Turkey Hunting: How to Scout With a Spotting Scope and Binoculars

The key to successful turkey scouting is to never intrude. When opening day arrives, you want each gobbler you've spied on to go about its business just as it did on the days you were watching. That is, you want to leave the bird's world unchanged--until he's standing 25 paces away with his head fixed in your shotgun's sights.

The way to do this is to start as far away from the birds as possible, then move in only if you have to--and carefully.

One of the best places to begin is from inside your vehicle. My truck-scouting equipment consists of 10x42 binoculars and a 20X-60X spotting scope on a window mount. By watching and listening, I often get a lot of information--flock size, dominant birds, roosting areas, feeding locations, daily routines, travel patterns--without ever leaving the rig.

When I do get out, I'm in full camouflage and in hunting mode, armed with the same optics as well as a lightweight tripod. Brushy field edges are obvious spots to set up inconspicuously and observe birds as they go about their routine. But don't stop at the obvious. Position yourself carefully so you can peer into hidden pastures, ridge tops, open woods, or any potential strutting zones.

Depending on the terrain, you may have to move into the timber to gather all the information you need. Go easy. Don't pressure suspected roost sites or strutting zones. Instead, stay back and listen for gobbles and wing beats as the birds fly up or down. Try to determine whether the hens are roosted right with the toms or some distance away, which will dictate how you'll set up to hunt later. Also stay attuned to any hen talk. Are they meeting the gobblers in certain strutting areas? You may be able to pattern some of their daily activities by listening alone.

Finally, leave the turkey calls at home. With just a few yelps, you could inadvertently call a tom in close enough that you might spook him. If you want to bring a locator call, go with a loud, high-pitched model, like a coyote howler. Use it sparingly and from a long distance, so as not to draw too much attention. (Pairing it with a Walker's Game Ear or a similar device may help you -off gobbles.) The idea is to keep the turkeys totally unaware of your presence. It'll pay off when the season begins.