Run-And-Gun Gobblers

By Jace Bauserman

close-up of a hunter looking down the iron sights of a rifle

Few things are more enjoyable than stepping outside the norm, showing up on some new turkey dirt, and mixing it up with a tom or two. Consider this proven run-and-gun methodology before you hit the woods.

Go Digital

Today's digital mapping apps are remarkable. Not only do they provide superb aerial imagery, but they also detail public/private borders and allow you to drop waypoints. Digital scouting for turkey is not as easy as it is when scouting for whitetail, but it's still very possible. Start by taking note of any agricultural fields on or touching the property you'll be hunting. Next, locate water sources. Turkeys have to drink, and you should pin all water sources, including ponds, stock tanks, springs and the like. If a river or creek cuts through your turkey grounds, all the better. Although it means locating water sources is a given, it helps pinpoint likely roosting spots, especially if you find thick pockets of timber with tall trees near agriculture.

If you're hunting public dirt, pay special attention to access. Know where all drivable roads and parking lots are, and then look for off-the-beaten-path locales that require a boot-leather burn of a mile or more. Most turkey hunters, especially if the property has agriculture, will focus on field edge sets. My best public-land turkey hunts always happen in the timber.

Boots On The Ground

If you can arrive a day or two before the opener to do some boots-on-the-ground scouting, it will help. If not, heed this same advice, but be sure to have your shotgun in hand.

Locating turkeys is critical to killing them. I use my vehicle to drive access roads during the pre-dawn hours in many turkey spots. The goal is to cover ground while often stopping to listen. Turkeys are vocal creatures, especially on the roost. If the birds aren't vocal, don't be afraid to give them an owl hoot, crow call or a hawk screech and make them talk.

group of turkey standing in a field of wheat

If scouting, plug the location of roosted birds into your digital mapping app. If you're hunting, look at the terrain features between your location and the bird. If time allows and you can close the distance without being spotted, move in. Try to get on the same elevation level as the bird or put yourself where he has to come up a hill to look for you. If fly down is minutes away, look at your map and predict where the birds will go. Typically, hens will scratch in the timber for a bit and then move to a food source. Agricultural fields are likely, but if you're moving through the woods on an acorn-covered ridge and see lots of scratching, and the ridge is semi-open where a tom can strut and be seen, find a hide and let the morning unfold.

If you locate a few birds scouting, your next mission is to figure out what the birds you found do after they pitch down. Turkeys can be very predictable. If you can gain a high point and use your glass and ears, I recommend it. I consistently find morning and mid-morning birds utilizing this tactic.

Don't get impatient. If a tom gobbles, turn your glass toward the gobble and start scanning. Once you find birds, stay on them. Pay attention to how they move through the landscape, and pin those movements on your map. If you know where birds are roosting and where they want to be at different times of day, the odds of success tip in your favor. I've killed many birds in scratching, strut and loafing zones.

Midday Moves

If your morning roost hunt was a bust, don't fret. Turkeys have nothing to do but walk, eat and breed during the day. They move around a lot. Rather than accessing a high point and listening, get in the woods. If a tom sounds off, you know where to go and what to do. If the woods go quiet for a bit, move slow and methodically. Don't get in a hurry. As you progress, hit one and two-note hen yelps from time to time and try and get a tom to fire.

female hunter fanning the tail of a downed turkey

Most importantly, though, keep an eye out for likely turkey haunts. If you start finding scratching, strut marks, droppings, and the like, sit down and start calling. This is especially true if you're hunting a small property. Too much moving about is a bad thing, and the birds will pick you off eventually, and you'll blow a good hunting spot. If you do sit down to call, don't go crazy. Let the birds’ attitude dictate how much and how aggressively you call. Often, on public ground, I have my best luck using soft clucks, purrs and two-note yelps.

Close The Deal

If legal in your area, the afternoon and early evening hours can be money. Whether scouting or hunting, use what you've learned during the day to predict how birds will use the landscape to come back toward their evening roost. Your goal, if hunting, is to be between where the birds are and the roost. Top spots include pinch points in the timber, ag field edges (use decoys), and isolated logging roads.