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Scouting key to gobbler success

by ARKansas GamE anD FisH | April 6, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

Many hunters are dusting off their shotguns and brushing up on their calling with spring turkey season opening soon.

Seasoned veterans of the turkey woods also have their eyes on aerial images, looking for the most likely location for their next encounter with a longbeard.

Arkansas’s youth turkey season is April 10-11, and the regular season begins April 19 statewide.

Advances in technology allow online resources like Google Maps or online mapping tools for smartphones to help hunters find a good spot, said Jeremy Wood, turkey program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Not only can a person view topographic maps online, but current aerial images as well as historical photographs all can be found to give hunters the lay of the land while they’re still at home.

“Try to find areas with diverse habitat types,” Wood advised. “Turkeys like edges. They stay near areas where they can have a variety of habitat within easy reach.”

Wood recommends areas where pine forests and hardwoods meet, as well as areas near streams, lakes and other water sources because the habitat will change quickly in these locations. Pastures, small farms, recently harvested or burned areas in the forest and other open habitat are also good to have nearby.

“Large stands of dense forest don’t offer the year-round food and cover benefits of a diverse landscape, so you’re not going to find as many turkeys in those huge blocks of similar habitat.”

Wood said hunters also should pay attention to the elevation and try to find areas where they can get the best vantage points when they begin their on-the-ground scouting.

“Try to find ridges and saddles that make for faster travel and give you the ability to hear further out,” Wood said. “Good turkey hunters cover a lot of ground to find their birds, so be prepared to either drive or walk long distances when you get to the woods. At home, determine a handful of locations you want to scout then get out and do some walking.”

Many newcomers fail to bag their bird because they underestimate the value of in-the-woods scouting or don’t understand how to scout efficiently.

“You need to spend some early mornings walking or driving,” Wood said. “You want to visit the locations you’ve found as the woods are waking up and listen for the birds.”

“Turkeys like edges. They stay near areas where they can have a variety of habitat within easy reach.”

— Jeremy Wood, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

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