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Locating Flocks

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An important SECRET in fall hunting is knowing the current location, habits and sign left by turkey flocks.  Pre-season and during-season scouting to locate birds is much more important to the fall hunter than to a spring hunter.  Almost any novice spring hunter can locate gobblers by listening at dawn for gobbling activity in a good turkey woods.  A fall hunter, on the other hand, must generally do a lot more work to locate birds.


During the summer and  fall, undisturbed turkey flocks will stay relatively close to food, fresh water, pastures, open areas and adequate roosting trees. Where you find a good mixture of these types of habitats you will usually locate birds.  Turkeys are nearby when you find fresh droppings, tracks or feathers.


The places to begin your search are in and around the woods where you had luck in the spring.  Check with local residents, landowners and other likely informants about their sightings of fall flocks. Concentrate your search close to food sources.  Open woods, logging roads and pastures, where grasshoppers and other insects are found, are excellent places to locate turkey sign in early fall.   Very little scratching will be found in the woods at this time if there is a good supply of insects.  After the insects are gone, and mast is available, more scratching will be evident.  Don't overlook standing grain fields when looking for sign.  Turkeys will feed around the edges of and through these fields even though their vision may be somewhat impaired.  If they lose sight of each other, they will call often enough to be heard.


During late fall in colder climates, grasshoppers and insects are dormant during cold early morning hours.  Therefore, the birds will spend increasing time in the timber scratching in the leaves for acorns, seeds and other food.  You may find turkeys coming back to open areas to feed on insects during midday however, after the temperature has risen sufficiently for the insects to become active again.


Loafing areas should be located because birds will frequent these places routinely if undisturbed.  These are places where you may find a flock resting during midday.  Often dusting bowls are found close to loafing areas.  You will find tracks and loose body feathers in or by these dusting bowls. Almost any place may be a loafing area, but certain spots have more appeal for a flock.  In warmer weather, a shady spot is preferred--under cedar trees, along creek banks or in low-lying, cool areas.  When it is colder, loafing areas are apt to be in protected, out-of-the-wind places, where the sun can warm the birds.


Your chances for success on any fall hunt can be improved if a flock's roosting location is known.  For this reason, learning where fall birds are likely to roost is the most important scouting that needs to be done.  They will not roost in the same spot every day, but will probably roost close to their current food source.  Roosts will change as food is exhausted in one spot and they move on to another location where food is available.  You should continue scouting during the hunting season because of this continuous movement of the flocks.  Turkeys like to roost in large trees with horizontal branches, which are located on the sides of hills or toward the bottom of draws and ravines.  This allows them to fly directly off ridgetops to their roost trees with little effort.  Look for sign--droppings and feathers in these areas.  The best sign is a concentration of droppings in various stages of decomposition.  This indicates a regular and current roost.


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