustable detection ranges up to 80 feet and more. $299.99 at basspro.com
Bushnell Core DS Low Glow
Field Scan 2X mode captures time-lapse images and trigger-activated images, while Multi-image mode gives you the option of capturing up to 6 shots per trigger activation. This trail cam takes full color images in 30MP, and 1080p HD video with sound. $199.99 at basspro.com
THE STEALTH APPROACH
Wild turkeys have an uncanny ability to hear sounds from great distances, with the ability to pinpoint the exact location of their source. That makes awareness of their acute hearing a must when successfully gaining access to tom turkeys. The challenge is that getting to them sometimes requires a truck, ATV or side-by side. The birds are in full alert mode before you set your ground blind and decoys, or step out of the vehicle.
Options are traveling by gas power and hiking in. Or you can get closer to the setup spot, while making less noise walking and carrying your gun, blind or decoy. That option is available with a side-by-side that is designed and equipped with similar performance of a gas-powered vehicle.
The TRACKER Off Road choice vehicle for quiet turkey hunting is the EV iS side by side. The EV iS provides plenty of power without fumes or noise, making it ideal for getting you nearer hunting areas without raising a ruckus. The silent ride comes from a 72-volt AC electric drive train. Add comfortable seating, independent suspension, 1,000-pound towing capacity, and a fold-down cargo deck, and you have a full-featured off-road package with a stealth approach. The EV iS is available at TRACKER Off Road dealers for a NO HAGGLE NO HASSLE nationally advertised price nationwide. Find a dealer here.
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