Trail Camera Turkey Scouting to Pattern Spring Birds
Trail cameras are now a staple when it comes to scouting for whitetails. Yet, how many of you are using them for planning your spring gobbler season? Until recently, most hunters packed up their game cameras after deer season and left them in storage until they were ready to deploy them back out for preseason deer scouting. Trail camera turkey scouting, however, is one of the best ways to pattern mature gobblers and increase your odds of killing one early in the season.
How to Scout for Turkeys in Spring
There are a number of ways to blow a turkey hunt. Some of which you can control and others you cannot. One that you can control is hunting where there are birds. This is why scouting for turkey sign is so important.
Turkey scouting is not complex in the sense that you need to discover active roosting and feeding areas. To do this, you need to focus on finding ground scrapes or scratch indicating where birds are feeding as well as fresh scat and tracks, which leads to roosting sites. Good scouting can also uncover dusting areas and/or strut zones. Whether it is preseason turkey scouting or scouting during the spring season, locating areas that hold gobblers is intrusive. You run the risk each time you enter a property or are trying to locate turkeys on public land of spooking a mature bird. Doing so once can be bad, doing so multiple times is detrimental. This is why trail camera turkey scouting is so effective.
Begin with aerial maps to locate potential areas where turkeys are likely to be or use past history to start identifying trail camera sites. Early preseason gobblers are bunched up in bachelor groups with a nonspecific routine. Birds then become much more focused on a daily routine driven by annual mating behaviors. Gobblers will split off, secure dominance areas, and seek out receptive hens. Trail cameras for turkeys are able to monitor these behavioral changes over time. Images and videos from trail camera turkey scouting show you exactly how mature gobblers are spending their days when it matters the most.
Information You Get from a Turkey Trail Camera Setup
Trail camera turkey scouting is used to capture five key pieces of information. All of which help you plan your turkey hunting strategy like where to position blinds, time of day to hunt an area, and which areas are likely to produce the biggest gobblers.
- Gobbler identification.
- Number of turkeys (gobblers, Jakes and hens) using a particular area.
- Locating key areas like dusting and strut zones.
- Timing of turkey activity.
- Determining when peak mating occurs.
Trail Camera Turkey Scouting Setups
Turkey trail camera setup can be overwhelming. There are many different areas where trail cameras can be deployed. Although, spring turkey hunting without scouting usually leads to very little success at the end of the season. Here are the main places where trail cameras for turkey scouting are most relevant and how to set up your cameras in those locations.
Turkeys at some point in the day will gravitate to a field or other opening. Particularly when the weather is less than ideal, turkeys will move into fields earlier and stay there longer. Generally, however, you would expect turkeys to arrive in fields during mid to late morning. Open fields offer plenty of forage and ideal places for gobblers to pursue hens.
A unique camera position for scouting fields is to deploy the camera in the middle of the field. A camera stake can be used to mount the camera and by doing so you can capture exactly how birds enter a field. This position also allows for covering more of the field with fewer cameras.
The game camera should be high enough to view as much of the field as possible but low enough capture a turkey in close. Time-lapse image capture mode works well here to gather a history of how birds come and go during the day as well as how they interact over the course of time. A 15-minute interval is ideal to get a good sense of activity at a field location. Remember the goal in this turkey trail camera setup is to document field activity, mostly numbers and timing, in order to plan your hunt.
The number one advantage a turkey hunter has is knowing where a gobbler is roosting. Finding possible roosting sites involves on the ground scouting and some knowledge of what to look for such as mature hardwoods with adjacent open areas near cover. Again, sign like scat and tracks will provide clues and validate the areas you are scouting are roosting sites.
Position cameras where you think turkeys will fly up from and down to. You want to be able to target these areas for hunting so you have to scout them to be successful. Since roosting occurs in the evening around dusk, good trail camera photos can be tough. The best trail camera can overcome this situation or you can choose video mode, which is less impacted by variable light conditions. Another option if you are not using video mode is to set burst mode to three. This will capture three consecutive images of hopefully a mature Tom preparing to fly to roost.
One of the best turkey hunting tips when it comes to feeding sites is being able to determine what is pass through feeding and frequent feeding. Turkeys are opportunistic. They will scratch along all day picking anything they can. However, some areas they come to they will feed heavily. These include soft mast producing areas of berries and grapes and also areas where there was a heavy crop of acorns. These frequent feeding sites are where you want to place trail cameras for turkeys.
Place a game camera about knee high overlooking a feeding site. Any higher and you run the risk of missing turkeys because they are below the trigger sensor. Adjust camera sensitivity down to avoid picking up images of smaller animals since your camera height is lower to the ground. Also, increase the delay between photos. Turkeys will feed around for some time and you do not need a hundred images of the same bird feeding for an hour. The goal here is to assess which gobblers are using the feeding area.
Finding turkeys on public land is more difficult not because of the pressure but rather the limited options when it comes to habitat. For example, there are usually fewer (if any) large fields for turkeys to use. Among the big timber, turkeys will often find planted logging roads, snowmobile trails, hiking trails or log landings that are grassed or have been planted for wildlife.
On long straight trails or log landings, you want a turkey hunting camera setup similar to what was described for a field. In addition, you want to decrease the interval between photos. In these tight corridors, a bird can step out on the trail and step right back into nearby cover without ever showing up on the camera.
Trail camera turkey scouting has many advantages. Largely it allows you to scout with minimal disturbance before spring gobbler season and monitor birds throughout the season. Using these trail camera setups as part of your scouting program will help you kill a mature gobbler this spring.