Pre-Season Spring Turkey Scouting: To Scout, or Not

by Steve Sorensen

Is scouting really necessary?
The pros and cons of scouting for spring gobblers
– plus five top scouting tips!


The author learned, many years ago, that sometimes your best scouting is done on foot, over the next hill. (Steve Sorensen photo)

Scouting for spring gobblers definitely has lots of upsides. Hunters who locate two or three dozen gobblers before opening day often score early – and more than once. They enjoy the season more as they witness the weather breaking from winter to early spring. They see more, hear more, and experience what hunters who aren’t out there long before the season begins don’t.

But is there a downside to scouting? Can hunters be at a disadvantage by scouting for pre-season gobblers? Can you be lazy, and still expect to score?

It’s probably not a question of being lazy, because the truth is springtime is a busy time and most of us have many commitments. It’s not always easy to get out there and do our proper pre-season scouting.

If candles had three ends, you’d be burning all three. You have a responsible job and you can’t get time off. You have a family you are devoted to, which means honey-do tasks that have been hanging fire all winter. You might be coaching youth baseball or softball, and you can’t avoid the annual yard and garage clean up. Scouting for turkeys can be like one more part-time job, and it will wear you out long before you can start toting your shotgun. If you could only send those flaps on the side of your head into the turkey woods at 5:00 AM, so the rest of your body could take care of all your other responsibilities.

scout perimeter of posted land

Don’t be afraid to scout the perimeter of posted land. You have to call them in anyway, so the gobblers you discover on posted property are just as available as any others you find. (Steve Sorensen photo)

Maybe you want to be out there. Maybe you should be out there. But maybe you can’t be out there because all those other wants and shoulds and musts rank a little higher. Don’t feel badly. Don’t feel that other hunters are out there getting the jump on you.

Here are three types of scouting serious hunters do, with the pro and con view of both. The “pros” will give you reasons to scout if you have the time; the “cons” should offer a little comfort to hunters with little time for scouting.

METHOD The PRO Reasons The CON Reasons
Early scouting Pre-season scouting increases your odds of scoring early in the season, and the earlier you begin the more gobblers you can locate. The more gobblers you’ve located, the more game plans you can create. And when the season comes, diligent pre-season scouting always leaves plenty of options. It’s a long season, and you don’t want to wear yourself out. What if sleep deprivation makes you a zombie at work? What if it makes you as cranky as the head witch in a broom factory, and you become a monster to your spouse? It’s not worth it. Besides, pre-season scouting begins losing value after opening day.
Road Scouting Driving the back roads lets you stop at likely looking spots, and get as many turkeys to shock-gobble as possible. Make your list, and keep it in your back pocket. With 30, 40, or 50 gobblers located, you’ll always have a spot you can head for, and it won’t take long to get to one. When you locate gobblers from the roads in heavily hunted areas, you’re hearing the same gobblers a dozen or more other hunters are hearing. You almost guarantee yourself competition. If you limit yourself to road scouting, you’ll miss the gobblers that are over the next hill.
On-Foot Scouting Scouting on foot lets you get away from the crowds. You’ll discover gobblers that are over the next hill that other hunters will never hear, so it will lead you to uneducated gobblers. Plus, you’ll notice so much more when scouting on foot – feathers, tracks, scratchings, droppings – all are clues about where turkeys are and what they’re doing. On-foot scouting takes more time, so you won’t be able to cover as much ground. You can waste time with a run of bad luck when you’re unable to find any place that holds turkeys. And, turkeys will often move. When hens head for good nesting cover, gobblers will follow, so those places where you found all the gobbler sign can go cold.

Obviously, you need to hunt where turkeys are if you’re going to be successful. That’s why some scouting is a must if you don’t know where turkeys are hanging out. So, do some scouting. But don’t do unproductive scouting. And don’t over-do it. Too much scouting can turn your season into an intolerable marathon. Turkey hunting is supposed to be fun.

scout and hunt with a buddy

Many hunters consider spring gobbler hunting a sport for a solo hunter, but when you hook up with a buddy and compare scouting notes, you both increase your odds of success. (Steve Sorensen photo)

Five tips:

  1. One of the best ways to do your pre-season scouting is to lock up permission to access land early, in prime places. It’s not as exhausting as racing around looking for gobbling toms, it doesn’t burn a lot of gasoline in your hunting buggy, and you can gather information from landowners, saving you lots of time. Plus, once you secure permission, there’s a chance landowners will turn others down.
  2. Opening day is very competitive – and that can’t be good for making turkeys feel at ease. So scout specifically for opening day. Know where you can go to get away from the crowds.
  3. Scout with a trusted buddy. That will give you many more options, let you know more about what places are getting heavy pressure, and when successful, you both share a great memory.
  4. Don’t ignore posted land, even if you don’t have permission to hunt it. It’s no harder to call them across a property boundary than it is to call them anywhere else. They don’t know the boundary is there.
  5. Keep a list of places where you find turkeys year after year. Make a quick stop there just to be sure they’re there – then go on to new places.


hunter outdoor writer steve sorensen

About Steve Sorensen

Outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter®,” and is the editor of the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He also publishes articles in Deer & Deer Hunting, North American Whitetail, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at


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